Another trick to improve performance is to minify (remove whitespace and shorten names) CSS files and JavaScript files to reduce file sizes. Outside Visual Studio, developers use tools like Grunt and Gulp to automate the task of minifying files and moving relevant files to a directory that will get published. In prior versions of Visual Studio, you had to jump through some hoops to set up the automation of Grunt or Gulp. You had to install an extension and configure it to run during compilation. Now these tools and others like NPM and Bower package management are supported right in Visual Studio.

Inclusion of tools that other developers use makes Visual Studio a great tool even if you are doing Web development that doesn’t include any ASP.NET components. I hinted earlier that I had trouble working within a team where I was the only one using Visual Studio. The others were using other tools. I did the hoop-jumping in order to be productive, but it would have been a better experience if I had been able to use the new tools provided by Visual Studio 2015.

Those developers who routinely contribute to open-source projects, especially those hosted on GitHub, will be happy to see that Microsoft has continued to improve the Git integration. A while back, Microsoft introduced Git repositories as a source-control option in Visual Studio Online (the former Team Foundation Service). They also introduced Git integration into Visual Studio. It was limited, and I found myself jumping out to an external Git manager to perform most tasks. It did do the basics like check out files, commit local repositories and sync with external repositories. Now you can easily manage branches and review branch histories, a task I used to jump out to an external client to do.

There is also better integration with GitHub, which allows you to manage your open-source projects better. There are still some areas that need to come along, like the ability to run command-line commands from within the IDE, but it is nice to see that Microsoft is taking open-source development seriously.

One of the major features of an IDE is its ability to debug code and provide diagnostics. Visual Studio has always had good tools but as with anything else, there is always room for improvement. And some of those improvements have made their way into this version. Here are the highlights:

  • Improved breakpoint configuration, including the ability to undo a breakpoint deletion
  • The ability to use lambda expression in debugger windows like the Watch window and the Immediate window
  • Tools to monitor GPU usage of DirectX applications
  • Network diagnostic tools

Performance is important when it comes to building apps. Users expect their apps to be highly responsive. In the past you had to use third-party tools like ANTS to analyze your WPF and Universal app code to find where the bottlenecks were. Now there is a built-in timeline tool that can help you analyze your app as it is running to help find the issues.

There is one last feature I wanted to hit upon, and it is a really simple change. You know that it is the small things in life that can have the biggest impact. Microsoft added the ability to set the startup project right from a dropdown that is right next to the debug button in the tool bar. In the past you had to right-click the project you wanted to set as the startup project and find the option in the long list in the context menu. Like I said, it is not a big change, and it probably should have come sooner, but now that it is here I find myself using it all the time.

Increasing developer productivity is always a goal with each new version of Visual Studio, and this version is no different. The startup project dropdown is one example; another is CodeLens. CodeLens was introduced in 2013, but was only available in the Ultimate edition. In 2015, Microsoft has included it in the Professional version as well.

CodeLens is that little bit of interactive metadata that you see above methods, properties and other areas. CodeLens shows where those methods are being referenced. When a project is under source code, you see who last modified it and the changes made.