From Dream to Delivery

Some New .NET Toys (Repost)

Last week I was fortunate enough to spend time in Redmond on Microsoft’s campus for the 2011 Microsoft MVP Summit. It was great to hang out with a number of old friends and get the opportunity to talk tech with the various product teams up at Microsoft. The weather wasn’t exactly sunny but Microsoft always does a great job with the Summit and everyone had a blast (heck, I even got to run the bases at SafeCo field)

While much of what we saw is covered under NDA, there a ton of great things in the pipeline from Microsoft and many things that are already available (or just became so) that I wasn’t necessarily aware of.

The purpose of this post is to share some of the info I learned on resources and tools available to .NET developers today. Please let me know if you have any questions (or if you know of something else cool which might benefit others). Enjoy!

Visual Studio 2010 SP1

Microsoft has issued the RTM release of Visual Studio 2010 SP1. You can download the full SP1 on MSDN as of today (March 10th to the general public) and take advantage of such things as:

  • Silverlight 4 is included in the box (as opposed to a separate install)

  • Silverlight 4 Profiling

  • WCF RIA Services SP1

  • Intellitrace for 64-bit and SharePoint

  • ASP.NET now easily supports IIS Express and SQL CE

  • Want a description of all that’s new beyond the above biased list (which arguably only contains items I think are important)? Check out this KB article.

    Portable Library Tools CTP

    Without much fanfare Microsoft has released a CTP of a new add-in to Visual Studio 2010 which simplifies code sharing between projects targeting different runtimes (i.e. Silverlight, WPF, Win7 Phone, XBox). With this Add-In installed you can add a new project of type “Portable Library” and specify which platforms you wish to target. Once that is done, any code added to this library will be limited to use only features which are common to all selected frameworks. Other projects can now reference this portable library and be provided assemblies custom built to their environment. This greatly simplifies the current process of sharing linked files between platforms like WPF and Silverlight.

    You can find out more about this CTP and how it works on this great blog post.

    Visual Studio Async CTP

    Microsoft has also released a CTP of a set of language and framework enhancements to provide a much more powerful asynchronous programming model. Due to the focus on async programming in all types of platforms (and it being the ONLY option in Silverlight and Win7 phone) a move towards a simpler and more understandable model is always a good thing.

    This CTP (called Visual Studio Async CTP) can be downloaded here. You can read more about this CTP on this blog post.

    MSDN Code Samples Gallery

    Microsoft has also launched new code samples gallery on their MSDN site: http://code.msdn.microsoft.com/. This site allows you to easily search for small samples of code related to a particular technology or platform. If a sample of code you are looking for is not found, you can request one via the site and other developers can see your request and provide a sample to the site to suit your needs. You can also peruse requested samples and, if you find a scenario where you can provide value, upload your own sample for the benefit of others. Samples are packaged into the VS .vsix format and include any necessary references/dependencies. By using .vsix as the deployment mechanism, as samples are installed from the site they are kept in your Visual Studio 2010 Samples Gallery and kept for your future reference.

    If you get a chance, check out the site and see how it is done. Although a somewhat simple concept, I was very impressed with their implementation and the way they went about trying to suit a need. I’ll definitely be looking there in the future as need something or want to share something.

    MSDN Search Capabilities

    Another item I learned recently and was not aware of (that might seem trivial to some) is the power of the MSDN site’s search capabilities. Between the Code Samples Gallery described above and the search enhancements on MSDN, Microsoft is definitely investing in their platform to help provide developers of all skill levels the tools and resources they need to be successful.

    What do I mean by the MSDN search capability and why should you care?

    If you go to the MSDN home page (http://msdn.microsoft.com) and use the “Search MSDN with Big” box at the very top of the page you will see some very interesting results. First, the search actually doesn’t just search the MSDN library it searches:

  • MSDN Library

  • All Microsoft Blogs

  • CodePlex

  • StackOverflow

  • Downloads

  • MSDN Magazine

  • Support Knowledgebase

  • (I’m not sure it even ends there but the above are all I know of)

    Beyond just searching all the above locations, the results are formatted very nicely to give some contextual information based on where the result came from. For example, if a keyword search returned results from CodePlex, each row in the search results screen would include a large amount of information specific to CodePlex such as:

    image_thumb1

    Looking at the above results immediately tells you everything from the page views to the CodePlex ratings.

    All in all, knowing that this much information is indexed and available from a single search location will lead me to utilize this as one of my initial searches for development information.