Impressions of VS2008 after a couple of weeks
I've spent some quality time with Visual Studio 2008 now after two weeks, and I feel like I can give a more extensive impression of the product. Aside from my previous complaint about the FTP browser, I've really enjoyed working with it, but I do sometimes feel a little underwhelmed.
Let me get some of the negatives out of the way up front. At first there was no usable build of ReSharper, and going back to life without it isn't fun. Sure, it doesn't yet support the new features of C#, but the refactoring, formatting and inspection tools that the product brings to VS really are essential. While VS has a lot of tools to isolate you from coding (as is expected of an IDE), ReSharper has a lot of tools that help you write better and cleaner code. I mean, Alt+Enter alone is worth the price of admission (adds an import statement for the namespace of the type you just tried to type automagically).
I was really hoping that the giant web.config would go away with the integration of the AJAX stuff, but it's actually bigger than ever. I expected that at least the various HttpHandler overrides would go away, but apparently that wasn't in the cards.
The new CSS stuff is surprisingly not as useful as I expected it might be. That's kind of a buzz kill. In fact, there are times when I experimented with the designer and was surprised to see that what I was composing was not how the page actually appeared in IE. It also seems to crash, a lot, when I'm editing a style sheet. That might be ReSharper causing that, which is a little weird since I don't think it touches CSS, but I'm sure the validation engine has something to do with it.
The killer feature is easily the client-side script debugging. If you really embrace the coding model that the AJAX framework uses, this feature is gold. If you've read one of the AJAX books and still can't wrap your head around it, read it again or read another, because once you get it and use it, it's amazing stuff. It's a little annoying to have to use IE, but I'm mostly over it.
I've only toyed with LINQ, and I guess I still haven't learned enough about it to make me say, "Wow, that's awesome stuff I must use as much as possible!" I'm sure that's just a matter of time. The general improvements to C#, like the automatic properties for example, are big time savers. I feel like I haven't explored those enough.
Other than that, it does feel a little more snappy and building seems to be much faster. It's not a huge upgrade, but definitely one you should consider if you haven't already, if for the script stuff alone (assuming you're an ASP.NET developer). Like I said, I feel a little underwhelmed, but it's familiar and fast and generally steady. I like that they're practically giving it away at various Microsoft events too. Giving it away to sell server product is a wise strategy.