Top New Features in Visual Studio 2012

1-Opening VS2010 Projects and Not Breaking Things
Remember when VS2010 came out? Remember wanting to use it on your team? Remember how projects were incompatible so you had to wait forer the whole team to upgrade? Yea, that sucked. Oh wait. Remember looking at the .csproj file and seeing the only difference was the version number?

In VS 2012 you can open VS2010 files and not break them for the rest of your team. That’s right. You can use VS2012 TODAY and work right alongside your coworkers using 2010. In fact, I’ve been doing just that with my team for months with the RC. It works great and we’ve yet to run into a single issue working together. Peace. Code. Harmony.

It’s super fast. Way faster than VS2010, which is a feature in itself. I can get more work done faster when I don’t see the VS UI turn into a white snowstorm of death.

3-Building Windows 8 Apps
Windows 8 is here and VS2012 lets you build awesome apps in C#, C++, and even Javascript. That’s awesome. Next.

4-Debugging T4 Templates
Debugging T4 Templates has been really hard in the past. In building ShoelaceMVC, the only way to make sure my T4 templates to generate views actually worked was to generate them live. Which sucked. Really. It’s slow and cumbersome and time consuming and manual. In VS2012, they introduced the ability to step through and debug T4 templates as it generates your code. This is amazing and a huge timesaver for people who work on frameworks, starter projects, and other awesome tools.

5-TFS in the Cloud
Team Foundation Server has always been a good, solid product. Shelvesets make it easy to share and show others your code. Gated checkins and automated builds? – Check. The problem though is continuous integration and using it with Scrum. Nobody – and I mean nobody – has done a good end-to-end solution from requirements, to agile, to code, to code review, to build, to test, to deployment. The whole ALM circle at once is what developers have been looking for for years. You can do Jetbrains TeamCity, but you need another tool to do agile, and another to track bugs. You can do full application lifecycle management, but you need someone to set it all up and manage it, which is usually different products stitched together with hopes, dreams, and prayers that it won’t break and you never have to touch it again (plus it’s a lot of work to set up). The new TFS in the cloud changes everything. It includes agile project management using a card board. It’s got all the branch/merge goodness that TFS has always had, but the best part is automated deployments, particularly to Azure, which is just awesome for people like me who have a 100% in the cloud business and clients who are doing the same.

6-Revamped UI

The UI is probably the first thing you’ll notice about VS 2012 RC. The monochrome scheme in earlier versions of VS 2012 was met with a bitter backlash as developers took an instant dislike to it. In fairness, the idea was to deemphasize the UI and make the code stand out more. However, that was a bad idea. VS 2012 RC reintroduces color, and once again you can tell the difference between the icons on the toolbars. That said, personally, I prefer the VS 2010 UI and colors (except for the cool game-like installer in VS 2012 RC).

7-Ability to Build Metro-style Applications

Without a doubt this is the most important new feature in VS 2012. VS 2012 lets you build Metro apps using HTML, JavaScript or XAML and VB, C# or C++, and it includes a new set of Metro-style app templates. It also supports building Windows Phone applications.


In earlier releases of Visual Studio, LightSwitch was a separately purchased product. The VS 2012 release includes LightSwitch in the VS 2012 Professional editions and above. I always said LightSwitch was a developer tool and not a user tool, and it seems that Microsoft now agrees. The VS 2012 LightSwitch has a new theme, support for branding, and improved performance.

9-IIS Express

Visual Studio used to use its own ASP.NET Development Server as the default web server for locally running and testing web applications. However, that meant you often ran into a variety of differences and incompatibilities when you went to deploy your applications on IIS. VS 2012 solves this problem by using IIS Express as the default local web server. IIS Express is a lightweight, self-contained version of IIS. It has all of the core capabilities of the full-fledged IIS, but it doesn’t run as a service.

10-Support for WinRT

In conjunction with the new support for Windows 8 and Metro, VS 2012 also includes support for the new WinRT subsystem. WinRT (Windows RunTime) is the new programming model used by Metro. VS 2012 supports WinRT development in C++, C#, VB, and JavaScript. Programs written using WinRT should run on both Intel and ARM processors.

11-New Solution Explorer

As you begin to use VS 2012, you’ll definitely notice the new Solution Explorer. It’s like a cross between the old Object Browser and Class View. You can navigate your project’s objects and drill down into methods and properties. It also enables you to search and preview file, objects and external items.

12-New SQL Server Object Explorer

Visual Studio has always been weak in the area of SQL Server navigation. VS 2012 improves its SQL Server integration with the new SQL Server Object Explorer, which is more like SQL Server Management Studio than the old Server Explorer. The new SQL Server Object Explorer shows column data types as well as primary and foreign keys.