Visual Basic (VB) 6.0 developers will appreciate Visual Studio .NET's next release, code-named Whidbey, when it arrives next year. Although Visual Studio .NET is an awesome development environment compared to Microsoft's earlier development tools, the product still falls short in some areas. For example, several features that made VB 6.0 such a productive development environment, such as edit-and-continue, didn't make it into Visual Studio .NET. However, Microsoft will deliver many enhancements in the upcoming Visual Studio .NET release—including edit-and-continue. Here are seven exciting new Whidbey features you can look forward to.

7. SQL Server 2005 Projects


SQL Server developers will be most interested in Whidbey's built-in support for new SQL Server project templates. The new project templates derive from the basic class template and help developers create database objects, such as stored procedures, user-defined functions (UDFs), and aggregates. The objects will be compatible with SQL Server 2005, formerly code-named Yukon.

6. ADO.NET Enhancements


With the Whidbey release, Microsoft continues to improve ADO.NET. The most significant enhancements to ADO.NET include a new server-oriented SQL Server Data Provider, a standalone DataTable object, asynchronous support for result sets, and support for server-side cursors.

5. Improved WinForms


Visual Studio .NET's first releases focused on improving the Web-development experience, but WinForm development lagged behind. In Whidbey, WinForms have new controls for grid and flow layout, new data controls, a new toolbar, and a new splitter bar. Whidbey also provides a new ClickOnce deployment feature.

4. C# Generics


Support for generics is C#'s major new feature in Whidbey. Generics provide strong compile-time data-type checking by enabling classes, methods, interfaces, and delegates to be parameterized according to the type of data stored. Delegates are similar to function pointers in C++ but are type-safe and secure.

3. Better IDE


The new Whidbey IDE has improved code generation, which reduces by up to 50 percent the amount of code required to access printers and Web services and create WinForms. The IDE also provides a new window-docking scheme that shows how toolbars and windows will dock in the IDE.

2. IDE Personas


Whidbey lets developers choose between three interface styles: C# developer, VB developer, and Web developer. Each persona gives the IDE a different look. With autohiding toolbars, the C# persona looks like the Visual Studio .NET 2003 IDE. The VB setting, however, looks more like VB 6.0, with a fixed toolbar and solution explorer. The Web development persona is geared toward building ASP.NET applications.

1. Edit-and-Continue


As I noted earlier, from the VB programmer's perspective, Whidbey's most important feature is the return of VB 6.0's edit-and-continue functionality. Edit-and-continue is a productivity enhancer that lets you make—and immediately execute— changes to source code while you're debugging.