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This chapter is from the book

The Visual Studio Product Line

Like the 2005 version, Visual Studio 2008 comes in many flavors; each is baked for a different appetite. There is a recipe targeted at the hobbyist to the enterprise architect, the beta tester to the operations guy—and, oh yeah, there are morsels for the developer too! Sorting through all the Visual Studio products and editions can be confusing. We hope the following aids you in your Visual Studio flavor selection.

Express Editions

Microsoft offers the Visual Studio Express Editions on a per-language basis (VB, C#, C++, Web, SQL). These editions are free, downloadable, low-barrier to entry versions targeted directly at the novice, hobbyist, student, or anyone else looking to write some code without breaking the bank. There is even an edition targeted at video game developers. Along with the editions are tutorials, videos, sites, fun projects, and more.

The Express Edition can be seen as Microsoft's answer to all the "freeware" tools available to today's developers. After all, if you are a college student looking to put up a buddy's website, you are more likely to look for the low-cost solution. Of course, five years down the road when you're making decisions for your company, Microsoft wants to be sure you've had a chance to work with its products. The Expression Edition fits this niche nicely.

These editions purposely do not have all the power of their professional patriarch (a Class Designer, unit testing, enterprise templates, XSLT support, source code control, 64-bit support, and so on). However, they do have full language support (like LINQ) and access to the .NET Framework items like WPF.

The Express Editions also have a more streamlined user experience that does not expose the full complexity (or power) of the professional editions. However, developers will be able to create client/server form-based applications, websites, and even web services using these tools.

Standard Edition

The Standard version of Visual Studio is the base-level entry point for professional developers. This edition is similar in nature to the Express Editions. However, it contains all the .NET languages in a single package. In addition, it gives developers an expanded feature set over the Express versions. These additional capabilities include the following:

  • Multiproject solution support
  • Multitargeting support for working with .NET 2.0, 3.0, and 3.5
  • Design support for creating Web, Windows, WPF, and Ajax User Experiences
  • Database design tools for working with databases beyond SQL Express Edition
  • Windows Communication Foundation (WCF) and Windows Workflow (WF) support
  • Visual modeling via the visual Class Designer
  • Support for XML editing including XSLT
  • Click-once deployment tool
  • Capability to write, record, and run macros
  • Support for creating and using Visual Studio add-ins
  • Conversion Wizard for converting legacy projects to 2008
  • SQL Server 2005 Express included
  • Compatibility with Visual Source Safe (VSS)

Professional Edition

Most corporate developers and consultants will find a home within one of the professional editions of Visual Studio. In fact, you may already have a version of Visual Studio depending on what license you bought and when. Visual Studio Professional gives you all the language support (including VB, C#, C++), everything in the Standard Edition, and, of course, the whole host of new enhancements we've discussed in this chapter.

The primary differences between standard and professional (besides the MSDN packaging) is a set of features that you do not get in the standard edition. The following features ship only with the professional version (and above):

  • Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO)
  • SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition
  • Capability to build software for mobile devices
  • Class Designer and Object Test Bench
  • Crystal Reports
  • Unit Testing (no longer just a Team Edition feature)
  • Server Explorer

Outside of these additional features, the Professional Edition is packaged as part of an MSDN subscription. Visual Studio Professional is packaged with various MSDN flavors. This change started with the 2005 version. You can now buy Visual Studio Professional as follows (listed from the fewest features/applications to the most):

  • Visual Studio Professional only (without MSDN)—Includes just Visual Studio Professional as discussed.
  • Visual Studio Professional with MSDN Professional—Includes Visual Studio as discussed. In addition, you get access to older versions of Visual Studio. You also get Visual Source Safe. The MSDN subscription provides developer licenses for Windows and Window Server, Virtual PC, SDKs, driver development kits, and more. You also get two technical support incidents and access to managed newsgroups.
  • Visual Studio Professional with MSDN Premium—Includes all the preceding with the following extras: includes Expression Web and Blend; adds developer licenses for SQL Server and other application platforms (BizTalk, Commerce Server, and many more); provides licenses for working with Microsoft Dynamics (GP, CRM, POS, and so on); includes licenses for Microsoft Office Systems 2007 (including Visio, Groove, Word, Excel, and many more).

Team Systems

Team Systems is a set of integrated, software development life-cycle tools. Microsoft released the first versions of its Team Systems products in 2005. These included versions of Visual Studio targeted at various members of the software development life cycle. In the middle is a centralized management and reporting server called Team Foundation Server. By all accounts, these tools were a great success. Microsoft has built on this success with the release of Visual Studio Team Systems 2008.

The Client Tools

The Visual Studio Team System editions are targeted to roles within the software development life cycle. These roles include developer, architect, tester, and database developer. In addition, there are client access licenses available for project managers and other interested parties. However, the aforementioned roles each represent versions of Team Systems that can be purchased.

It's important to note that each role-based version of Team Systems comes with Visual Studio 2008 Professional. It also comes with MSDN Premium (as defined previously). The Team System client tools also give you access to the central Team Foundation Server (purchased separately). What makes each of these products unique and significant, however, is what additional goodies they do and do not contain. The intent is a targeted set of tools to different roles on the project. The following list outlines the features that drive these products to their target users:

  • Visual Studio Team System Development Edition—Targeted at most developers, this version includes static code analysis, code profiling, dynamic code analysis, code metrics, code analysis check-in policies, unit testing, and code coverage analysis. These tools help developers with verifying, testing, and checking their code against common issues.
  • Visual Studio Team System Database Edition—Targeted at developers who need to work closely with and manage database development, this edition enables you to create database projects, generate sample data, compare schemas, compare data, do database-level unit testing, and more.
  • Visual Studio Team System Architect Edition—Designed for the software architect, this product improves design and design validation of distributed systems. Features include the System Designer, Application Designer, Logical Datacenter Designer, Deployment Designer, and a Settings and Constraints Editor.
  • Visual Studio Team System Test Edition—Targeted at the software tester, this edition includes the capability to create unit tests and see code coverage analysis. Its real strength for testers, however, is its capability to manage and create web, load, manual, generic, and ordered tests. In addition, there is the Team System 2008 Test Load Agent. This is a separate product that works with Team Test to generate massive load for various load-testing scenarios.
  • Visual Studio Team Suite—For those who must have it all (and have unlimited budgets), this product is the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink option. It includes all the features of Team Architect, Developer, Database Developer, and Test in a single package. Microsoft also understands that there are those among our ranks who can't stand to not have it all. For them, Microsoft has created Team Suite—the full IDE experience that transcends all team roles.

The Server

Team Foundation Server (TFS) is at the center of Team Systems. While the client tools enable great functionality, the server allows you to assign work, report statistics, and track the overall health of your project. Project information is synchronized among architects, developers, testers, project managers, and operations.

The functionality behind Team Foundation Server revolves around project management and source control. Project management and tracking are accomplished through work items. A work item can be a task on the project, an issue or bug, a software requirement, a feature, or a test scenario. In general, a work item represents a generic unit of work on the project. Of course, work items are customizable and can have states, new fields, and business rules associated with them. Work items can also be driven by a methodology. Finally, work items play a central part in ensuring project team communication and reporting.

The source control features in Team Foundation Server include enterprise-class features such as change sets, shelving, automatic build rules, the capability to associate work items to changed source, parallel development, a source control policy engine, branching, checkpoints, and more.

Surrounding these project management and source control features are a build management engine, a reporting infrastructure, and a project portal. The build tools allow for both automatic, scheduled builds and on-demand builds. Builds are reported against, documented, automatically tested, and analyzed for code coverage and churn (as an example). The reporting engine and project portal combine to further enhance the view into the project by team members. Built on Windows SharePoint Services (WSS), it delivers the latest test and build reports, documentation, announcements, and quality analysis.

The Expression Tools

A sister product line to Visual Studio is the new Microsoft Expression tools. These will, undoubtedly, get a lot of attention in upcoming releases. The tools are targeted at designers' build applications on the Microsoft platform. They offer rich design experiences for building Web, Windows, and Silverlight applications. The tools are also built to enable workflow between designers and developers.

It is important that you are aware of these tools so that you know where you might use them and because they work with Visual Studio projects and project files and offer some similar capabilities (but in different ways). A high-level overview of these tools is listed here:

  • Expression Blend—Used to create WPF interfaces based on XAML. You can also use it to create Silverlight applications.
  • Expression Design—Allows a designer to create vector-based illustrations that include drawing, text, and more.
  • Expression Web—A design tool for creating ASP.NET Web Forms and websites.
  • Expression Encoder—A tool for encoding video and audio and publishing the same to Silverlight applications.
  • Expression Media—A tool for organizing and managing design assets (files) into visual catalogs.
  • Expression Studio—Includes the full set of Expression tools. For those designers who need it all.
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