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The Baker's Dozen: 13 Reasons to Upgrade to Visual Studio 2005 : Page 4

Visual Studio 2005 offers new capabilities in many different areas, such as data access, language enhancements, IDE productivity features, deployment, Office integration, XML, and many others!




Building the Right Environment to Support AI, Machine Learning and Deep Learning

Reason 9: A Very Welcome Enhancement in Crystal Reports for Visual Studio .NET
In the January/February 2005 issue of CoDe Magazine I presented 13 tips for Crystal Reports 10. A few people subsequently asked me why I used the external Crystal application for editing reports instead of the built-in Crystal Reports designer. While the external Crystal Reports application contains several design-time features, the answer was very simple: previewing! Crystal Reports in Visual Studio .NET 2003 lacked the ability to preview reports. Most of the reports I build are extensive enough that design-time previewing is essential—so I usually added the RPT as a strongly-typed report, but edit it outside of Visual Studio .NET 2003 using Crystal Reports 10.

Fortunately, the version of Crystal Reports that ships with Visual Studio 2005 (as of CTE 2.0, 10.2) provides a preview option. This should be a welcome enhancement if you build reporting applications. As a follow-up to my previous Crystal Reports article, I've presented a session at various conferences on building reporting solutions in a distributed environment where I provide an XML schema/data definition for the report at design time. To interactively test, I usually execute the stored procedure for the report, return the result set to a dataset, and then write out the dataset as an XML file.

MyResults.WriteXml("c:\\XML\ReportDef.XML", XmlWriteMode.WriteSchema);

The resulting XML file contains both the schema and sample data that I can use for both an overall data definition as well as for previewing.

Additionally, the Crystal Reports for Visual Studio .NET runtime preview window toolbar now has an Office 2003 look to it. To date, I haven't discovered any other changes to Crystal Reports in Visual Studio 2005. If I discover any more, I'll certainly update my site with additional information.

Reason 10: Better Debugger Visualizations
If you've written many database or data-driven applications in Visual Studio .NET 2003, very likely you've grown frustrated with debugging the contents of datasets. You had two options: either type the full expression in the Watch window (MyDataSet.MyTable[0].MyColumn, etc.), or write out the contents of the dataset to an XML file.

The Visual Studio 2005 debugger contains a greatly improved interface for debugging complex objects, allowing a developer to view/debug complex data types (like DataSets) in the appropriate viewer. Two thumbs up for the Visual Studio 2005 debugger!
Fortunately, Visual Studio 2005 contains a new XML/DataSet Visualizer. During the debugging stage a developer can highlight a dataset in the code window, choose the Dataset Visualizer, and view the contents of the dataset in a simple grid.

The Visual Studio 2005 debugger contains a greatly improved interface for debugging complex objects, allowing a developer to view/debug complex data types in the appropriate viewer. Two thumbs up for the Visual Studio 2005 debugger!

Suggested reading:

  • DataTips, Visualizers, and Viewers Make Debugging .NET Code a Breeze, by Morgan Skinner (MSDN)
Reason 11: Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office
Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office allows a developer to write Office 2003 applications using managed code add-ins. Using Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office, a developer can host Word and Excel as designers inside Visual Studio 2005, and code directly against the document/spreadsheet objects. (This will be a topic of a future Baker's Dozen article.)

Suggested reading:

  • Best of Blogs: Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office by Kevin Schuler (MSDN)
  • In September, Microsoft Press will publish Programming with Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 Tools for the Microsoft Office System, Version 2.0
  • Visual Studio 2005 Tools for Office (MSDN)
Reason 12: Visual Studio Team System
Visual Studio Team System is more than just a source-code control system; it is a comprehensive suite of tools for project managers, software architects, developers, and software testers. These tools aid in building visual architectures, code profiling and code coverage, change management, unit testing tools, load testing, and project management.

While Microsoft has stated they will continue to ship Visual SourceSafe as a solution for small teams, they have announced migration tools to upgrade a VSS database to Visual Studio 2005 Team System.

Suggested reading:

Reason 13: New XML Tools in Visual Studio 2005
Visual Studio 2005 contains an improved XML editor and many important enhancements to the XML classes in the System.Xml namespace. According to Microsoft, some of the enhancements (such as performance enhancements) were driven by messaging needs in Indigo.

Suggested reading:

  • An Introduction to the XML Tools in Visual Studio 2005 by Neetu Rajpal (MSDN)
  • What's New in System.Xml for Visual Studio 2005 and the .NET Framework 2.0 Release by Mark Fussell (MSDN)
What…No Code?
By the time this article appears, I'll have a Windows Forms demo application available on my site. The main form is simply a picklist that launches subforms that demonstrate new functions in Visual Studio 2005 (a separate form to show databinding, a separate form to show the new GridView, etc.).

Also, for developers who are using the Common Ground Framework for .NET that I covered in the July/August 2005 issue of CoDe Magazine, I'm building a version of it for Visual Studio 2005. It will be available in November, when Microsoft releases 2005.

You can find the entire source code for this article on my Web site.

This is an on-going project, so there may be a few enhancements from time to time. Check the release notes Word document for details.

Kevin S. Goff is the founder and principal consultant of Common Ground Solutions, a consulting group that provides custom web and desktop software solutions in .NET, Visual FoxPro, SQL Server, and Crystal Reports. Kevin has been building software applications for 17 years. He has received several awards from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for systems automation. He has also received special citations from Fortune 500 companies for solutions that yielded six-figure returns on investment. He has worked in such industries as insurance, accounting, public health, real estate, publishing, advertising, manufacturing, finance, consumer packaged goods, and trade promotion. In addition, Kevin provides many forms of custom training.
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