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Status Bar and Start Page

When you first run Visual Studio 2012, you notice a new layout and the Start Page, as shown in Figure 2.1.

Figure 2.1

Figure 2.1. The Start Page in Visual Studio 2012 and the new look.

You can immediately notice the new look of Visual Studio 2012 based on Microsoft Design Style. The colored status bar is new in Visual Studio 2012, and its color changes according to the particular task Visual Studio is running. Following is a list of possible colors for the status bar (see Figure 2.2 for a graphical representation):

  • Violet—This is the color for the status bar when Visual Studio is ready (for example, at startup).
  • Light blue—This is the color for the status bar at development time, which means coding, designing the user interface, or any other task you run before compiling the code and running the application.
  • Blue—This is the color for the status bar when Visual Studio 2012 is building the solution and compiling the code.
  • Orange—This is the color for the status bar when you are running the application in debugging mode (that is, by pressing F5).
    Figure 2.2

    Figure 2.2. The status bar colors and related moments.

The Start Page is a central point in the IDE. First, it offers a better organization of the most common tasks, based on tabs. Tabs are located on the right side of the screen and enable access to specific contents. On the left side of the screen you can instead find links for creating new projects and opening existing projects, as well as the list of recently opened projects. You can easily remove recent projects by right-clicking the project name and then selecting the deletion command. It is worth mentioning that the Start Page relies on the Windows Presentation Foundation technology and is completely written in XAML code. This means that it can be customized according to your needs. Customizing the Start Page is beyond the scope of this chapter, whereas a deeper discussion on the default settings is absolutely necessary. The two default tabs are Get Started and Latest News. The following paragraphs discuss them in detail.

Get Started Tab

The Get Started tab (refer to Figure 2.1) offers links to important resources, such as MSDN Walkthroughs (which are step-by-step tutorials on specific topics related to Visual Studio 2012); community and learning resources, and extensions for the IDE; such as custom add-ins or third-party components. (This topic is discussed later in the book.) This tab is divided into subcategories, each related to a specific development area such as Windows 8, Web, and Windows Azure. When you click each subcategory, you access a number of links to resources for learning about the selected area. The Get Started tab’s purpose is to offer links to useful resources about the development environment and to new and existing .NET technologies.

The Latest News Tab

As in its predecessors, Visual Studio 2012 can also show a list of news based on RSS feeds so that you can stay up-to-date with your favorite news channels. Now the list appears in the Latest News tab, as shown in Figure 2.3.

Figure 2.3

Figure 2.3. The Latest News tab shows updated news from the specified RSS channel.

By default, the news channel is an RSS feed pointing to the MSDN developer portal, but you can replace it with one of your favorites. To accomplish this, you have the following alternatives:

  • Open the Latest News tab and replace the default link in the RSS feed field with a valid XML feed link (this is the easiest way).
  • Open the Options window (for example, by clicking the Settings link in the Visual Studio tab), and then select the Startup item. In the text box named Start Page news channel (see Figure 2.4), you can insert your favorite link. Just be sure you are writing a valid XML feed link.
    Figure 2.4

    Figure 2.4. The Options window enables customizing the RSS Feeds news channel.

If you want to stay up-to-date with Visual Basic news, consider replacing the default news channel with the Visual Basic page of the Visual Studio Developer Center, which is at the following: http://sxp.microsoft.com/feeds/3.0/msdntn/VB_featured_resources. After this brief overview of the Start Page, we can begin discussing the tooling that you use for creating Visual Basic projects within Visual Studio 2012.

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