Microsoft Releases Beta for Visual Studio 11, .NET Framework 4.5

The developer-focused Visual Studio 11 and the .NET Framework 4.5 were released for download earlier today, along with VS 11 Team Foundation Server.

They were released with a Go Live license, meaning they can immediately be used in production environments and will be supported by Microsoft. In addition to those products, a brand-new, free "express" version of Team Foundation Server has also been released in beta. It's the first fully-functional version of TFS Microsoft's ever given away, and will work for a team of up to five developers.

S. "Soma" Somasegar, corporate president of the Microsoft Developer Division, said during a press briefing last week that VS 11 contains "hundreds and hundreds of new features". Those features support what he called the three "value propositions" behind VS11: 1) Development of modern business and consumer applications, meaning primarily software for Windows 8/Metro-style applications, 2) A simplified and productive development environment, and 3) Greater support for and integration of agile software methodologies.

It's no coincidence that VS 11 and the .NET Framework 4.5 is launching the same day as the Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Microsoft wants those tools to become the primary drivers behind building the new generation of mobile applications, an area in which Microsoft is lagging the competition.

To that end, VS 11 supports five languages in the box: C#, Visual Basic, F#, C++ and JavaScript. Jason Zander, corporate vice president of Visual Studio, said that "No matter what develolper skillset you have, if you want to write a Metro-style application, we want to make that a first-class, end-to-end experience." One upgrade sure to please old-school developers is increased support for C++. According Zanders' blog, C++ enhancements include "stateless lambdas, SCARY iterators, range-based for loops, and scoped enumerations support."

One change that will be most visible to veteran Visual Studio developers is a cleaner, less colorful user interface. "A lot of what we hear from developers, both internally and externally, was 'Hey there are way too many toolbars and buttons, we don’t want all that, we want to focus on (the code.) Help me find the stuff I want to work on, don’t make me jump through hoops'", Zander said.

That's why, Zander explained, "Code is front and center in the (VS11) IDE. We removed toolbars to reduce clutter, (and other) things that distract your eye. We want you to be able to concentrate on tasks" that make developers more productive.

Zander added that the final product lineup hasn't been determined, but stated that it will be similar to the offerings for Visual Studio 2010. "We haven’t finalized the final set of SKUs ... There will be no major changes like there were between Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Studio 2010. We may add a few SKUs, but it's mostly set." Pricing hasn't yet been announced, but Zander said that more information on that area would be "coming up soon."

Zander also reminded users that Visual Studio 11 remains a codename, and the official product name -- expected by many to be Visual Studio 2012, in keeping with tradition -- has yet to be determined. "We haven’t announced final branding yet."