Microsoft Releases Visual Studio 2012 RC for Download

Microsoft's .NET Framework 4.5 Release Candidates are now available for download for those with a "Go Live" license.

The Release Candidates of Visual Studio 11, now officially named Visual Studio 2012, are available to all developers (including MSDN subscribers). In addition to a new name, and a new purple logo, Microsoft is reintroducing a customizable setup process that allows developers to bypass installation of select Visual Studio components.

With or without a streamlined setup, users of the Release Candidates should see improved installations, which are about 20 percent faster than the beta releases, according to Microsoft Corporate Vice President Jason Zander, who heads the Visual Studio team.

Zander provided an overview of what's new in the Visual Studio 2012 Release Candidate in his blog and offered a demonstration of some of those features in a Channel 9 Visual Studio Toolbox video, hosted by Robert Green. In addition to the updated user interface, which reintroduces some color in the icons and elsewhere in response to developer feedback on the beta; the RC offers performance enhancements in areas such as typing, the toolbox and large C++ projects, according to Zander.

With the Visual Studio 2012 Release Candidate, Microsoft is introducing more Web publishing features, for example, additional support for Entity Framework Code First Migrations. The Release Candidate also supports Web site optimization through bundling and minification (removing unnecessary characters from source code) in JavaScript, and ASP.NET MVC 4 projects.

In addition, the Release Candidates introduce significant updates to the Visual Studio XAML designer and Microsoft Expression Blend tooling, according to Zander. For XAML projects, Microsoft is introducing theme animations from an Animations library, as well as a devices panel, which enables you, for example, to see the FullScreenLandscape, FullScreenPortrait, Filled, and Snapped states of Metro-style apps. Expression Blend for HTML supports the display and editing of multiple images, background gradients and components. It also adds the ability to cut and paste styles (CSS properties) between rules.

The company announced the official Visual Studio 2012 product lineup and specifications on May 18, when the next generation of products was still codenamed "Visual Studio 11."

The Visual Studio 2012 editions and hardware requirements remain largely unchanged from Visual Studio 2010 outside of the free, lightweight Visual Studio 2012 Express tools, which are now platform-centric.

Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate is the company's all-in-one Application Lifecycle Management platform. It integrates all of the tools (including the higher end testing functionality and design tools) with Visual Studio 2012 Team Foundation Server for team collaboration. Microsoft Technical Fellow Brian Harry, the product unit manager for Team Foundation Server (TFS), details the changes in the Visual Studio 2012 TFS Release Candidate in his blog. Visual Studio 2012 Premium offers most of the diagnostic and testing tools without the high level architecture and modeling support. Visual Studio 2012 Professional is the entry-level developer product. Visual Studio LightSwitch, which was introduced out of band last summer and formerly a standalone product, is now available in all three editions. Visual Studio 2012 features LightSwitch version 2, which adds Metro-style templates and support for the OData protocol.

Changes to Express Tooling
With the unveiling of the Visual Studio product lineup earlier this month, Microsoft announced that the free Express tools are now platform-centric with multiple language support. So far the company has previewed Visual Studio 2012 Express for Windows 8 (Metro-style apps), Visual Studio 2012 Express for the Web and Visual Studio 2012 Team Foundation Server Express. All three Release Candidates are available for download.

The earlier previews of Visual Studio 2012 did not support Windows Phone development or the out of band Windows Azure upgrades. Microsoft has announced that it is planning to introduce Visual Studio 2012 Express for Windows Phone with the next release of Windows Phone, and Windows Azure tooling in conjunction with an upcoming upgrade to its cloud platform.

You can still download and use the language editions of Visual Studio 2010 Express (Visual C#, Visual Basic, Visual C++) free of charge.Visual Studio Express 2010 tools and apps will run on Windows 8, according to a Microsoft.

Visual Studio 2012 targets Windows Vista and higher. Some existing apps may not be compatible with .NET 4.5, which is an in-place upgrade. Developers can use Visual Studio's multi-targeting support to run managed applications on Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 with .NET 4 and earlier versions of the framework, according to Microsoft.

However, multi-targeting for C++ requires a side-by-side installation of Visual Studio 2010.

Get the Visual Studio 2012 RC downloads (including Team Foundation Server and the Express tools here.

About the Author

Kathleen Richards is the editor of and executive editor of Visual Studio Magazine.