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Microsoft Visual Studio .Net (Enterprise Edition)
Publisher: Microsoft
Purchasing:
Microsoft
Reviewed: 15th March 2002

The Front of the Box:

Introduction

Welcome to a special review, on a very special piece of software. As I assume you're all aware, Visual Basic is a microsoft-owned language (hence only one version) thats part of the Visual Studio Family of applications; so when you're 4 year old version of the best all-round programming language gets a complete overhall you really need to sit-up and pay attention!

Microsoft's Visual Studio has been the most fundamental tool in all our work for a long time now, and has set itself up as the premier suite of programming tools (for good reasons), and given the general importance of programming/programs in the computer world, Microsoft tend to take the development of its tools and languages very seriously indeed. Visual Studio is therefore an absolutely enourmous piece of software - I wont go into specifics just yet, but trust me! I'm going to use the following few pages to cover as much of the new family of tools as is humanly possible, but it's probably going to be a good while till progammers around the world really get to grips with .Net and start using its full potential.

Before I go any further, I want to outline the main aim for this special review: gaming and multimedia. This website is all about using Visual Basic to write high performance multimedia applications, and more specifically, games. This area of computer programming requires a very specific type of language and tool - high performance, and optional low-level access to hardware (for maximum speed). My main question for this review is going to be: Is Visual Studio .Net more suitable for this area of progamming than Visual Studio 6? Do you really want to or need to upgrade to this new piece of software? ...

What is .Net

As you have probably noticed, I'm reviewing Visual Studio .Net - NOT Visual Studio 7. However, to all intents and purposes, they are the same thing (most files are installed to \Common7 or \VB7 or \VC7 for example...). So what's with this new naming system? Well, it's all part of Microsofts next-generation grand plan.

As you're probably aware, over the last few years there has been a steady move towards more integration with the internet (just look at the differences between XP and Win98's internet functionality), browsing the web, shopping online, communication via net-servers etc... are all big business and very common these years. Microsoft wants to provide the tools for the next stage of this migration, and they have some very grand plans for the shape of computer usage within the next few years...

Microsoft have coined the .Net ("Dot-Net") strategy for this. In it's most simple sense, it's all about integrating all computers, all systems (Linux,Mac and Windows for example) and particularly all software. It uses the role of the internet server to play a crucial part in this system - they want servers to do the grunt work, provide us with web pages, services and software - and for our desktop systems to just access these servers. There is some logic to this - centralization of such components makes servicing of applications much easier (version 7.0 to 7.1 requires only a few changes on a handful of servers rather than a global upgrade release). If you think about it, computer games have been working like this for quite a long time now in the form of game servers / MMORPG's etc...

However, this really doesn't seem to be sitting too well with alot of end-users that I've spoken too, and I've seen a few heated forum-threads about this: Do we really want big corporations controlling everything that we see, do and access? It's a big question that even I'm unsure about; but if you want to know more you can do the research - its too big a topic to cover here.

As you may well have guessed, Visual Studio .Net is the first stage in Microsoft's plan (that we developers/end-users get to see), for without .Net compatable software their new strategy isn't going anywhere! You'd also be correct in guessing that there is a very heavy emphasis on web/server side development in this new release. Given the basic logistics behind server-side provision of services/software (very expensive to run powerful servers) the software also seems to be aimed at corporate-level developer rather than small teams / single-programmer development. This isn't highly surprising, I'm taking an educated guess that Microsoft makes a heck of a lot more money out of big companies than it does from small independent teams. The first hint at this new approach is the global idea of a "Solution" instead of good old projects and project groups - it doesn't make any difference really, but it's just a little sign...

On With the Review...

Okay, enough ranting about the future, and back to the present - the Visual Studio .Net review! Due to the size of this review in comparison to the others on this website, I've decided to divide it into several pages. Each one covers a different section, and they're designed to be read in order, but you can jump around if you want...

Click here to go straight to the next page...

• Introduction: Introducing the software, and the aims of this review.
Getting Started With Visual Studio .Net: The installer, version, prices etc...
The new IDE: New things in the Integrated Development Environment, and is it an improvement?
Learning to Talk the Talk: Learning the new language (C#) and the changes to Visual Basic
Visual Studio .Net in the Real World: Performance and real world capabilities
Conclusion: Summing everything up in a neat way

 

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