Software Development

Getting Started With Visual Studio 2012

Ok, so I’m really late to the game here, since Visual Studio 2012 was released about 9 months ago.  However I have been working with a client who was not ready to upgrade yet and since I’m sure there are many people like me who have still yet to install the latest version, I thought this might be useful to somebody.

Installation
The installation process was pretty seamless for me, even if it took ages, just like every other Visual Studio installation I’ve ever waited for.  The only optional feature that most people will probably choose to install is the ‘Microsoft Web Developer Tools‘.  Otherwise it’s safe to leave the other options unchecked, since they can be installed at a later date by simply modifying the Visual Studio 2012 installation in the Control Panel \ Programs and Features window.

Don’t like caps?
The first thing most people complain about is the way the menu bar shouts at them in uppercase.  There are a couple of extensions out there that can adjust this for you.  If you go to Tools \ Extensions and Updates, you can search online for “caps” to find something that will help.  I installed the “All Caps Menu Option” extension which adds the ability to configure this setting in the Options dialog in Visual Studio.

There is also a registry setting you can adjust if you’re comfortable directly adjusting settings like this.  The setting can be found here:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\11.0\General\SuppressUppercaseConversion

Appearance
The next thing people notice is the new somewhat monochrome appearance to Visual Studio.  It’s not a particularly inspiring default colour scheme, however there is an alternative Dark colour scheme you can switch to, which I prefer. However if you’re looking for more options, I recommend downloading the Visual Studio 2012 Color Theme Editor. Just like the extension I mentioned above, this is available in the Extensions and Updates dialog.

How-to videos
These appear to be a useful way to get a quick overview of some of the new features. Although some of the content relates to TFS 2012, which you may not have upgraded to yet. Also be careful with the video on ‘Improving quality with unit tests and fakes’. At first glance fakes this appears to be a Microsoft implementation of a mocking framework, however it is something quite different.  I wouldn’t recommend using fakes without first reading more about it.  You can find a good argument against using them here:
http://blog.pluralsight.com/2012/04/23/vs11-fakes-framework/
http://blog.pluralsight.com/2012/04/25/vs11-fakes-framework-harmful-part-two/

Preview window
A new feature with this version is the Preview Window, which is a single window for viewing files when you single-click on them in the Solution Explorer.  It’s not a feature I found I was missing before and so I assume most people are going to prefer this feature off.  Thankfully there is an icon for this at the top of the Solution Explorer, so you can easily play with the setting to determine whether it is actually useful to you.

Favourite new feature – Quick Launch
At the top right of Visual Studio is now a Quick Launch textbox that you can use for searching.  It will search for and open solutions, projects and files for you, however it is most useful for finding configuration options. Rather than digging through the Options dialog trying to remember where the setting is located in Visual Studio, now you can just search for the feature instead.

Performance
Projects and solutions now load asynchronously, so this should help with performance.  It feels a little snappier than previous versions in the short time I have used it anyway.

I recommend installing a copy for yourself and trying it out.  You can even continue to work with your existing Visual Studio 2010 projects without requiring any conversion of the project files.  You just might have to make a few adjustments to configure the look and feel, until you get something that you’re comfortable working with daily.

About Chris Watson

Chris Watson is a software developer at Protegra with over 13 years of experience in the field. He was born and raised in New Zealand, where he started his career in IT before moving to Winnipeg, Canada. Most of his work at Protegra has involved the use of TDD and a variety of open source tools. This work has re-ignited his passion for programming and has seen him share his knowledge throughout Protegra and to the wider community.

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