Earlier this year, Microsoft released the preview version of Visual Studio 2022 into the wild programming world. This is good news! It’s an extremely popular IDE, but due for a tune-up or maybe even an overhaul, given the pace of change in the DevOps ecosystem in which it thrives.
While developers of all experience levels have generally held favorable views of VS 2019, there’s no IDE that can’t do with some improvement. Is VS 2022 that much better? Is it worth becoming an early adopter and upgrading to the latest edition?
Here’s what you need to know.
Visual Studio History: So Far, Mostly Good
Visual Studio 2019 and Visual Studio Code have been touted as user-friendly for beginners but have also earned consistent praise from advanced and experienced programmers.
Visual Studio’s Live Share even provides real-time collaboration in VS Code. But as good as VS 2019 and VS Code are, VS 2022 brings several new tempting improvements.
The Most Important Enhancement in VS 2022
One of the main improvements in the new release addresses a recurring complaint about VS 2019—namely, its intense demand on memory.
For developers working on complex applications requiring large amounts of computing power, this promises to be a substantial benefit. This is typically a concern for developers working on commercial and institutional projects.
As of this writing, the preview version is not licensed for production applications.
What Else Is New in VS 2022?
The Visual Studio 2022 Roadmap page in the Microsoft online documentation claims that the team working on this latest release has these themes in mind: personal and team productivity, modern development, and constant innovation.
We all like the sound of these! But what does this commitment mean for the day-to-day experience of working with the latest release of VS 2022?
The 2022 release promises the following additional enhancements:
1. Improved Code-Completion Functionality
Intellicode in VS 2022 can fill in whole lines of code using an improved understanding of coding context.
In the current preview mode, this works only with C# but Microsoft will be adding additional languages as the official release date approaches.
2. More Powerful Debugging Capabilities
The core debugger simplifies decompiling code by providing an easier-to-read step-by-step, contingent breakpoint, and flame charts to assist programmers in locating issues with both local and remote code.
3. An Improved Programming Interface
Visual Studio 2022 offers a more user-friendly and intuitive coding environment.
This includes increased options to customize the look and feel of the IDE (e.g., you can match it to your Windows theme) as well as the ability to deploy a document management system that works for you.
4. Improved Accessibility
Visual Studio 2019 had several features that improved overall accessibility, and VS 2022 improved and added even more accessibility features.
Instead of relying on plugins or add-ons, users can modify the interface to improve visibility and organization and work better with approved extensions. This is all driven by Microsoft’s ongoing work to make their products natively accessible.
5. Improved Support for the Latest Build of C++
VS 2022 includes the full suite of tools for C++ 20. That’s the language in which Windows is written, so Windows developers should find that a welcome inclusion.
The preview notes for VS 2022 list several important improvements in the latest builds. This should make C++ programming easier in the IDE’s new release with better IntelliSense functionality and more powerful debugging and analysis abilities.
6. Improved Windows App Development
It’s now possible to use Hot Reload (first introduced in VS 2019) to update your app builds in .NET or C++ it’s running. Hot Reload is a unique approach to editing your code while debugging.
In other words, it enables you to make code changes without pausing the application or restarting it. All developers have lived through or can imagine situations where this will come in handy!
You’ll also find improvements to Git integration, like the ability to work natively with multiple repositories from one local installation of the IDE.
The documentation isn’t very specific about what these will entail, but there’s work underway to improve the application building experience and enhance diagnostics.
Should You Upgrade to VS 2022 Now?
The answer depends on how you’re using Visual Studio right now.
Solo developers of all skill levels will likely benefit from the improvements offered in VS 2022 and will want to become familiar as soon as possible with the new and improved functionalities before the official release comes around.
If you decide to upgrade, you have several options for how to start using the VS 2022 Preview.
The easiest path is to install VS 2022 side-by-side with your current build of VS 2019. If you don’t want to install it on your local machine, you can try the cloud-based version. Perhaps you have some experience using MS Visual Studio Online. You can also use VS 2022 from the command line.
And don’t forget, you can contribute to the VS 2022 project! Developer input and feedback are being actively sought during the preview period.
For example, if you find a feature that is missing from recent builds, you can use the Suggest a feature page to interact directly with Visual Studio’s engineering team.
For enthusiastic developers of any skill level, the opportunity to give input is appealing on its own, whether or not you believe that the improvements will have a substantial impact on your daily programming and design activities.
If you aren’t ready to jump in with both feet, a provisional upgrade—keeping Visual Studio 2019 in place and using the cloud version or a separate installation of Visual Studio 2022—is the best way to get a jump on building the familiarity needed to use the new edition.
The Visual Studio 2022 Preview, Explained
Most individual users will likely find it worthwhile to start using the preview version of VS 2022, especially since you don’t have to give up VS 2019.
The lack of production licensing may make downloading the preview less appealing if you’re working on a lot of projects right now.
But downloading it as an individual user now could save you and your team some time when the licensing is available and you want to move your applications to the new release.