Visual Studio Online Is VS Code
Written by Mike James   
Wednesday, 06 November 2019

Microsoft has just announced the availability of Visual Studio Online. What do you think this might be? If you think it's Visual Studio, but online, you would be wrong. Is Microsoft doing this on purpose? I hope so ...

because the alternative is that it has lost it even more than you might speculate.

If you are led to the conclusion that Microsoft has made our old friend Visual Studio available online you have been misled. This is Visual Studio Code online which, given the technology used to implement VS Code, is far less impressive. 

What you think of VS Online hence depends very much on what you think of VS Code. I know a lot of people really like it and are enthusiastic about it, but I just tolerate it. It isn't an IDE and it isn't a particularly well-thought out editor with extras. Of course, everyone tells me that I can always make it do what I want by installing any of the many remarkable add-ons but to be honest I don't want a DIY kit of parts. Even choosing which add-on to install is a good way to waste time and avoid getting on with design and coding. Personally I prefer the full IDE experience of the real thing, i.e. Visual Studio.

Even when I have got the right add-ons installed I still don't like the UI. It's not logical and the reliance on the command line is a primitive throwback to times when we couldn't afford the resources to run a GUI. Yes I know that there are programmers who love the command line, but I prefer comfort to hair shirts.

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So why do I use VS Code?

Because it allows me to do remote development. It isn't easy, but it is workable. So VS Online is an extension that takes this further and will let me do remote team development. If you already have VS Code installed then you can install the VS Online extension and start working.

It is hosted on Azure so you will need an account to try it out - you can get a free one if you haven't used Azure before. It also interfaces with GitHub, which of course is another Microsoft service. The web-based editor is essentially VS Code running on Azure. 

A hosted code editor means you can work from anywhere that has an internet connection and Live Share means you can collaborate with other remote workers. Being based on VS Code, you can use it to work in all of the languages that it supports including .NET, Python, Node.js and C/C++.

If you really want to you can host it yourself, both VS Online and the Git repo, but my guess is that Microsoft hopes you won't do this. There is also a closed trial of Visual Studio, the real thing, acting as a client and there is no more information on this. It sounds as if it hasn't got very far and my guess is that it will be VS Code somehow hosted with Visual Studio - we will have to wait and see.

If you use Visual Studio Online then there will be a cost that varies according to use. Exactly how much it costs is difficult to say, but just less than 50 cents an hour seems about right. This is based on "Full-time development" being charged at $50 per month, assuming around 4 hours per working day. You are billed a lesser rate when you are not actively connected, but you run up a charge even when not using it.

With two development environments to market, keeping the distinction between the two seems like a good idea, but if you are expecting Visual Studio to be online you are going to be disappointed, for now at least.

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More Information

Announcing Visual Studio Online Public Preview

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Last Updated ( Saturday, 09 November 2019 )