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Visual Studio Community Edition–Visual Studio for Web Connection

December 16, 2014 •

A couple of months ago Microsoft announced the release of a new Visual Studio Community version to replace all the Express versions. As you probably know the Express versions of Visual Studio were severely trimmed down and specialized versions of Visual Studio  – essentially a core version of Visual Studio with only certain packages enabled. While these versions were functional and certainly provided a lot of value, each of the Express versions had some major features missing. The Visual Studio Community edition is a full version of Visual Studio Professional and is available to most non-large enterprise developers free of charge.

Web Express Limitations for Web Connection

In the past I’ve recommended using Visual Studio Express for Web, especially for developers that were taking advantage of the Web Control Framework. It provides the excellent HTML, CSS and JavaScript editors, and explicit support for WebForms which is what the Web Connection Web Control Framework uses to provide it’s designer support in Visual Studio. Express version had some limitations that definitely impacted Web Connection, namely lack of support for the Web Connection Add-in which provides the ability to bring up Visual FoxPro and your favorite browser directly from a Web Connection page.

With the intro of Visual Studio Community edition, that limitation – and many others are gone.

Visual Studio Community Edition is Visual Studio Professional

The new Community edition is essentially a free version of Visual Studio Professional for most individuals and small organizations. It provides the full feature set of Visual Studio Pro which includes the support for plug-ins, multiple projects and the whole gamut of projects that Visual Studio supports. There are no limitations or disablements – it’s a full version of Visual Studio Pro.

If you are a Web Connection developer and you’ve been using the Web Express Edition you should definitely go ahead and download and install Community Edition to get support for the Web Connection Add-in. This version also allows you to open multiple projects in the same solution so you can have multiple Web sites open in one project, as well as open the Web Connection Web Controls design time control project for creating your own components.

You can download the Community Edition from the Visual Studio Download site

Who can use the Community Edition

As mentioned the Community Edition is free to most small to medium sized organizations. With a few exceptions of larger organizations you can use Visual Studio Community edition for free. Here’s what the Community Edition site shows for who can use the Community Edition:

  • Any individual developer can use Visual Studio Community to create their own free or paid apps.

Here’s how Visual Studio Community can be used in organizations:

  • An unlimited number of users within an organization can use Visual Studio Community for the following scenarios: in a classroom learning environment, for academic research, or for contributing to open source projects.
  • For all other usage scenarios: In non-enterprise organizations, up to 5 users can use Visual Studio Community. In enterprise organizations (meaning those with >250 PCs or > $1 Million US Dollars in annual revenue), no use is permitted beyond the open source, academic research, and classroom learning environment scenarios described above.

What’s the Downside?

I think that the Community Edition is a huge step in the right direction for Microsoft. Developer tools are becoming more and more of a commodity item and are used more to sell a platform than anything else, and this edition at least provides a full featured development tool for those that want to work with Microsoft technologies. The fact that the HTML, CSS and JavaScript editors are top notch for any kind of Web development is an additional bonus.

The one downside is that Visual Studio is large. It uses a fair amount of system resources so you need a reasonably fast machine to run it. However, it’s nothing like older versions of Visual Studio that were. If it’s been few years since you’ve last tried Visual Studio you really should give it another shot as performance and especially editor performance and load times have improved significantly.

As a Web Connection Developer Should you care?

If you’re using the Web Control Framework you will definitely want to use the Community Edition as it gives you full support for the designer integration and the Web Connection Add-in to load your WCF pages. If you’re using any other edition, go make the jump – it’s totally worth it.

But even if you’re not using the Web Control Framework that provides integration with the WebForms designer, there are many features in Visual Studio’s HTML, CSS and JavaScript editors that are top notch if not the best compared to just about anything out there. The only other tool I would put even close in comparison is Jetbrains WebStorm which is an excellent tool for pure HTML5 and JavaScript (including Node) based applications.

If you are using any version of Visual Studio 2012 or 2013 (including the Community Edition) make sure you install Web Essentials which provides additional HTML, CSS and JavaScript features including support for LESS, SASS, Zen Coding support (very efficient HTML shortcut template language), automatic JS and CSS minification and much more. As the name implies it’s essential and I don’t consider this an optional add-in.

Regardless of whether you do Web Connection development, or raw HTML coding, here are some features in Visual Studio that I wouldn’t want to live without:

  • HTML Element and Attribute IntelliSense
  • HTML and CSS Formatting (as you type or explicit)
  • CSS IntelliSense (CSS properties, reference props in docs)
  • F12 Navigation to CSS classes
  • Automatic LESS parsing and saving
  • Excellent JavaScript IntelliSense (especially with _references.js file)
  • Basic JavaScript Refactoring

Web Essentials:

  • Zen Code
  • Script and CSS Compression
  • HTML Color Picker, Darken/Lighten
  • CSS Browser Support Preview
  • CSS Vendor Prefix injection
  • Font and Image Previewers

There’s lots more but those are some of the highlights for me. If you haven’t tried Visual Studio in a long while or where put off by the pricing of the full versions, give the community edition a try…

Posted in: Visual Studio    Web Connection

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