If you're subscribed to any computer magazines, you probably received that DVD beta of Visual Studio.NET. I got mine, and decided to install it. The local Circuit City was selling DVD-ROM drives for $20 after rebate, so it was kismet.
Anyway, here are my impressions. . .
- The IDE will take some getting-used-to, but it seems pretty capable. The IDE hasn't changed appreciably since VC++ 2.0, but this has lots of changes.
- One thing that bugged me is replacing the standard MDI interface with little tabbed source-windows. If you're like me, you copy code from other files, and it's often important to see files side-by-side. Thankfully you can go into the options and change things back to standard MDI.
- Even though they aren't pushing it at all, they made some big improvements to the C++ compiler. The new link-time optimizations appear to be making a big difference in my code.
- MS is boasting of much better compliance with ISO standard C++. Version 6 had pretty good compliance, but there were still a couple of oddities left.
- The debugger looks like the old one, but with some minor improvements here and there. This is a good thing, as MS has one of the best debuggers around, and completely revamping it could just muck it up.
- Like I suspected, it appears that the claims of a VB-style interface across all languages wasn't fully realized. If you create a VB or C# project, you get the VB-style component interface. If you create a C++ project, you get a Visual C++ source-style project.
- C# seems pretty nice. Unlike other Java IDE's I've tried, building an interface is fast and easy. Most Java IDE's I've used have bean interfaces which are capable but glacially slow.
- I don't understand "Managed C++" at all. It's basically a subset of C++ that's designed to use the .NET runtime (i.e. MS's new VM that C# and VB compile to). It'd be neat if Microsoft had grand plans to move their VM to various platforms, thus giving you cross-platform C++, but I don't think they do. As it stands, it appears to be the worst of all worlds --a subset of C++ coupled with non-native speeds.
- That cheesy halfassed Code Wizard thing appears to have been mercy-killed.
- The new Dynamic Help could be nice for beginners, but I don't find myself using it.
- The $20 DVD-ROM drive is impressive. I just plugged it in and Windows recognized it. No drivers or anything to install. Nice.
All in all, it's a mixed bag. MS has done a good job with C# --a Java-style language with a VB-style GUI builder. Managed C++ seems pointless.
Surprisingly, the stuff I liked best is the stuff that they haven't really mentioned in any of the ads, like the nicely-improved compiler and debugger.