What is it?
Visual Studio 2008 supports Vista, Ajax and Web 2.0 technologies, Silverlight, and multiple versions of the .net Framework. It fills the gap for .net Framework 3.0, the only .net version not to have been supported by a contemporaneous Visual Studio. First released to MSDN subscribers in November last year, it was delivered ahead of schedule.
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Visual Studio 2008 is a unifying release, providing the same integrated development environment for multiple target platforms and languages, and representing an almost complete replacement for VS2005. There have been casualties - there is no support for .net 1.0, and users of "Classic" ASP, who have been vocal about the dropping of support (along with VBScript editing), will have to wait for a service pack. In the meantime, they will need to run VS2005 alongside Visual Studio 2008.
The emphasis is on productivity enhancements, including visual designers for faster development with .net Framework 3.5, web development tool and language enhancements, and through Linq (Language-Integrated Query), a mechanism for accessing most kinds of data from C# and Visual Basic.
Where did it originate?
Visual Studio had its tenth anniversary in 2007. The first release in 1997 provided separate IDEs for Visual C++, Visual Basic and J++. Progress towards a unified integrated development environment (IDE) for all languages began with VS 6.0, and the .net Framework came in with VS.net 2002.
What's it for?
Competitors from Delphi to Apache and Mono offer .net IDEs that provide different kinds of advantages - such as freedom from proprietary lock-in, and, particularly in the case of the open source alternatives, more agile support and bug-fixing, not to mention tools that are effectively free to download. But Visual Studio is undoubtedly the most comprehensive platform for .net and Windows development.
It has templates that offer a starting point for most kinds of Windows and web service applications, with the assurance that developers will be working with a consistent set of tools and techniques regardless of language and target platform. Although the full scope of Visual Studio is beyond any individual developer, developers are effectively offered an IDE dedicated to the target platform once they have selected it.
What makes it special?
Before Visual Studio 2008, developers who had to maintain applications using different versions of the .net Framework had to keep multiple versions of Visual Studio, or upgrade the applications to the latest version of .net.
How difficult is it to master?
Visual Studio 2008 introduces dozens of new wizards and other enhancements, which simplify application development. However, you will need to be proficient in VB, Asp.net, C# or whatever supported language you use. A typical course in application development using one of these languages with Visual Studio takes five days, and is priced accordingly.
What systems does it run on?
Windows Server 2003, XP or Vista.
Rates of Pay
Asp.net, VB.net or C# developers with Visual Studio can expect £25,000 to £35,000.
There is a free, downloadable Express version of Visual Studio 2008 that is ideal for dedicated autodidacts. Microsoft's Visual Studio 2008 and .net Framework 3.5 Training Kitis available for download. Other free learning resources are available from Microsoft's developer network.