There are several other updated areas that have improved the lot of people like Gervin. He confessed, “I never liked the embedded pending changes view in Team Explorer,” and went on to explain, “I’m delighted I can now undock this and keep a close eye on my source-code impact as I work throughout Visual Studio.” There are also new agile portfolio-management capabilities that he said allow him and his team to roll up work across a subset of teams and create work plans at a higher level than was previously available from just looking at individual backlogs.

Finally, during our discussions, Gervin said that while “debugging improvements in Visual Studio are not usually the most obvious or quick-to-be-adopted features in Visual Studio, in 2013, the visual call stack combined with the ability to annotate with your own notes is fantastic for untangling the thorniest of problems.”

As if to confuse us as much as possible, Microsoft recently renamed Team Foundation Service to Visual Studio Online, and announced it with the launch of Visual Studio 2013. In a blog post, Microsoft vice president S. Somasegar described Visual Studio Online as “a collection of developer services that runs on Windows Azure and extends the development experience in the cloud.”

TypeScript in Visual Studio 2013… almost
The efforts to make a better JavaScript in the form of TypeScript have generated a great deal of excitement, with the topic covered regularly in User Groups and Code Camps everywhere. TypeScript adds types, classes and modules, and lets developers benefit from features that are missing from JavaScript, but compiles to standards-based JavaScript. Think of it as a way to type a message with no slang and abbreviations, and then having it output perfectly formed, grammatically correct prose.

The hope was that TypeScript 1.0 would ship with Visual Studio 2013. We almost got it, but not quite. In a twist, the New Project dialog in Visual Studio 2013 does contain a TypeScript template, but instead of actually being a template, it is an invitation to install the latest version of TypeScript for Visual Studio (see Figure 3). This then redirects you to an HTML page that brings you to the download for TypeScript for Visual Studio 2012 and 2013. As of this writing in early December, this downloaded TypeScript is version 0.9.1.1.

Visual Studio 2013
Figure 3

#!Edition drama, featuring CodeLens
Each time there is a major release of Visual Studio, there is some controversy regarding what each edition provides, but more importantly what each edition deprives at the lower end. Visual Studio 2013 is not only not an exception, thanks to CodeLens only being available in the Ultimate edition, it seems to be worse this time with a number of blog posts and articles lamenting this decision and heavily criticizing Microsoft. This is the focus of most who are making the argument to skip Visual Studio 2013, unless you have access to the Ultimate edition.

CodeLens is a feature meant to keep developers in the code editor by providing important data for understanding the status and back story of the code. It is easy to assume that this would be a benefit for developers regardless of whether they work for a multi-national corporation or alone in a garage. Normally the grousing is minimized when higher-end editions (read: higher-cost) have features more suited to developers working on larger projects and on things typified by larger organizations.

CodeLens, at first glance, does not seem to fit into this characterization, and some have claimed it is the best new feature for developers in all of Visual Studio 2013. If you delve deeper into CodeLens, there is the other side to the decision, which revolves around TFS 2013 and its version-control system, as well as Lync being used by your development team in order to get everything that CodeLens offers.

For those who will have access to the Ultimate Edition, CodeLens provides a heads-up display that for a lone programmer provides reference counts for simple code and a great deal of detail for more complex and long-lived code worked on by teams. After trying CodeLens for a simple, single developer project, it really is not all that exciting. It shines when it can show links to TFS Work Items and presence information for the developers involved in the code at hand.