The Evolution of DevLabs

A little over four years ago, we created the DevLabs portal on MSDN.  The idea behind this site was to provide a hub for Microsoft teams to publicly share prototypes of innovative tools for developers, showcasing and gathering feedback on technologies that were in their early stages.

In the time since, we’ve seen a wealth of exciting projects come and go, many eventually moving in one way, shape, or form into Microsoft products.  For example, DevLabs was the initial home for Code Contracts, a general design-by-contract mechanism from Microsoft Research for .NET programmers.  The library support for Code Contracts then shipped in the .NET Framework 4, and the Microsoft Research (MSR) team behind it has been actively researching and investing in the associated testing, verification, and documentation tools.  As another example, DevLabs was the home for Axum, a .NET language for building parallel applications.  Axum itself was later retired from DevLabs, but not before some of its core concepts were adopted by mainstream development technologies; for example, the asynchronous programming support in C# and Visual Basic in Visual Studio 2012 was initially prototyped in Axum.  From CHESS to PEX to Reactive Extensions to "Casablanca" and beyond, some very useful technologies have gotten their start on DevLabs over the last few years.

At the same time, the development landscape has been evolving.  It’s become increasingly simple for anyone to codify their ideas and quickly deploy solutions in order to share concepts and learn from experiments.  In conjunction, multiple sites have sprung up to facilitate this, whether for sharing source code, such as with CodePlex, or for sharing tools and extensions, such as with the Visual Studio Gallery.  These sites are often integrated with the developer’s environment, such as with Visual Studio Gallery integration into Visual Studio through the Extensions and Updates dialog, providing easy self-service support for a developer to push an update out to millions of consumers of their work.

With these advances, it’s time to evolve the DevLabs experience.  Starting today, we’re redirecting the existing DevLabs portal to a new DevLabs collection in the Visual Studio Gallery.  When you browse the gallery, you’ll find a Microsoft collection that includes official releases from Microsoft (such as the NuGet Package Manager, the Productivity Power Tools, or the Team Foundation Server Power Tools), but you’ll also find a new Microsoft DevLabs collection.  As was the case with the previous DevLabs portal, this is an outlet for experiments from Microsoft, experiments that represent some of the latest ideas around developer tools. This new site will enable more teams from Microsoft to more quickly share their latest thinking, and to do so in a manner that works seamlessly with developers’ day-to-day workflows.

As an example, a tool available in the Microsoft DevLabs category today is the “Inline Navigate To” extension.  With Visual Studio 2012, developers can use the Navigate To dialog to navigate to a file or symbol, and this new extension aims to improve on that experience, with better performance, better results relevance, improved filtering capabilities, and improved UI aesthetics, including a modeless UI.  Give it a test drive today and provide feedback to the team on whether and how you’d like to see such improvements included in a future Visual Studio release.

We look forward to evolving this Microsoft DevLabs collection with new ideas and solutions as we have them available.


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Comments (9)
  1. Charles says:

    Soma,  you have received numerous comments about the unproductive nature of Visual Studio, poorly implemented .NET framework and more recently the terrible user interface of 2012 and you sir have done nothing to address the issues.  Unfortunately with each release this software becomes fatter with more features that do not work as expected and less productive while remaining consistently buggy and unstable. Meanwhile you stay in your fantasy land, writing fairy tale blogs and assumingt programmers enjoy using Visual Studio, nothing is farther from the truth. This program is a bloody mess that fails to hit the mark in any area. After years of development the newest version of Visual Studio is still less productive then Visual Studio 6.0.  With endless possibilities to increase productivity and milliions of bugs to fix the potential to deliver a robust development toolset more then exists. Still Microsoft refuses to address these issues while halting any innovative on the productivity front thus keeping Visual Studio on the bridge to nowhere. If you will not respond to comments or address issues posted directly to you on your blog then posting anywhere else on Microsoft's website or on DevLabs is a waste of time.

  2. vinod shalgar says:

    Hi Som,

    There is no second opinion that these extensions helps a lot when it comes to developer productivity. But I am wondering is there anything extraordinary in this extension? The things which we can achieve using different commands are combined at one place with some new flavor apart from this I don't feel there is anything extraordinary.



  3. Ala Shiban says:

    Hi Venod – DevLabs is a means for us to work more closely with our users, and have a more fruitful relationship and dialog as we experiment with new ideas.

    In some cases, DevLabs will host bold ideas, and Soma mentioned a few of those in the post. In others, it will host evolutionary ideas, to make the day-to-day experiences more fluid and fun.

    That's where the new extension fits. More importantly to us, is the ability to share with our users what we're thinking about in terms of experiences, in phases where pivoting, tweaking and improving is still possible.

  4. @francmichal says:

    Appreciate the effort, but if you really want to help your customers make visual studio features "plugable". Give me ability to turn off features i don't need. I want to control my tools and environment i work with.

  5. php .net says:

    I have been hearing a lot from people saying MS technology is dead and it has no future, don;t study it after reading articles like this I can answer them saying .NET has a future and a way brighter than PHP

  6. Do we seriously need to explicitly provide feedback on whether we'd like "better performance, better results relevance, improved filtering capabilities, and improved UI aesthetics" in VS?

    I have to agree with Charles, there's much more important work to be done than fussing around with little extensions to existing features.

  7. @ALA says:

    Who are you trying to kid?!?!?!?! Microsoft doesn't listen to it's users, Ask any VB / VFP developer or take a look at the dreadful Visual Studio 2012 interface experience that we screamed loudly we did not want.  If you think using Notepad is fun to build applications then you are sadly mistaken. VS is about as fun to use as receiving 1,000 paper cuts. We have given up hope for you to release productive software. We are happy when you don't screw anything up and your software start ups after an upgrade with only a couple hours of debugging cryptic error messages! That is how far you have lowered the bar.

  8. pdp says:

    I have to agree. The UI on VS2012 is terrible. Save the minimalist pretensions for your local art gallery. Give us developers something useable that we ask for rather than force feeding this crap to us.

  9. rstat1 says:

    If VS2012 was as unusable as people claim then how exactly do I and many others like me continue to use it daily? Simple answer: We care more about getting work done, then staring at icons.

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