Stuart Kent - Building developer tools at Microsoft - @sjhkent

November, 2005

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    DSL Tools with Visual Studio 2005 RTM

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    Now that Visual Studio 2005 has been released to manufacture (RTM), folks are asking us when to expect a version of DSL Tools that works with the RTM release. Well, you won't have to wait long - it should be available within the next two or three weeks. And we've got two new features lined up for you as well:

    Deployment, where you create a setup project for your designer authoring solution using a new DSL Tools Setup project template, which, when built, will generate a setup.exe and a .msi for installing your designer on another machine on which VS2005 standard or above is installed.

    Validation, where it's now possible to add constraints to your DSL definition which can be validated against models built using your designer. Errors and warnings get posted in the VS errors window. We support various launch points for validation - Open, Save, Validate menu, and these are configurable. All the plumbing is generated for you - all you have to do is write validation methods in partial classes - one per domain class to which you want to attach constraints - which follow a fairly straightforward pattern.

    We're also going to release our first end to end sample about the same time. The sample is a designer for modelling the flow in Wizard UI's (it's state chart like), from which working code is generated.

     

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    Using VSTS with Excel for task tracking

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    I've had reason recently to use the task tracking features in Visual Studio Team System. We've been tracking our bugs for some time in VSTS, and wanted to move over to tracking tasks there as well - it's so convenient to have it all in one place. The blocker was that we had been using spreadsheets to generate glide path or burn down charts of task effort against time, with the tasks lists being maintained in the spreadsheets. This is not ideal as you can't query the lists very easily, it's yet another environment for team members to work in, and the lists get split over a number of spreadsheets (e.g. by feature crew) to make them manageable.

    I had heard about the Excel integration that VSTS provides and thought I'd give it a go. An hour later, and I had an Excel workbook refreshing a task list in one worksheet by running a predefined query against work items in VSTS, and then, through the magic of Excel formulae (the SUMIF function was particularly useful) I was generating a glide path chart of actual against planned. I also had another spreadsheet giving me a breakdown of remaining work by person. Now as developers close tasks, or update them with completed work, the changes can be reflected in the chart and table at the press of a button. This gives us real-time data on the progress of the project, allowing us to be more agile.

    So, congratulations to the VSTS team. This is good stuff.

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    Writing a book

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    I see that Steve has let the cat of the bag - we (that is Steve, Alan, Gareth and myself) are writing a book on DSL Tools.

    Let us know if there are particular topics you'd like to see covered.

    We'll try and blog about some of the content as we write it. 

     

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    VS Team System Virtual Labs

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    You can now try out DSL Tools and other aspects of Visual Studio Team System, without going to the trouble of installing them, using one of the online virtual labs. See Rob Caron's recent posting for details.

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