Saturday, 24 October 2009

Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2

Visual Studio 2010 beta 2 was released to the web on the 21 October. You can download it from here. Since I no longer get invites to Microsoft betas (they really don't like what I say about their products), I am approaching this release like the average punter: download the public beta, work through the tutorials and then decide if the product should be given disk space. As a side effect of this, you'll not find me spinning the Microsoft line.

I opted to download the ISO of the installation DVD. This was a simple process: download four files (three rar archive and an exe) then run the exe. This process decompresses the archives and stitches them together as a single DVD ISO image. In my case Vista told me that there was a problem with the "installation" (ie decompression) so I deleted the ISO file and repeated the process. When I got the error a second time I ignored it.

I decided that I would not install this beta on the same machine that I use for my work, instead I created a Virtual PC and installed it there. Microsoft recommends 1Gb of memory but since I only have 2Gb on my development machine I decided to create the VPC with 660Mb (later, I found that this was not an issue). I have a clean VPC with XP Service Pack 3 installed, so I copied the virtual hard disk (vhd) for this and renamed the copy. I then used this for the disk of my new VPC. This saved me the effort of installing an operating system. The next action to do was to boot the VPC and in Microsoft Virtual PC use the Capture ISO Image menu item to point to the VS2010 ISO file. XP autostart then started the installation from the ISO image. The installation took about 20 minutes with no issues.

The VS2010 installation includes .NET Framework 4.0 beta 2, Silverlight 3 SDK, Synchronization Services and SQL Server Express 2008. Afterwards there was an option to install help locally which I accepted and the install program clunked away for another 10 minutes, copying something.

After the installation completed I started help for VS through the Start Menu. I waited for MSDN library to start up, but instead, an icon appeared in the notification area (right). Then Internet Explorer appeared showing the first page of the documentation. Clearly the install program copied the HTML files (or a compressed version) to my hard disk and then installed a minimal HTTP Server to serve these documentation pages. The last few versions of MSDN library have hogged memory and took an age to close down (often throwing an exception in the process, as if the application just refuses to go away), so something had to be done about it. I am not sure if doing it this way is a good idea, but no doubt as I use it I will be able to make up my mind. (Two things immediately come to mind: contents and search. I find the tree control on the MSDN web page irritating to use, so I hope this was not used in the new VS help. Microsoft have never been able to provide a web search engine that got anywhere near as powerful as Google, so I hope searching the locally installed help uses a better search engine than Microsoft usually provides.)

I then started VS2010 through the Start Menu. The first thing to say is that Microsoft have rebranded the Visual Studio colours. Previous versions have used a reddish orangey theme, now Microsoft have decided to use a steel blue grey theme. It looks nice, but clashes with the bright blue standard theme of XP. Microsoft have also decided to replace the light grey background (when you have an empty environment) used in all the versions of VS I can remember, with a dark grey background. This looks fine, and I found no issues with accessibility.

The docked tool windows behave as they do in VS2008, and I dragged Solution Explorer off the edge of the environment to undock it, and see if I could dock it elsewhere. The tool window disappeared. No bother, I thought, and tried to show it again with the View menu item. Nothing happened. Then I shut down VS2010 and restarted it to see if I could reset the program. I then got the error box, below, saying that VS2010 cannot start:

Needless to say, this is not a good start. First, I need to bug this (and hope that Microsoft do not give their stock replies of "by design" or "will be fixed in the next version") and then I will try to find a workaround to get VS to start (I suspect I may need to repair it). When I have done that I will report back here my impression of what is new in VS2010. However before I sign off I have to stress:

If you are using Visual Studio 2010 beta 2 do not move the docked windows because afterwards VS2010 will refuse to start.

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