You can now download and try out the release candidate of Visual Studio 2012, which was called Visual Studio 11 until this point.
In keeping with Microsoft's tinkering with image and brand, we also have a new logo:
It is difficult to get excited about such things.
The release candidate is claimed to be faster than the beta, but this is as it should be. The UI has also been revamped away from its colorless grey design that drew so much critisism. However, when you see the final result don't expect to be impressed. This is a case of listening to your users just enough to defuse the issue. The overall effect is still flat and boring. More surprising is the fact that the all-capital letter menus are still a feature. This is supposed to be a Metro style, so I guess VS has to conform.
Many of the "improvements" are concerned with the creation of Metro style apps. Of course, if you are not interested in Metro or WinRT then these aren't so much improvements as unwanted features. Expression Blend seems to feature a great deal in the descriptions of the new features, so much so that you can't help but think that it is being made more central to VS. As to UI style Blend is so grey that you can't help but think that your monitor has failed and somehow given up color.
Moving away from Metro, we have some new features that it is difficult to get excited about because they have been available for a while - but this is a good thing even if it doesn't make it easy for an exciting launch.
ASP .NET 4.5 is an small upgrade to the classic forms-based approach and includes the async and await key words. Nice, but there is no doubt that the future lies with ASP .NET MVC which reaches version 4 and comes with Entity Framework 5. I wonder how long before the .NET and/or ASP are dropped from the name?
Another joy (not) for professional programmers is the inclusion of LightSwitch, the tool that makes it possible for non-programmers to create systems well beyond their abilities. I suppose we can always use it for proto-typing.
Other improvements - a personal selection - are:
easier HLSL shaders
a 3D Model Editor that can work with Collada, obj, and Fbx, C++ AMP and TPL
There are a few issues over compatibility. The first is that the new version will only run under Windows 7 or later. More serious a problem for many is the lack of an XP target unless you have VS 2010 installed alongside. For many the inability to create applications that run under XP or earlier operating systems is a deal breaker.
Including support for XP and earlier without VS 2010 should have been an easy option and it does feel like another attempt by Microsoft to help along the demise of older operating systems by making things more difficult.
With the Express edition of 2012 only supporting Metro apps and the full edition of VS not supporting XP you start to see a pattern - is VS now just a marketing tool for Microsoft?
When you sit back and take stock of what is new in VS 2012, ignoring Metro/WinRT facilities, then all you can really say is - horrible new UI and a few minor improvements...
This is a release about moving developers in the direction that Microsoft wants us to go.
The following video gives an informal Microsoft tour of the new VS: