Recently, I downloaded the new Visual Studio Code from Microsoft. You know, the company famous for software wonders such as SharePoint, Excel, and Internet Explorer 6. Well, they’re stepped into the Web IDE market with this new project, and they’re doing some surprising things with it. First, they’re making it available for free. Second, they’ve made versions for Mac and Linux, as well as Windows.
Wait, is this the same Microsoft we love to make fun of?
Visual Studio Code Features
Source control absolutely essential to the work of a modern developer, and Git is the preferred version for most developers. Chances are, unless you’ve been coding FORTRAN with punch cards in a fallout shelter since the 60’s, you’ve heard of source control websites such as Github or Bitbucket. Cloud-based companies like these let you to check in and check out your code into both public and private repositories.
Visual Studio Code offers simplified git support out of the box (and I do mean simplified). If your project has already been “git init”-ed, the source control button in the upper left corner will tell you how many files have changes that need to be checked in. With the git interface, you can commit changes with comments, as well as push and pull content, and that’s basically it. You’ll need other software for handling your more advanced git needs, such as Git for Windows or Git Extensions.
I like Visual Studio Code’s minimalist Git interface. You can code, debug, commit changes, and code again without the distraction of other plugin interfaces jarring your concentration. They’ve made the Git icon almost as easy to use as the save button. Now you have no excuse not to commit.
Does it stand up well against Sublime Text, the champion of web IDE’s? I don’t know, since a used Mac Book Air is still out of my price range. But I’m willing to compare it to Notepad++, a popular text editor used by many Windows web developers. Notepad++ loads faster the first time (though with plugin updates, the times are more even). Visual Studio Code and Notepad++ both offer great features to help you code and debug, but VSCode’s Intellisense makes it win out.
What puts Visual Studio Code over the top for me isn’t file support or features, however. It’s the styling. I can code for 7-8 hours on VSCode without wanting to stab my eyes out. Notepad++ isn’t so pixel-perfect and easy on the eyes. Don’t worry, Notepad++, I’ll still use you on production servers when I only need to tweak config files.
So, if you’re a .NET developer and want to out of the cesspool of legacy code, give Visual Studio Code a try. It’s got the features you’re familiar with, a slimmer profile, and support for modern and cutting-edge tech. It’ll make you feel bad about telling Microsoft jokes… well, almost.
EDIT: I found out while researching this that Sublime Text offers a Windows version. Go figure. It’s not free, however, so I’ll pass for now.