Complete Guide to Microsoft Visual Studio IDE

Master the versatility of Visual Studio with Visual Studio best practices.

Zight | March 07, 2020 | 7 min read time

Article Last Updated: September 15, 2023

Complete Guide to Microsoft Visual Studio IDE

In today’s ever-changing, fast-paced digital world, there’s always a new software or technological advancement that will help us take our work or productivity to the next level. That’s why we were particularly excited when Microsoft announced the release of the latest version of Visual Studio 2019, v16.4.

In order to get the most out of the new Visual Studio, we want to dive into Visual Studio best practices, best Visual Studio add ons. And most importantly, understand what is Visual Studio, and how can it improve our workflow. Check out our complete guide below that will run you through the Visual Studio concepts and introduce you to all the great features it has to offer.

What is Visual Studio?

So let’s start with the obvious – what is Visual Studio? Visual Studio Online provides managed, on-demand development environments. This versatile software can be applied to long-term projects, to quickly prototype a new feature, or used for short-term tasks. Work with environments from anywhere with either Visual Studio Code, Visual Studio IDE (in private preview), or with the included browser-based editor. You can even connect your own self-hosted environments to Visual Studio Online at no cost.

Visual Studio is the result of resounding feedback that the convergence of current trends that demanded an innovative and new kind of development tool and capabilities. Whether you’re trying Visual Studio for the first time or you’re a long-time user, there are tons of features to try in the new version.

The latest version is optimized for developing cross-platform and mobile apps, and is based on a variety of pain-points they intended to solve, including:

  • A new integration with Microsoft-owned code-sharing site GitHub. This allows users to publish code directly from Team Explorer, and making it that much easier for developers to collaborate on software projects.
  • A growing number of remote teams, and a greater number of freelancers, which intensified the challenges of onboarding new team members that couldn’t benefit from a local IT presence.
  • Collaboration is more important than ever due to open source and inner source. As a result, developers work across boundaries in many codebases, often at the same time.
  • The spike in cloud-native development and microservices has enabled developers to use multiple languages and stacks in a single system to gain a greater advantage on a technology’s particular strength.
  • The need for techniques and technologies to help developers collaborate more quickly and increase productivity as expectations for a decreased time-to-market increase.

How to use Visual Studio

When you first open Visual Studio, you can choose from recent projects you’ve been working on. If you’ve just downloaded Visual Studio or haven’t begun anything yet, there won’t be any projects to choose from. Instead, take a look to the right side where you can choose from the following options:

  • Clone or check out code
  • Open a project or solution
  • Open a local folder
  • Create a new project
  • Or click the link at the bottom to continue without code

Let’s say you decide to create a new project. From here, choose from the templates that come as part of Visual Studio including Console App (.NET Core), ASP.NET Core Web Application, WPF App. (.NET Framework), WPF APP (.NET Core) and more.

If you chose Console App (.NET Core), you can see that it will be built with C#, and that it can run on Linux, macOS, and Windows, and that it is a console app. Select a name, a folder, and a solution and you’ve successfully created your first project. The goal is to develop with the entire toolset from initial design to final deployment.

1. Develop

If you’ve ever dreamed of writing code with fewer errors, then Visual Studio is the holy grail! Type variables quickly and accurately. Visual Studio is intended to make writing, navigating, and understanding code easier. If you get stuck, IntelliSense code suggestions will help. It also provides useful code snippets that you can use to quickly and easily generate commonly used code blocks. The available code snippets vary for different programming languages. Similarly, use light bulbs that suggest actions such as renaming a function or adding a parameter to make quick improvements to your code. Regardless of the complexity, you can maintain speed as you navigate to any file, type, member, or symbol declaration you need.

2. Analyze

Here you have an opportunity to learn more about your code. CodeLens provides you with the tools to quickly find important insight including what changes have been made to your code, the impact of those changes, and whether your method has been unit tested. With a simple glance, you can view references, authors, tests, commit history, and any other essential information you may require.

3. Debug

Two of the biggest things when you write code, is to run it and to test it for bugs. Inspect variables as you go with Visual Studio IDE’s debugging system. Step through code one statement at a time, or set breakpoints that stop the execution of the code at a particular line. With this, pause code execution at the exact moment you decide to inspect a bug, using the breakpoint and method you need. If you’ve gone too far or you suddenly come upon an unexpected change, just take a step back to any specific line of code. With this, you won’t ever need to restart your session or recreate your state.

4. Test

Testing is essential, so having a way to easily navigate and organize your test suite is bound to make your job that much easier and more efficient. Quickly analyze how much code you’re testing and see results instantly. With this, you will immediately know the impact of every change you make. Fix errors as soon as they happen, see if new changes are covered by existing tests, and let advanced features test code as you are typing.

5. Collaborate

Visual Studio Online’s environments come with built-in collaboration tools, including IntelliCode and Live Share. As mentioned above, collaboration is more important than ever. With the collaboration features, lead your team with quick and natural collaboration. With Live Share, you can edit and debug with your team in real-time regardless of the language or platform. To make things easier and more organized, you can personalize your session with access controls and custom editor settings. This enforces consistent coding styles for everyone working on the project.

In modern professional environments, competing with your peers is no longer the way to get ahead. Today, success in the workplace is highly dependent on how well you collaborate with others. Regardless of how established your company is, the size of it, or the type of company you work for, collaboration is essential for innovation, and accomplishing goals.

6. Deploy

There are tons of templates for common application types and local Azure emulators. You can develop your app locally, which means that you do not require an Azure account or to sign in. This way, you can get up and running quickly. Remain on Visual studio while provisioning application dependencies such as Azure SQL databases and Azure Storage accounts. Diagnose issues using Visual Studio’s remote debugger quickly, which attaches directly to your application. When you’re ready to try your app in the cloud, right-click on your project to publish it directly from Visual Studio to Azure.

Visual Studio best practices: Visual Studio IDE

An integrated development environment (Visual Studio IDE) is a feature-rich application that can be applied to many aspects of software development. It is intended to allow you to use the tool you’re most comfortable with, in any language or framework. The Visual Studio IDE makes it easy to edit, debug, build, and publish your app. Visual Studio IDE goes above and beyond the standard editor and debugger found in most IDEs. Visual Studio stands out with a variety of features, includes compilers, code completion tools, graphical designers, and tons of other features to simplify and streamline the software development process.

Visual Studio plugins

Visual Studio plugins, or rather, extensions, allow you to optimize productivity. Create the perfect tool for you and your team by using and building extensions, and take a look at the best visual studio add ons:

  • Visual Studio Spell Checker
  • CodeMaid
  • VS Color Output
  • Visual Studio IntelliCode
  • Trailing Whitespace Visualizer
  • Magical C# Debugging—OzCode
  • ReSharper
  • Glyphfriend
  • SlowCheetah
  • File Icons
  • Image Optimizer
  • File Nesting
  • Roslynator
  • NCrunch for Visual Studio
  • SideWaffle Template Pack

Implementing the right Visual Studio plugins can help assist in day-to-day challenges faced by developers.

Zight (formerly CloudApp) for developers

Developers are provided with the option to use a full-fledged IDE with the entire toolset, from initial design to final deployment.

Zight (formerly CloudApp)’s screen recording software is another incredibly helpful tool for developers. Our tool brings annotated screenshots, GIF creation, and screen recording to the cloud in an easy-to-use, enterprise-grade app so you can quickly create and share visual content to solve code challenges quickly. Many of our customers are developers. We help developers by:

  • Identifying and reporting bugs faster.
  • Improving communication and collaboration with product teams.
  • Reducing mistakes and improve documentation.
  • Organizing files more efficiently and tracking progress on projects.
  • Adding password protection, expiration dates, and user controls to enhance security.

Plus, we are integrated with popular development tools like Jira and Github to enhance your existing workflows. Learn more about Zight (formerly CloudApp), and how it can improve your life as a developer.

Ready to chat with us about how to save time, money and help your team communicate better?