Microsoft today gave a sneak preview of the Visual Studio 11 beta, with features enhanced for collaboration and agile development processes. The beta, along with a beta of .NET Framework 4.5, will be available on Feb. 29.

The company also will release a beta of Team Foundation Server Express, which uses the core technology of Team Foundation Server and is free for up to five users. It includes core developer features such as source-code control, work-item tracking, build automation and an agile taskboard, among others. It only supports SQL Server Express Edition. Further, a hosted TFS (a service that can be run on a private cloud in the same way it will be delivered on Windows Azure cloud platform) is being previewed now. This brings developer services into the cloud.

S. “Soma” Somasegar, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of its developer division, said the Visual Studio team wanted to be in lockstep with the Windows 8 platform team to “deliver the best developer experience we can.”

Microsoft “tripled-down” on supporting agile practices in the Visual Studio 11 beta, according to Jason Zander, corporate vice president for Visual Studio at Microsoft. “Ninety percent of our development team uses Scrum, and agile has definitely gone mainstream,” he said. “We wanted first-class support in our system” for agile practices.

Scrum is supported in an out-of-the-box template; other methodologies, such as for Capability Maturity Model Integration, also are included.

Agile practices give organizations the ability to enable continuous value delivery. “Building the software is not good enough; it has to be deployed, and issues need to be addressed and fixed,” Zander said. “To go at that speed and have high quality, these things have to come together.” The Visual Studio 11 beta has a PowerPoint-based built-in storyboarding feature for agile teams.

The Visual Studio 11 beta tries to simplify the developer experience, and it keeps code front and center in the editor while extra toolbars and extraneous color-coding have been removed, Zander said. “These are things that distract the eye from the code.”
Productivity enhancements in the Visual Studio 11 beta include optimizations for form factors, including touch, larger fonts and smoother transitions, as well as an integration with the Windows Store, so developers can publish their applications, Zander said. Also, the Visual Studio 11 beta’s Solution Explorer has been updated for full search, which can also search for common code elements across projects.

An IntelliTrace component is being made available to operations, so a rich trace-back from an application in production can be made, Zander said.