For those of you old enough to remember, Visual Studio was introduced a decade ago. The June ednote looks back at those wild days of 1997, and then doubles back around to 2007. Comments welcome! - J.T.


1997 was a happenin’ year.  The first Web boom was taking hold. Everyone on the block had a Tamagotchi (a briefly popular virtual pet), the Spice Girls ruled our airwaves, Austin Powers wasn’t yet tiresome, and Microsoft released Visual Studio.

This month we’re observing the 10th anniversary of Visual Studio, the program that pulled together a set of powerful development tools in one place and made it easier for programmers to stay productive.

In the May 1997 issue of Microsoft Systems Journal (the forerunner of MSDN Magazine), we introduced Visual Studio for the first time:

Microsoft Visual Studio 97 goes a long way toward providing you with a well-stocked toolbox to help you complete your development projects. Visual Studio targets developers and teams that create dynamic Web-based applications or other distributed applications. Visual Studio takes all of Microsoft’s development tools, adds a rich set of new tools for creating Web content, and ties it all together with comprehensive documentation. Even if you’re not creating distributed applications but you use two or more Microsoft developer products, you’ll probably find Visual Studio suits you.

Since 1997, Visual Studio has evolved both vertically and horizontally. We watched and documented it as it became the tool of choice for .NET-based development. More recently, we’ve seen Visual Studio Team System gain a foothold in the market, with its comprehensive solutions for application lifecycle management.

What do we see as the major advances in Visual Studio over the years? Believe it or not, one involved a complete overhaul while the other was about granularization.

When Visual Studio .NET first appeared as an early prerelease in 2000, it was an entirely new paradigm—cross-language programming with the common language runtime (CLR)—packaged so that it was as accessible for Visual Basic users as for C++ users. In addition, a new language (C#) quickly became popular with developers—and noticeably with our authors and contributors. It wasn’t something we pushed, either. Our long-term writers saw what a good language it was right off the bat, and a lot of that was thanks to Visual Studio .NET making it so accessible.

Years later, Visual Studio 2005 hit the shelves. Now you could try out a different language with a no-cost Express edition. Being able to download and start coding with a free, lightweight yet feature-rich IDE is immensely appealing.

The availability of Express versions of the Visual Studio environment also means that our magazine content is even more relevant to readers. Gone are the days where you had to skip data articles because you didn’t have SQL Server installed. Now you can just go get it for the cost of a download (35 to 70MB).

At MSDN Magazine, we think everyone should solve life’s little problems in the best possible manner—by programming them away. There’s nothing like a clean sheet of programming space in your IDE, and Visual Studio now brings this experience to anyone who has an Internet connection. No, it won’t bring your virtual pet back to life, but an hour of coding every day will help keep your mind sharp for much longer than the next 10 years.

Note: due to a printing error, the last page of CLR Inside Out was omitted from the May issue. Since we love our readers, the piece is reprinted in its entirety after Page 24. —J.T.