Development

This Week in Programming: All Hail Visual Studio Code

26 Sep 2020 6:00am, by

Next to debating which programming language is the best, there’s nothing better than arguing over code editors, amirite? Well, this week’s entrant to that debate has declared that we have entered the era of Visual Studio Code, with the Microsoft-developed editor having “reached unprecedented levels of popularity and refinement, laying a foundation that could mean decades of market dominance,” according to developer Roben Kleene.

According to Kleene, VS Code has achieved this dominance through four primary points. First, it has achieved a level of popularity and dominance beyond any other such editor. Second, it has taken the idea of “text editor as platform,” with its prominent use of extensions, to “its final form.” Third, VS Code has “transcended its paradigm as a desktop app by becoming a hosted web app, and even a reference implementation.” And fourth, of course, is the simple fact that it is “managed by a powerful tech company” that is developing it “aggressively.”

Quickly showing us that VS Code has taken a leap past other editors in popularity, Kleene then walks us through a history of various text-based code editors starting long ago with BBEdit, Emacs, and Vim, before moving to TextMate, SublimeText, and Atom, ending at VS Code. The evolution of these editors, he argues, ends at VS Code.

“There just isn’t anywhere else to go,” he writes of VS Code. “Correspondingly, there isn’t a way a new text editor can leapfrog VS Code the same way previous text editors have been leapfrogging each other by improving extensions.”

With VS Code having seemingly perfected the art of extensions, Kleene cites the editor’s move from desktop to web with implementations such as GitHub Codespaces, also noting that “it’s also became something of a standard” with the creation of version 1.0 of the Theia IDE maintained by the Eclipse Foundation, which he calls “a re-implementation of VS Code.” It’s on precisely this point that I wonder if some might offer dispute, as Eclipse Theia’s creators called their implementation a “true open source alternative to Visual Studio Code” but perhaps that’s neither here nor there.

Kleene’s final point, VS Code’s backing by Microsoft and its aggressive development, contrast the editor to that of Sublime Text and Textmate, showing that VS Code has a more consistent release cadence, which is enabled both by its corporate backer and the very active open source community behind it.

Beyond talking about popularity and horse races, Kleen writes that “The goal of this piece is to determine if VS Code is a good investment in learning if you value longevity,” and he surmises that “VS Code is giving indications that the era of short reigns for text editors is over. It has the potential to maintain its position as the most popular text editor for a much longer time, possibly for decades, if we use examples of popular software in other categories as a guide.”

Whadda ya think? Will VS Code join the ranks of Excel, Photoshop, Illustrator and the like, as Kleene suggests? Or is the next replacement awaiting us around the technological bend?

This Week in Programming

  • Visual Studio Adds Codespaces, Git Integration and More: Another week, another digital conference, this time with Microsoft Ignite taking the virtual stage. As such, we have a few developer-related launches of interest this week, starting out with all the new features in Visual Studio 2019 v16.8 Preview 3.1. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it? The release comes with improvements in Git Integration, C++20 conformance, .NET Productivity, Web Tools, and XAML, according to the blog post, with the availability of GitHub Codespaces for Visual Studio is now available among the more exciting new features. The availability comes as a limited beta, but they plan to roll it out to more folks over time. As for Git integration, Visual Studio now adds improved support for Git source control workflows, and changes the default source control provider to Git, instead of TFVC. C++20, which was just recently approved, also gets some improved support, with Visual Studio users able to “use Modules, Concepts, Coroutines, and (some of) Ranges all in the same project.” That’s just a taste of what’s new, so make sure to click through for the full write-up.

  • Connecting Dapr and Azure APIs: A few of the interesting announcements coming out of this week’s Microsoft Ignite are of the Kubernetes-related variety, starting off with the Dapr integration in Azure API Management Service. According to the blog post, the integration “enables operations teams to directly expose Dapr microservices as APIs and make those APIs discoverable and easily consumable by developers.” Dapr was released last year and the name, we were told at the time, “loosely translates to Distributed Application Runtime” and is “focused on providing building blocks that make it easier for developers to build microservices.” This new integration makes it so that “users are now able to apply the self-hosted gateway feature of APIM to manage all of their Dapr APIs, along with other APIs, in a single interface.” For further info, check out this full demo repo and this complete reference of APIM Dapr integration policies.
  • A Bridge to Kubernetes: Developers that want to write, test, and debug their code while consuming dependencies and inheriting existing configuration from a Kubernetes environment can now rejoice, as Microsoft’s Bridge to Kubernetes is now generally available. The Bridge to Kubernetes is an iterative development tool offered in Visual Studio and VS Code that connects your development workstation to your Kubernetes cluster, letting you code without having to worry so much about external dependencies and configurations. This latest version also works with any Kubernetes, whether in the cloud or local, and brings with it end-to-end testing and debugging, as well as the ability to work in isolation in a shared development environment.

  • Open Sourcing Calico for Windows: This last one departs a bit further from the developer realm but is worth noting nonetheless — Calico for Windows has gone open source. Calico is “an open source networking and network security solution for containers, virtual machines, and native host-based workloads,” and now the Tiger team writes that it is “ready for your production environment, just like Calico for Linux has been for many years.” For full details, check out the release notes, join the Calico User Slack Windows channel, and the quick start guide.
  • GitHub Actions Improves Its Logging: Last up on the Microsoft-ish end of things, GitHub has said it now has a better logs experience with GitHub Actions, which comes in the form of “a series of changes that will improve both performance and user experience.” Those changes include a simplified layout structure, a single and faster-virtualized scrolling, more responsive search, interactive URLs, full-screen viewing, an improved UI, and, most importantly, better ANSI, 8-bit, and 24-bit color support. That’s twice in the past couple of weeks that GitHub has brought us some sweet, sweet ANSI coloring.

  • Get Ready For DevFest, Google Devs! Google has announced DevFest 2020, and we’re just a short few weeks away from the event, which will take place October 16-18. DevFest 2020 will be a weekend of virtual, community-led learning on Google technologies, with speakers ranging from kid developers  to self-taught programmers from rural areas  to CEOs and CTOs of startups, and beyond. Sessions will cover a variety of Google technologies, such as Android, Google Cloud Platform, TensorFlow, Web.dev, Firebase, Google Assistant, and Flutter, and you can sign-up to attend now.
  • Aligning Synergies and Thinking Outside the Box: If you’re anything like me, even just reading those words causes the hair on your arms to stand up a little, and you may have just experienced the urge to throw whatever device you’re reading this on across the room. Well, get ready to align revenue streams, deliver customer experience, and think outside the box, because the Strategic Communication programming language is here to give you “a best-of-breed language with a holistic approach to moving the needle.” It’s just so painful and horrible to be wonderful. Oh, and there’s no need for comments when you use this language. Why? “The syntax of Strategic Communication meets or exceeds the highest standards of corporate discourse, therefore comments are unnecessary and not supported.”

Feature Image by klimkin from Pixabay.

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