Friday, April 5, 2013

Why Use An IDE?

Artists have a quote that says "A blank canvas is an open opportunity to create whatever your imagination can stir to life". All artists begin with a medium of their choice, and use that medium to bring together their creation. Some artists use paint, some stone, some sand, and some even resort to using natural elements such as ice and snow. As such, all successful artists have a mastery of their tools to maximize their skillset.

I often tell developer’s in the making that using ASP.NET, Visual C# and Visual Basic is a specialized skillset, as the programmer not only develops code to control the application, but design's the interface in which the user uses the program a well. This is an important concept, as the misplacement of a button, or inadvertently hiding certain options can cause an immense amount of disdain from your end-users. It is impossible to overstate how important a toolset is to programmers. Much like artists needs to understand and use their tools appropriately, programmers must do the same. Failure to do so will cause over-complicated code, causing projects to run over time and over budget. Using toolsets properly will only serve to enhance the programmers ability to create enterprise-level applications that provide value to end-users and development teams alike. 

The most important tool a developer will ever use in your programming career is the Integrated Development Environment (IDE). There are many different IDE's available to programmers, but the choice of a programming language depends on the hardware you intend to run your applications. Much in the same vein, the IDE you choose is dependent on the language you want to program with. Some common examples include IBM's Eclipse which support's Java natively, Anjuta which supports a number of Object Oriented languages but runs on a Linux computer, or SharpDevelop, a free and popular IDE that support a number of languages, and is supported by an open source community of software developers. When it comes to programming with Visual C# however, one of the best IDE's available (if not the best) is Visual Studio.

Visual Studio natively supports .NET languages, including C#, VB.NET, ASP.NET, and F#, and supports a wide number of community sourced plugins as well. Visual Studio also has a rich history with programmers, as it's first version of a development platform was made available to users in 1995! Microsoft has continued to upgrade and enhance the tools available for programmers as they have developed their programming languages as well. More recently, as the .NET initiative has taken flight, Microsoft has released a version of Visual Studio to match releases of it's .NET Framework, which has been every 2-3 years or so. Why do this? Simple, as new programming features and upgrades are made available to the .NET Framework, Visual Studio's latest tools will reflect those changes and features, allowing programmers to upgrade both existing applications and new applications to use said features.

You may not be aware, but the .NET SDK (Software Development Toolkit) is available through Microsoft's website. Using this SDK, you can install all features necessary to compile a defined program, review any error's, resolve them, and re-compile to create your very own executable file. Best of all, this SDK is completely free! This means you can actually write programs in any old-fashioned text editor (such as notepad), and run the commands necessary to compile those files into an application.

So you may be asking yourself, why wouldn't we do this? Well, the .NET SDK provides the capabilities listed above, but it is very raw, basic, and obtuse. With Visual Studio however, the programmer has the capability to perform the functions listed above, but is also provided several benefits including the following (for a full list of the options available, visit

  • IntelliSense (real-time object exploration)
  • Code Formatting
  • Debugging and diagnostics
  • Deployment Options and Code Refactoring
  • Testing Tools
  • Development Platform Support
  • Architecture and Modeling
  • Lab Management
  • Team Collaboration Tools
  • Integration with other Microsoft products (such as SQL Server Databases, or SharePoint powered Internet websites)

Needless to say, there are enough features in Visual Studio to teach an entire course! As you can see, however, an IDE is so much more than code formatting, it is an entire management tool for a programmer to write code, create files, store information, debug an application, write test cases for the program, create documentation and publish, all in one spot.

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