Over the last week or so our team has been planning what we will be working on over the next 12 months. One of the big deal things that is coming out in the next 12 months is Visual Studio “Orcas” – the next major version of Visual Studio. I thought I’d take the opportunity to highlight some of the high level features of Orcas so that you can start to get your head around the loving that is coming your way.

Before you ask, yes Visual Studio “Orcas” will work well on Vista and will understand the Vista Security model, meaning you wont need to run as administrator or deal with UAC prompts.

Of course, Visual Studio “Orcas” will ship with .Net 3.5 which will include Visual Basic 9, C# 3 and LINQ, however, while this is very cool and developers can get in and take advantage of these new features, we also realize that customers are not always ready to take advantage of new .Net features straight away, so something that is a break from the norm with this release of Visual Studio is the ability to target multiple versions of .Net from the one IDE. That’s right, with Visual Studio “Orcas” you’ll be able to write for .Net 2.0, 3.0 or 3.5 without having to switch between Visual Studio 2005 and Visual Studio “Orcas” – one IDE to rule them all so to speak.

With WPF well out in the market there has been a strong focus on building designer support for XAML into the next developer tool. This will do two things – firstly it will obviously mean that you’ll be able to build your .Net forms applications using XAML, but secondly it means that when you are working on solutions with designers you’ll be able to share project files with the designer and be able to see what they’ve done to the interface and work between the code behind and the designer interface seamlessly. And speaking of pretty interfaces, if you are a C++ developer and thinking about adding Vista goodness into your app – all you need to do in Orcas is recompile and viola – your app will light up!

If you’ve developed or considered developing for Microsoft Office, you’ll know that you need to get Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) and install it. In Visual Studio “Orcas”, if you purchase the Professional edition you’ll get VSTO as part of the product. Building VSTO into the product means that you’ll be able to build Office applications – custom task panes, Ribbon extensions and document add-ins out of the box rather than paying extra for the privelege.

There is lots of goodies in Orcas for web developers too. You can start with the new web design surface (shared with Expression Web), but then you’ll also get great AJAX support without any configuration. If you use JavaScript, you’ll also get full intellisense support for JavaScript, and rich support for ASP.Net AJAX. Not only this, but you’ll be able to debug JavaScript really easily too.

If you want to know more about Orcas (and there is lots more to know) watch the videos on Channel9, take a look at the Orcas Roadmap, read the Orcas posts on Scott Guthries blog and check out the Visual Studio “Orcas” downlaod page for more. If you want to have a more in depth look at Orcas, you might want to download the Orcas Virtual Machine. We will be working to get Beta 1 DVD’s out to the user groups over the next month, so get along to a user group from the middle of June if you want to save yourself a 3.5Gb download (yeah I know…).

I’ve just downloaded the VHD, so I’m off to play