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Microsoft Visual Studio is an integrated development environment (IDE) from Microsoft. It is used to develop computer programs for Microsoft Windows, as well as web sites, web applications and web services. Visual Studio uses Microsoft software development platforms such as Windows API, Windows Forms, Windows Presentation Foundation, Windows Store and Microsoft Silverlight. It can produce both native code and managed code.
Visual Studio includes a code editor supporting IntelliSense as well as code refactoring. The integrated debugger works both as a source-level debugger and a machine-level debugger. Other built-in tools include a forms designer for building GUI applications, web designer, class designer, and database schema designer. It accepts plug-ins that enhance the functionality at almost every level—including adding support for source-control systems (like Subversion) and adding new toolsets like editors and visual designers for domain-specific languages or toolsets for other aspects of the software development lifecycle (like the Team Foundation Server client: Team Explorer).
Microsoft provides "Express" editions of its Visual Studio at no cost. Commercial versions of Visual Studio along with select past versions are available for free to students via Microsoft's DreamSpark program.
Visual Studio does not support any programming language, solution or tool intrinsically, instead it allows the plugging of functionality coded as a VSPackage. When installed, the functionality is available as a Service. The IDE provides three services: SVsSolution, which provides the ability to enumerate projects and solutions; SVsUIShell, which provides windowing and UI functionality (including tabs, toolbars and tool windows); and SVsShell, which deals with registration of VSPackages. In addition, the IDE is also responsible for coordinating and enabling communication between services. All editors, designers, project types and other tools are implemented as VSPackages. Visual Studio uses COM to access the VSPackages. The Visual Studio SDK also includes the Managed Package Framework (MPF), which is a set of managed wrappers around the COM-interfaces that allow the Packages to be written in any CLI compliant language. However, MPF does not provide all the functionality exposed by the Visual Studio COM interfaces. The services can then be consumed for creation of other packages, which add functionality to the Visual Studio IDE.
Support for programming languages is added by using a specific VSPackage called a Language Service. A language service defines various interfaces which the VSPackage implementation can implement to add support for various functionalities. Functionalities that can be added this way include syntax coloring, statement completion, brace matching, parameter information tooltips, member lists and error markers for background compilation. If the interface is implemented, the functionality will be available for the language. Language services are to be implemented on a per-language basis. The implementations can reuse code from the parser or the compiler for the language. Language services can be implemented either in native code or managed code. For native code, either the native COM interfaces or the Babel Framework (part of Visual Studio SDK) can be used. For managed code, the MPF includes wrappers for writing managed language services.
Visual Studio does not include any source control support built in but it defines two alternative ways for source control systems to integrate with the IDE. A Source Control VSPackage can provide its own customised user interface. In contrast, a source control plugin using the MSSCCI (Microsoft Source Code Control Interface) provides a set of functions that are used to implement various source control functionality, with a standard Visual Studio user interface. MSSCCI was first used to integrate Visual SourceSafe with Visual Studio 6.0 but was later opened up via the Visual Studio SDK. Visual Studio .NET 2002 used MSSCCI 1.1, and Visual Studio .NET 2003 used MSSCCI 1.2. Visual Studio 2005, 2008 and 2010 use MSSCCI Version 1.3, which adds support for rename and delete propagation as well as asynchronous opening.
Visual Studio supports running multiple instances of the environment (each with its own set of VSPackages). The instances use different registry hives (see MSDN's definition of the term "registry hive" in the sense used here) to store their configuration state and are differentiated by their AppId (Application ID). The instances are launched by an AppId-specific .exe that selects the AppId, sets the root hive and launches the IDE. VSPackages registered for one AppId are integrated with other VSPackages for that AppId. The various product editions of Visual Studio are created using the different AppIds. The Visual Studio Express edition products are installed with their own AppIds, but the Standard, Professional and Team Suite products share the same AppId. Consequently, one can install the Express editions side-by-side with other editions, unlike the other editions which update the same installation. The professional edition includes a superset of the VSPackages in the standard edition and the team suite includes a superset of the VSPackages in both other editions. The AppId system is leveraged by the Visual Studio Shell in Visual Studio 2008.
The Visual Studio code editor also supports setting bookmarks in code for quick navigation. Other navigational aids include collapsing code blocks and incremental search, in addition to normal text search and regex search. The code editor also includes a multi-item clipboard and a task list. The code editor supports code snippets, which are saved templates for repetitive code and can be inserted into code and customized for the project being worked on. A management tool for code snippets is built in as well. These tools are surfaced as floating windows which can be set to automatically hide when unused or docked to the side of the screen. The Visual Studio code editor also supports code refactoring including parameter reordering, variable and method renaming, interface extraction and encapsulation of class members inside properties, among others.
Visual Studio features background compilation (also called incremental compilation). As code is being written, Visual Studio compiles it in the background in order to provide feedback about Jasmin Live syntax and compilation errors, which are flagged with a red wavy underline. Warnings are marked with a green underline. Background compilation does not generate executable code, since it requires a different compiler than the one used to generate executable code. Background compilation was initially introduced with Microsoft Visual Basic but has now been expanded for all included languages.
Main article: Microsoft Visual Studio Debugger
Visual Studio includes a debugger that works both as a source-level debugger and as a machine-level debugger. It works with both managed code as well as native code and can be used for debugging applications written in any language supported by Visual Studio. In addition, it can also attach to running processes and monitor and debug those processes. If source code for the running process is available, it displays the code as it is being run. If source code is not available, it can show the disassembly. The Visual Studio debugger can also create memory dumps as well as load them later for debugging. Multi-threaded programs are also supported. The debugger can be configured to be launched when an application running outside the Visual Studio environment crashes.
The debugger allows setting breakpoints (which allow execution to be stopped temporarily at a certain position) and watches (which monitor the values of variables as the execution progresses). Breakpoints can be conditional, meaning they get triggered when the condition is met. Code can be stepped over, i.e., run one line (of source code) at a time. It can either step into functions to debug inside it, or step over it, i.e., the execution of the function body isn't available for manual inspection. The debugger supports Edit and Continue, i.e., it allows code to be edited as it is being debugged (32 bit only; not supported in 64 bit). When debugging, if the mouse pointer hovers over any variable, its current value is displayed in a tooltip ("data tooltips"), where it can also be modified if desired. During coding, the Visual Studio debugger lets certain functions be invoked manually from the Immediate tool window. The parameters to the method are supplied at the Immediate window.