Finding More Power in Visual Studio - dummies

Finding More Power in Visual Studio

By Bill Sempf

When you look beyond the Windows form and the code structure, a few details become evident. For instance, Visual Studio takes your VB code beyond the Windows form. The following article gives you an overview of the development power that you find in Visual Studio.

Visual Studio doesn’t just do Windows

The first evident change that sets Visual Studio apart as a development tool is this: You can use Visual Studio to write programs that run on the World Wide Web as well as on Windows computers. When you click the File menu to add a new project, notice the second option in the menu.

Choose this option to create a Web application, which incorporates a whole host of technologies — the .NET Framework, ASP.NET, Visual Basic, and HTML — that each have essential roles for enabling an application to run online.

Visual Basic goes mobile

Mobile computing devices make their move into Visual Basic 2005. Two project types that run on such devices are built right into Visual Studio. Windows CE, Pocket PC 2003, and SmartPhone platforms are all represented.

You can create a mobile device application in the same manner you create a Windows Forms application. Getting familiar with the Visual Basic language puts you on the right track for creating applications for a Pocket PC. Mobile computing applications require some special programming practices, so make sure to grab some device-specific information when you work on those project types.

Writing routines to use with other software is easier with Visual Basic 2005. You can write add-ins for Microsoft Office apps, including Excel and Word templates with VB code running behind them. These routines don’t use the VBScript that you may have seen before; a completely new part of Office 2003 allows you to write templates with special, built-in functionality. For example, you can build a Word template that automates a reporting process by asking the user for a report number, checking that number against a database of all the reports filed, and filling out part of the document-in-process with the relevant information from the database.

VB as your one-stop development shop

Generally, Visual Studio and the .NET Framework are designed to be the one-stop shop for any kind of development on Windows machines. But in this version, Visual Basic 2005 can also do it all. The language can now touch all of the parts of the .NET Framework that any of the other languages can get to, without resorting to the cryptic function calls necessary in prior versions of VB.

The new features that differ from Visual Basic 6 include the following:

  • Security: Encryption, validation, and permissions. Securing your code using sophisticated encryption is now built in to the framework, among other things.
  • Data: Collections of information, accessing databases, and XML. There are new Data controls for your forms pages, too!
  • IO: Integrate program activities with files, disks, and folders in a way that requires writing much less code.
  • System.Net: VB knows about the Internet. Web, FTP, and Mail are all in one place.
  • Drawing: Comprehensive screen graphics for Web and Windows — even 3D.
  • The My Object: Get to the hard-to-reach places more easily with this simple-to-use set of shortcuts.

This list shows you that Visual Basic has grown up somewhat. If you don’t know VB 6, then you have no worries! Getting chummy with this version (Visual Basic 2005) is a much better place to be. If you do know VB 6, then welcome home. This is where you always wanted to be.