Visual Studio 2017 Previews Play Well With Release Versions

Developers can now keep both their production IDE and preview Visual Studio releases on the same PC with no ill effects.

Visual Studio 2017

Going forward, Visual Studio previews will peacefully coexist with the production releases, Microsoft announced this week.

Although the software giant just released Visual Studio 2017 last week, the company is already working on updates, wrote Daniel Jacobson, program manager for Visual Studio at Microsoft, in a March 16 blog post. Among the new additions is a "side by side" that will enable developers to test upcoming features without risking the stability of their work integrated development environment (IDE).

"That means you can use Visual Studio 2017 for your stable production work and Visual Studio 2017 Update Preview to get a peek into what we have in the pipeline," Jacobson stated. "When you install both, you'll see two different task bar icons so you can distinguish them—one that's solid (for the released version) and one that's not (for the preview). Similarly, if you happen to load the Visual Studio installer and you have both the released and Update preview versions of VS installed, you'll even see both of them in the UI."

Some components, including the Visual Studio installer, C runtime and .NET Framework, won't be duplicated in the new setup, Jacobson added. The previews will also display update notifications, similar to the main product.

In terms of new capabilities, the .NET Native compiler is now being distributed as a NuGet code package. This will enable the compiler to be updated without a more sweeping update to Visual Studio. The IDE also better handles NuGet packages containing XAML controls and libraries, allowing users to extract styles and templates from controls with custom icons, he said.

In addition, Visual Studio will detect XAML code that is specific to certain Windows software development kits. If XAML types and properties are not available in targeted versions of Windows, then a squiggle will appear under them in the code editor.

Other new features include support for command-line arguments in debug mode and new tools for debugging Python websites and scripts. The update also adds Universal Windows Platform (UWP) streaming install support, allowing developers to deliver apps and games that users can interact with before they download completely.

Since building an app with streaming install support requires planning, Microsoft recommends that developers take the feature into consideration from the very beginning of their projects. 

"For an app to be streaming installed, the app must be segmented into different parts. These parts are individually called a 'content group,' which is a logical grouping of files within your app," explained Andy Liu, a Windows Developer Platform program manager at Microsoft, in this Universal Windows App Deployment blog post. "There is the required content group, which contains all the files that need to be downloaded before users can launch the app."

For developers who are still getting the hang of Visual Studio 2017, Microsoft has published a printable PDF poster detailing some of the IDE's new features, keyboard shortcuts and more. The poster can be downloaded here.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the Internet.com network of...