C# Dev Kit For VS Code Brings Sign In To FOSS
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 14 June 2023

The new Dev Kit for VS Code brings many of the missing features to creating C# projects. This is welcome, but it brings something new and perhaps undesirable - you have to sign in.

csdevkit4

I like VS Code because, compared to Visual Studio, it is lightweight and open source. It helps that I can use it to work with multiple languages and remote servers. It doesn't have the easiest or most obvious user interface, but at least once you get to know it you don't have to relearn to move to another language.

The big exception to all of this was C# development. In this case having a code editor with some project features just didn't hack it.  A C# program isn't a single file and very quickly you run into problems creating configuration files and so on. It has been said that in this role VS Code quickly forces programmers to move to full Visual Studio, which is a full IDE not just a code editor.

The omission of C# from the languages with workable VS Code support has been an irritation that now has a solution, but one that comes with its own slightly disturbing development. C# Dev Kit is a new extension that brings the ability to work with C# projects rather than a few scattered code files. If you choose to install it then it adds an updated copy of the C# extension and the IntelliCode for C# Dev Kit extension which adds AI help.

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The biggest advance is the way that you can create and work with a project of a given type. Currently the extension supports:

csdevkit2You can see that the list is heavy on web apps and light on desktop apps - but this is a reflection of the times. You still don't get any WPF or MAUI support and given the amount of work needed to implement these two options this isn't surprising. Notice that you do get support for testing.

The new Solution Explorer lets you work with multiple projects in a manner that makes the need to move to Visual Studio unnecessary. You can also work with remote systems and containers although it isn't easy to find out exactly what will or will not work. For example, at the moment you can't use the extension on an ARM based Linux system but this isn't mentioned in the superficial documentation.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the new extension is that you need a Microsoft Account to use it:

"Given C# Dev Kit builds on the same foundations as Visual Studio for some of its functionality, it uses the same license model as Visual Studio. This means it’s free for individuals, as well as academia and open-source development, the same terms that apply to Visual Studio Community. For organizations, the C# Dev Kit is included with Visual Studio Professional and Enterprise subscriptions, as well as GitHub Codespaces."

To find out exactly what this means you have to read the license terms and essentially they say that if you qualify as an Enterprise which is any organization with more than 250 PCs or users, or one million dollars in annual revenues, then you need to pay for a licence. This is clearly designed to ensure that big companies still have a reason to keep paying for Visual Studio.The problem that Microsoft is trying to solve is that they have two competing products and one is free and open source and the other closed and paid for. 

Another interesting restriction in the small print is:

"You may not use the Software on virtual machines running on shared servers outside of Microsoft Azure and Codespaces."

So no AWS then...

Even if you can make use of the extension for free, you still have to sign in with your Microsoft account - the same account that allows you to use the community edition of Visual Studio. If you do this the extension still reports

csdevkit3

Which might suggest to some that they have no ability to use the extension without signing up for a subscription. In fact, even after being told you don't have a subscription, the extension appears to work.

You can use the extension for free, but the way that this is free is a significant crack in the status of VS Code as an open source project.

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  • Mike James, Founder and Chief Editor of I Programmer, is a prolific author. In Deep C#: Dive Into Modern C#, published in September 2021, he provides a “deep dive” into various topics that are important or central to the language. By exploring the motivation behind these key concepts, which is so often ignored in the documentation, the intention is to be thought-provoking and to give developers confidence to exploit C#’s wide range of features.

 

More Information

Announcing C# Dev Kit for Visual Studio Code

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 14 June 2023 )