Without a doubt the biggest news in application development for 2008 is Microsoft’s release of Visual Studio (VS) 2008 (code-named Orcas)—Microsoft’s flagship development platform. The VS 2008 release adds support for new technologies such as Asynchronous JavaScript and XML (AJAX), Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF), and Language-Integrated Query (LINQ). Here are some of the most important new features in VS 2008.

Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5


Technically, the Microsoft .NET Framework is a separate entity from VS but it’s delivered with VS 2008, which is certainly the premier development platform for .NET Framework applications. The .NET Framework 3.5 makes more efficient use of system resources and provides support for several new technologies including Web 2.0 and AJAX applications, Windows Communication Foundations (WCF), Workflow Foundation (WF), WPF, and of course LINQ. It’s fully compatible with applications built for the .NET Framework 2.0 and 3.0.

JavaScript Debugging and IntelliSense

The ability to provide IntelliSense and debugging support for JavaScript is another important enhancement to VS 2008. AJAX really took off after VS 2005 was released. Adding IntelliSense and debugging enables AJAX support to be fully integrated with VS 2008.

Multiple .NET Framework Targeting


Another great new feature in VS 2008 is the ability to target multiple versions of the .NET Framework. Previous versions of VS were limited to building code for the current version of the .NET runtime. VS 2008 extends this capability by being able to target .NET Framework 2.0, 3.0., and 3.5 as well as the .NET Compact Framework.

Designer for WPF


VS 2008 also includes a new WPF designer and XAML editor (code-named Cider). The new WPF designer features rich graphical design layout tools plus two-way updating between the Designer and the underlying XMAL code. It also provides IntelliSense for XAML.

SQL Server Compact Edition 3.5


Another interesting new feature, especially for SQL Server developers, is the inclusion of SQL Server Compact Edition 3.5. SQL Server Compact Edition is a full featured in-process database that you can use as a local data store for your applications. At about 1.8MB, SQL Server Compact Edition is lightweight and can be freely distributed with your applications.

Sync Services for ADO.NET

Built in conjunction with SQL Server Compact Edition, Sync Services for ADO.NET enables disconnected applications to continue to provide end-users with the same application experience whether connected or disconnected. The application works against a local cache and can periodically sync with a back-end server. Enhancements to the new .NET Framework 3.5 take care of all of the heavy lifting required to keep the local store and the server in sync.

LINQ


From a database developer’s perspective, the biggest new feature that comes with VS 2008 is LINQ. LINQ is an evolutionary step forward for database developers as it simplifies the development process by enabling developers to write database queries directly in either native Visual Basic (VB) or C#. LINQ speeds up application development by providing immediate syntax feedback through IntelliSense and compile-time error checking that wasn’t possible using the older ADO.NET and T-SQL development methodology.