C# Dev Kit first impressions

#c-sharp #visual-studio-code

Written by Anders Marzi Tornblad

Microsoft has released a preview of a really nice extension for Visual Studio Code, the C# Dev Kit. Designed to improve the C# development experience on Linux, macOS, and Windows, the C# Dev Kit, in collaboration with the updated C# extension, amplifies the productivity of C# developers in VS Code.

The C# Dev Kit brings in a sense of familiarity from Visual Studio while introducing exciting new elements. It's an all-in-one toolkit offering a smooth editing experience, artificial intelligence-powered development, solution management, and integrated testing. It consists of the base C# extension, the C# Dev Kit extension, and an optional IntelliCode for C# Dev Kit extension that incorporates AI-powered development capabilities.

Personal installation experience

Screenshot of the Solution Explorer in Visual Studio Code, when the C# Dev Kit extension is installed.The process of installing the C# Dev Kit was impressively straightforward. The extension is conveniently available on the Visual Studio Code Marketplace. I just had to visit the C# Dev Kit page, click install, and in a few moments, the extension was ready to roll. The ease of the installation process made me anticipate the features that the C# Dev Kit was about to bring to my coding environment.

One of the first things I noticed after reloading Visual Studio Code was the addition of the Solution Explorer view. For a Visual Studio veteran like myself, the Solution Explorer was very familiar. It painted a comprehensive picture of my solution, highlighting the connections between projects and their dependencies. The structure was straightforward and user-friendly, making the exploration of the projects in my solution very simple.

Interestingly, the Solution Explorer in the C# Dev Kit mirrors the functionality found in its bigger sibling, Visual Studio, while still maintaining the lightweight and sleek nature of Visual Studio Code. As a developer often dealing with large solutions containing multiple projects, this streamlined view was a welcome addition, making project navigation more efficient.

Enhancing the testing capabilities of my projects, the C# Dev Kit brought a revamp to the Test Explorer. Borrowing from the full Visual Studio, the Test Explorer in the C# Dev Kit showcased an organized, straightforward layout. It quickly recognized and arranged my XUnit tests, and according to specifications, it will also handle tests from frameworks such as NUnit, MSTest, and bUnit, making test execution and results navigation more efficient. I could easily keep track of the different test scenarios and outcomes, mirroring my past experiences with the extensive testing capabilities in Visual Studio. This, combined with the improved performance and reliability provided by the extension, certainly brought the convenience and familiarity of a full-fledged IDE into the lightweight, versatile environment of Visual Studio Code.

The seamless integration of features such as the Solution Explorer and Test Explorer into the C# Dev Kit is testament to the thoughtful design and consideration for user experience. The similarities between these features in Visual Studio Code and Visual Studio underscore the commitment to provide developers with consistent, efficient, and powerful tools across different platforms.

Comfort in familiarity

Having used Visual Studio for over 25 years, and .NET for almost 20 years, the introduction of the Solution Explorer to Visual Studio Code was like welcoming an old friend. It's a feature I've come to appreciate for its insight into solution structures. Visual Studio Code has already become my preferred development environment, not just for C#, but also for other languages like Python and JavaScript.

The new Solution Explorer has undoubtedly enhanced the user experience, making navigation through my projects even more seamless. It's comforting to see how Microsoft is continually bridging the gap between the fully-fledged Visual Studio and the lighter, faster Visual Studio Code.

Optimizing development

The performance and reliability of the extension are remarkable. The recent update to the open-source C# extension, which the Dev Kit leverages, ensures speedy performance and reliable operation. The enhanced performance of the IntelliSense feature stood out, showing a marked improvement in speed, reducing the previous time for starting IntelliSense from 38 seconds to just 3.5 seconds.

The bundled IntelliCode for C# Dev Kit extension adds AI-assisted development to the mix, taking code completion to the next level. It brings features like whole-line completions and starred suggestions, making the code you're most likely to use more accessible.

Wrapping up

The C# Dev Kit's licensing model aligns with that of Visual Studio, meaning it's free for individual developers, academia, and open-source development. It's a great addition to Visual Studio Code and has made a strong impression on me as an experienced developer.

I'm excited to see how the C# Dev Kit evolves and how it will continue to improve the C# development experience in Visual Studio Code. I'm also looking forward to seeing how the C# Dev Kit will be received by the community and how it will be adopted by developers.