Visual Studio 2008 is still crap

<rant>
I was browsing DZone and came across this post about the 'cute' new pop-up based tab switcher in Visual Studio 2008. It was even tagged with 'usability'.

I started working in .Net earlier this week after a break of more than two years, and I haven't seen a whole lot of improvement from the VS2003 days. Ironically, this pop-up was one first things which I noticed (you can't help it, it sort of jumps out at you) - and frankly, it is supremely annoying.

Now, the first real IDE I'd used was VS2003 back in the day of .Net 1.1 when I was still in college and man was I impressed. That was before I'd seen the Java alternatives like IntelliJ and Eclipse where usability is actually taken seriously, said tab switcher being a case in point. When I hit Ctrl+Tab, I want to see the next darn tab. Not a blessed huge pop-up with a preview of the tab. Of all the silly ideas, why a preview of the tab when you can just show the darn tab instead.

I'm sure someone somewhere in Redmond who's never used an IDE in their lives looked at Vista's application switcher and thought 'Hey, that's a good idea'. Maybe it is for a Desktop app switcher - but this is (purportedly) an IDE. Jeez. How would you like it if the next time you hit Ctrl+tab in Firefox you get this lovely big pop-up covering half your screen with a tiny little preview of the page in there, huh?

Why is it so darn hard for the Visual Studio chaps to get their act together and build a decent IDE to match IntelliJ or Eclipse? They've got this superb runtime in .Net, a superb language in C#, but a half-baked text-editor which they claim is an IDE.

From all that I've seen in the last few days of using VS2008, the old adage still holds: 'Spend $800 on Visual Studio and then spend $349 on the ReSharper plugin for Visual Studio. Or stick to Notepad'.
</rant>

The good news is that I'm doing some work with C# 3.0 and the extremely nice looking ASP .Net MVC framework. Hopefully I'll have something more substantial to say on the topic in a few days time.

Update 20071231:
I never expected this post to get reddited, so if you came here from reddit expecting a detailed review, you have my apologies. I know this post has little of substance and that 'One annoying pop-up does not a crappy IDE make'.
That said, I still firmly believe that Visual Studio is overpriced and under-performs, but until I can make the time for a detailed blog post to back that up with facts and examples, please look at some of these links:If you develop professionally on Visual Studio, you should be asking yourself why you don't already get these features for your $800 when the Java world gets them for $500 in IntelliJ and for free in Eclipse.

28 comments:

The honey monster said...

You have obviously never used xcode in anger

i386 said...

@the honey monster

At least you get xcode for free with OS X

Anonymous said...

http://blogs.msdn.com/saraford/archive/2004/11/15/257962.aspx

Just like an Indian. You could have found your own answer in a minute instead of lecturing someone.

Wilhelm Svenselius said...

Man, what a totally clueless blog post.

Firstly: As the commenter above mentioned, you can turn this feature off if you wish. So you are whining about nothing. Don't use the feature if you don't like it.

Second: if there ever was a way to make VS2005 unstable and slow, even more so than with VSTS, that way is ReSharper. Seriously considering ditching that buggy piece of crap when I move to 2008.

Third: The preview is not the point of the popup. The reason is to give you a list of all open files, so you can press Ctrl+Tab the correct number of times instead of checking each time if you got to the correct file.

Fourth: I've used both IntelliJ and Eclipse heavily; how anyone can prefer either to Visual Studio 2005 is beyond me. Both are slow, ugly, bug-infested usability nightmares. But if you prefer Notepad to VS2005, be my guest.

MC said...

> Seriously considering ditching that buggy piece of crap when I move to 2008.

From this are we to take it you're still using this "buggy piece of crap" now? Why? Because it provides some value over the buggier piece of bigger crap into which it's installed?

Anonymous said...

What's up with the racism?

Anonymous said...

While the window list is a convenice/feature that can be turned off, other IDEs (Eclipse and IDEA) has separate short cuts for this convenience. Such a convenience needn't come in the way of convention, really.

As far as the Indian nature of not googling first goes, Sidu is enough of a researcher and a programmer to know that such features could very probably be switched off

I think his post is more about perceived convenience coming in the way of convention, and not merely yet another blog post cribbing about MS in general.

@Wilhelm: That last I used VS (2003, I think), I'd noticed that there was no "refactor rename" out of the box. Eclipse has this for free, and IDEA has this for a cost. I don't think folks would go out of their way to _pay_ for Resharper if it were all that crappy an application.

I work with some very cranky colleagues, and haven't heard them crib about Resharper yet.

Sidu said...

@The honey monster - yup, no Mac development (yet :-)

@Anonymous #1 - Pleased to meet you too, which country are you from? I'm sure I can come up with something suitably rude too.
Anyways, you missed my point - I shouldn't have to turn it off these 'features' in the first place.

@Wilhelm Svenselius - This was a rant - I wasn't providing sufficient material to support a logical conclusion.

Firstly: I shouldn't want to turn off defaults. The defaults should already be optimised for usability. And yeah, I can turn this one thing off, but how about all the things I'd like turned on? Look at this list - dozens of features we take for granted in Eclispe and IDEA which are sub-standard or simply don't exist in VS.

Second: The only time I've seen ReSharper blow up was when it was in beta - the rest of the it was the buggy piece of crap it was plugged into. And yes, it's slow on startup, because it needs to index all source and assemblies because VS is too retarded to do so itself.
Considered opinions from colleagues who've worked on C# codebases with thousands of classes indicate that refactorings using ReSharper are significantly faster thatn vanilla VS (the miserable handful of refactorings VS supports, that is).

Third: I can see what files are open by looking at the names on the tabs, thank you. Except when this stupid pop-up covers them.

Fourth: Don't troll.

Now, however, I'm sufficiently tired of the 'It's good enough' and 'You can configure it to suit' arguments that I will make the time to compare VS2008 and IntelliJ IDEA and expose VS for the expensive piece of bloatware that it is. I don't expect everyone to have tried every IDE - I haven't. But I know what is possible in Eclipse and IDEA and I know VS doesn't even make the effort because you know what, it's got a monopoly. Only when .Net developers demand more for their $800 will MS give it to them - and before you demand more, you must know what is possible elsewhere.

storm said...

I agree to some bit about not ticking off existing users.

Most MS users use the mouse, and I'm sure a lot of them haven't heard of re-sharper.

For keyboard fanatics, not having keyboard tooling is like tying their hands and kicking them in the balls.

~ storm

KetanPadegaonkar said...

I like the way MC puts it:
"Because it[resharper] provides some value over the buggier piece of bigger crap[MS VS] into which it's installed?"

There's also the other fact that storm ;) points out, most folks don't know refactoring.

I guess that's what happens when you give an IDE that's really crap in the first place to start with, to new developers and expect them to refactor code -- what's refactoring BTW is what most .NET folks would ask you.

@WC: I seriously don't think that VS compares even compares to Eclipse or IntelliJ. vim is a more powerful 'IDE' than VS. It has kick-ass keyboard support; refactoring can be done via plugins or macros; I don't know if VS has anything close to something that can be called as refactoring.

rams said...

Sidu, quite a flame-war you started here. I just can't understand some folks's need to flame someone or make racist comments.

@Anonymous1
Don't be a coward and hide. If a developer hasn't "researched" a topic, just point him to the sources without racist remarks. Your so called pointers will be lost if you flame someone needlessly.

Now, I haven't progressed beyond "Hello World" in Java and so don't have any experience working with Eclipse or any other Java IDEs. However, I have been using .net since Beta of 1.0 and have recently moved to VS2008. That there is not a compelling, alternate IDE for a free .Net Framework is disheartening. I haven't had to buy Visual Studio personally. I have always been "given" the IDE. Like Sidu says, you have to know what's available to demand something. I think, most .Net devs are the probverbial "Frog in the Well". Flaming someone, instead of countering the argument with your point(s) of view, when they call your tool crap, just proves the point.

Here are my 2 cents.

When I first did an alt-tab in VS2008, I was surprised to see the "enhanced window". Its basically the same as in VS2005 except you get a snapshot of the window you are trying to tab to. It is half baked. If one of your webpages is in the design mode, the snapshot is blank. You cannot read the code in the snapshot. So, in my opinion, its just a waste of resources.

When you have a lot of tabs (and haven't yet crashed the IDE), you don't get to see the complete filename/path. So doing an alt-tab helps you see the complete path/name of the open window(s). The snapshot still is useless.

I think there is no real incentive for Microsoft to create a more compelling IDE. The IDE has come a long way but other IDEs have leapfrogged. Look at ASP.Net MVC. This is being released because a lot of alpha-geeks were drifting from the MS world to Ruby on Rails. Firefox's market share is inching up and so along comes IE7.

Anonymous said...

Visual Studio 2008 has its issues, but proclaiming that it is crap because of the Ctrl-Tab task switcher is as uninformed and kneejerk a reaction as I have seen in recent memory.

Arun said...

Absolutely stupid blog post. Apparently you have no clue what you are talking about. VS 2008 is a great ide. Resharper is an addon that improves productivity. I use Resharper too and love it. I also use Intellij for doing Java/ruby on the side and I swear neither comes close with regards to speed for editing/debugging and also the intellisense (again i am not talking about rails intellisense, agreed it is a dynamic language).

I love VIM editor (not ide, like some half baked comment) however please dont compare it with an IDE. You guys have no clue what you are talking

People (queers) just rant about MS products and think they are cool.

Finally, I am an Indian too.. you idiots make everyone look like an idiot

Anonymous said...

Let me start this out by saying there is some merrit to the post, but the way it's presented is really where the damage starts.

Base Eclipse no plugins is really quite bare. Something like MyEclipse definently adds some meat to it and is of course reasonably priced, but if we're looking at base Eclipse vs base VS2008, you surely get alot more with VS2008.

Nothing really compares to how well IntelliJ does refactoring, it's really a killer IDE, alot of that functionality makes it's way over to VS by way of proxy using their ReSharper addon, which is going to have a v4 coming soon. I can't even imagine how they are going to pull off some of the amazing stuff I know they will. So I can't really make any real complaints here.

In regards to why these features are not in the base package, the author does have a point in this. I've never really understood why the development tools are not given away for free as they are for just about every modern OS. You get most Linux distro's with compiler included (ok no real shock there I suppose), but even commercial systems like Mac OS X will include Xcode for absolute free, and that's quite a competent IDE, not some piece of junk. I do realize there are so called "Express" editions, but the whole thing makes no sense to me, the development tools is what fosters people to pick up your platform, why make it another step to get those tools?

If these tools were free, getting tools such as ReSharper and such would seem much more reasonable and price competitive to using other platforms (or even the Java platform). That being said, I still don't label VS2008 as "crap" by a long shot. It seems for the moment when you compare base products VS2008 and IntelliJ are very competitive in the commercial sector, Eclipse and NetBeans also continue to leap frog each other from time to time and remain a great monument to what OSS can accomplish. I can't see any of this as "crap" to be honest, it's all really quite interesting to watch.

On one hand you call it a "expensive piece of bloatware" but on another you question "why you don't already get these features", you can't have it both ways. If the features aren't there, the developer community is not being loud enough. Perhaps more posts such as your own but posted with a bit more tact might be in order to effect these changes in the future? There is just no way R&D would take a rant post as a serious roadmap to improving their product, this needs to be posted more constructively. I look forward to your IntelliJ vs VS2008 post, if you post it with some tact, it could show some merrit, remove the venting, keep it to the facts and you will drive a good point home.

Another perspective to keep in mind, something like ReSharper really only services us C# developers. The scores of C++ developers out there still rely on yet other enhancement tools out there such as Visual Assist X where ReSharper provides no value. Being that VS2008 is multi-language, keep this in mind when doing your review.

As to the racism thing going on here, not even going to touch that, I am leaving that alone. There's no reason for it to be here.

Anonymous said...

Eclipse is so damn bloody slow and buggy.

marcexx66 said...

I´ve been using VisualStudio since 2003 version and never had a single problem. I use NetBenas too and I like it too, but Eclipse is a bunch of bugs, I downloaded and installed Eclipse Europa and can't even run a project, when I hit the run project button it launches a new instance of the IDE. There's no way I can run a project.
Buggy

Anonymous said...

@marcexx66

Spend some time to learn eclipse before talking of such "bugs" ...

Dave said...

R# was awesome in its 2.x version, working with VS2005. The 3.x versions have been nothing but slow and buggy for me (and apparently many others). Especially if you want to use VS2008.

They really dropped the ball on that one.

Personally, I haven't even reinstalled it for VS2008 RTM, after being miserable with it in beta. It's amazing how much slower it made the entire IDE (not just on startup).

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

@marcexx66

Spend some time to learn eclipse before talking of such "bugs" ...

very helpful comment...
(i'm impressed you passed the word verification to post)

Federico said...

The worst part of visual studio is the code editor...

We're already in year 2008 and Microsoft is still with a IDE without background compiler...

I tried both Netbeans and Eclipse and both of them have very superior code editor to Visual Studio.

I think that, compared to the java IDEs, visual studio code editor is still crap

Anonymous said...

I've worked with Eclipse, Netbeans and VS 2003, 2005 and 2008. I'd say that you can't even compare the first eclipse versions to VS 2008 its so much more advanced.
The eclipse-plugin support comes in handy here but even without you get soo much more features than with VS 2008 without sticking to one monolithic project structure etc.

For all those interested in a free alternative to VS 200X check out SharpDevelop (http://www.icsharpcode.net/OpenSource/SD/)
altough I don't know in which stage it is at the moment.

Anonymous said...

@federico
have you ever used vs?
especially 2008... I'm totally spoiled by its background compiler + intellistuff. The editor is just awe some.

I haven't used eclipse in a while... Last I used it I was very disappointed. It was very slow and buggy. By now I imagine some of the bugs have been fixed, but being written in java in itself causes it to suffer a performance hit.

Anonymous said...

IntelliJ has had background compilation for years now, as has Eclipse.
VS2008's intellisense is far far behind anything in Java land. I happened to be working on VS2008 with ReSharper turned off recently and it was a pretty bad experience.

Federico said...

yes i've been using VS for the last 5 years.... and, at least in c#, the background compiler is nonexistent.

Try Netbeans or Eclipse and you will see... you don't need to compile at all. The refactoring of VS also is very basic, the only way that VS reaches the same features of a java IDE is with resharper.

celerino said...

i came here looking for a solution because, Visual Studio 2008 working on aspx files is TOO SLOW, and not only on desing view, also in MarkUp view, you just need to click and see what happens...

but, here, just find kind of "IDE fanatics"...

not solutions...

cya!

Anonymous said...

I really liked the old Visual Studio 97 when I used to write C++. Visual Studio 6 did nto really add anything much.

However I now use VS 2008 for c# and agree its gone really downhill. The background updating of control names when you change them is far too slow on complex forms, and very frustrating.

Also VS 97 was rock solid, if only VS 2008 came close to that :(

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Anonymous said...

Visual Studio is emphatically NOT better than Eclipse. Yes Eclipse has its bugs, but on the whole it runs a lot better, has better features and is much more user-friendly. Ok, So VS beats Eclipse for GUI design, but it falls down on most other counts.