Microsoft Updates Visual Studio 2013, Previews Next Major Release

At its Connect() developer event in New York today, Microsoft announced the latest in its quarterly updates to Visual Studio and showed a preview of Visual Studio’s next major release, which is now available for download. The other important update today, though, is probably the launch of Visual Studio Community 2013, the free version of the IDE for small teams. You can read more about that here.

Visual Studio 2013 Update 4 brings with it a couple of new tools, including a new GPU usage meter to help developers figure out whether the GPU or CPU is a bottleneck for their apps. There are also updates to the JSON and HTML editors and support for SQL Server 2014.

As expected, though, this is a rather minor update, but one that follows in Microsoft’s new update cadence for Visual Studio. What most developers will be more excited about, however is what’s coming down the pipeline in Visual Studio 2015.

As Microsoft has long said, its main goal for Visual Studio right now is to enable cross-platform development and so in Visual Studio 2015, the company is integrating support for Visual Studio Tools for Apache Cordova and a number of new Visual C++ tools for cross-platform library development. ASP.NET 5, Microsoft’s web app framework, is also part of the Visual Studio 2015 Preview and that, of course, also allows for writing cross-platform applications.

As Microsoft’s S. “Soma” Somasegar told me earlier this month, the company is also going to make it easier for developers to plug into existing APIs from Microsoft and . Microsoft will host a directory of APIs that developers can then easily consume in Visual Studio 2015. That’s meant to help developers to discover APIs — and it will help the API provider get more visibility, too.

As part of this preview, Microsoft is also now making the Unity Tools for Visual Studio 2.0 available to developers, based on the technology Microsoft acquired when it bought SyntaxTree earlier this year.

Visual Studio users who try out the preview will also get to test a new integration with Xamarin (why hasn’t Microsoft bought them yet?). Visual Studio now features a streamlined experience for installing Xamarin for writing cross-platform applications and Xamarin says it will add Visual Studio support to its free Xamarin Starter Edition later this year.

Microsoft also today highlighted a number of updates to Visual Studio Online. This includes support for Release Management for Visual Studio. Until now, only developers using Team Foundation Server were able to make use of this feature (which is officially in preview). Also new is support for what Microsoft calls Cloud Deployment Projects. This means users can model their cloud resources as code and then provision resources on Azure for development, testing and production. You can find a full list of all the new features here.