A Big Piece of the Puzzle

Visual Studio 2005 is tightly integrated with SQL Server 2005, and provides a range of tools for building everything from simple Web apps to Office-based apps.

Microsoft is embracing the notion that no single tool can fit every developer. At the launch of Visual Studio 2005 on Nov. 7 last year, the company unveiled a family of development tools under the banner of the Visual Studio integrated development environment (IDE). Visual Studio 2005 Standard Edition is the entry-level tool. This also serves as a bridge for Visual Basic (VB) 6.0 and VB.Net developers. Visual Studio 2005 Professional Edition is aimed at professional developers. The Visual Studio family also includes new tools for Microsoft Office and new Team System lifecycle tools, as well as a lightweight, easy-to-use Express Edition. This could be a good choice to recommend to your customers for their own internal projectsÑespecially because it's available for free for at least the first year.

Deep integration with SQL Server 2005 is the most significant aspect of the new Visual Studio 2005. It will also be a major productivity boost for partners whose primary focus is developing customized applications using Visual Studio 2005, .NET and SQL Server 2005 as a foundation.

Microsoft Corp. Visual Studio 2005
Release: Nov. 7, 2005

Base Price: Standard Edition: $299 Professional Edition: $799 Tools for the Microsoft Office System: $799 Visual Studio 2005 Team Suite: $10,939 Express Editions: Free (After a year, the price will be $49, and Microsoft Developer Network subscribers are eligible for discounts.)


Most of the new features are focused on developer productivity and making it easier to build .NET-connected applications. This is particularly good news for custom application development and delivery. The cornerstone of the new Visual Studio is actually the forthcoming .NET Framework version 2.0. The framework includes the common language runtime (CLR), class libraries and ASP.NET controls that help .NET developers focus more on business logic and less on software plumbing. Microsoft bills the combined development tools and framework as a "unified development environment and programming model."

Because many developers have already had access to beta code for some time, there's already a lot of buzz in the developer community over the Visual Studio 2005 IDE. Among the most talked about new features are:

  • Line Revision Marks: The text editor tracks changes during an editing session and even distinguishes between changes already saved and changes that have not yet been saved.
  • Edit-and-Continue: The new VB editor brings back a feature that helped VB 6 developers fix runtime errors on the fly.
  • Code Snippets: This library contains more than 400 chunks of reusable code for common programming tasks.
  • Refactoring: The C# and J# IDEs come with a suite of tools for automating many common code refactoring tasks, such as renaming classes, fields, properties and methods.
  • ClickOnce: This new installation technology is designed to simplify deploying and updating Windows forms-based applications.
  • MS.Net Build Engine: Better known as "MSBuild," this new XML-based transparent build system for managed client apps lets developers specify what to build and how to build it under different platforms and configurations in the XML file associated with the build engine.
  • "My" Namespace Object: The "My" object gives developers a series of coded shortcuts to make it easier to find system and application resources.
  • ADO.NET 2.0: The latest version of Microsoft's database APIs for the .NET Framework is designed to help developers build better applications, regardless of the back-end database.
  • New XML Editor: ADO.NET's new XML editor features color-coding, IntelliSense support, support for syntax checking and validation using Document Type Definition (DTD) and XML Schema Definition (XSD).

Beyond the Traditional
Microsoft is reaching well beyond its traditional developer constituency in several areas with this integrated development approach. This will be a benefit not only for developers and development teams in midsize to large organizations, but also for partners developing custom applications.

Visual Studio Team System (VSTS), the most ballyhooed new member of the Visual Studio family, represents Microsoft's first serious move beyond the confines of the traditional IDE into the broader landscape of application lifecycle management (ALM). Targeted at midsize and large project teams, VSTS includes features designed for project managers, software testers, infrastructure and software architects, IT business decision-makers and partners with a development focus.

Developers using Word, Excel or Outlook as a front end get a big boost from the mother ship with the Visual Studio Tools for the Microsoft Office System (VSTO). VSTO is designed for developers looking to use Visual Basic and Visual C# to extend Word 2003 and Excel 2003. Microsoft is serious about positioning Office as a strategic platform for .NET development, and wants its developers and partners to have the tools they need to make that happen.

Competitive Landscape
In practical terms, the IDE race really comes down to two development platforms: .NET and Java. Eclipse owns the lion's share of the Java IDE space, but it's also facilitating development of open source alternatives that will compete directly with the VSTS.

In the end, the biggest competitor to Visual Studio 2005 may well be Microsoft itself, considering the substantial inertia in convincing developers to migrate to the newer platform. The company is calling Visual Studio 2005 a "milestone" release and it is clearly tied to the release of SQL Server 2005. Future updates are likely to be similarly coordinated.

Microsoft is already well into work on another version, code-named "Orcas." Visual Studio 2005 and the .NET Framework 2.0 -- and the applications built with them -- will naturally run on the forthcoming Windows Vista operating system.

Right behind Orcas is "Hawaii," which promises to be a completely redesigned tool set aimed at taking developers well beyond the tool's current capabilities. With Hawaii, Redmond seems to be laying the groundwork for a full rearchitecting of Visual Studio, which will follow the evolution of SQL Server and the evolution of Windows into Vista.

Spotlight Highlights
Key Features
  • Tight integration with SQL Server 2005
  • Integrates latest enhancements of the .NET languages
  • New tools for Microsoft Office developers
  • New Team Studio Application Lifecycle Toolset
  • New Visual Web Developer for ASP.NET projects
  • Latest ADO.NET 2.0 database APIs
  • Consolidates Windows mobile development platforms


  • Eclipse open source tooling framework
  • Earlier versions of the IDE
  • Established application lifecycle management vendors such as IBM, Borland and Mercury Interactive
  • NTeam open source application lifecycle management project


  • Relative ease of custom application development
  • Targets new types of developers, including Office developers
  • Renewed focus on development lifecycle and need for supporting products

Marketing and Sales
Microsoft launched Visual Studio 2005 at a splashy media event in San Francisco on Nov. 7. It was actually a joint product launch of Visual Studio 2005, SQL Server 2005 and BizTalk Server 2006. Following that kickoff event, Microsoft is hosting a series of smaller, free launch events in about 50 countries. The folks in Redmond also rely heavily on the Microsoft Developers Network (MSDN) as the primary means of distributing the Visual Studio tools.

Microsoft has long maintained partnership programs to encourage third-party developers to cuddle up to the Visual Studio product line and build complementary products. This is another area of potential opportunity for development-oriented partners.

The company's revamped Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) program is now providing independent vendors and enterprise customers with free access to the APIs necessary to build life cycle tools that are tightly coupled with Visual Studio 2005. The VSIP program offers a range of memberships for institutions, researchers, ISVs, system integrators, shareware developers and corporations. Microsoft has also been offering E-Learning courses and clinics (initially for free) to get developers ramped up on Visual Studio 2005.

The Final Word
Visual Studio 2005 is notable for the depth of integration with other key Microsoft technologies, and the scope of the product's reach into tangential realms. The fact that it's the first of three IDE updates planned over the next five years doesn't diminish its significance.

Nor will the fact that Microsoft will be using Visual Studio -- along with SQL Server and BizTalk -- to promote the forthcoming Vista operating system. That connection is likely to be a positive development for partners. Microsoft has a lot of eggs in its Vista basket, and for now, Visual Studio 2005 and the .NET Framework are the software development tools for that platform.