Suspense Over Visual Studio For Mac - Update
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Friday, 18 November 2016

A Microsoft blog post has appeared, announcing Visual Studio's forthcoming availability for the Mac.

Before you get too excited, the post then promptly disappeared, and the details of what was actually being offered wasn't really Visual Studio. 




The suspense is over.The details of Visual Studio for Mac have now been officially announced at Microsoft’s Connect(); conference. The announcement said:

“Today, Microsoft is sharing a preview of Visual Studio for Mac, the latest member of the Visual Studio family. Visual Studio for Mac is a macOS-based IDE focused on building mobile, cloud and macOS apps. The first preview release includes support for building native apps for iOS and Android using C# and F# through Xamarin, as well as back-end through Azure-connected services and support for ASP.NET Core. Upcoming releases will include support for a wider range of languages and back-end services.”

A free community edition will be included as part of the Visual Studio subscription. 



The original post Introducing Visual Studio for the Mac was made by Microsoft’s Mikayla Hutchinson, who came into the company when Microsoft bought Xamarin earlier this year. 

Hutchinson said:

"At Connect(); in November, Microsoft is launching a preview of Visual Studio for Mac. This is an exciting development, evolving the mobile-centric Xamarin Studio IDE into a true mobile-first, cloud-first development tool for .NET and C#, and bringing the Visual Studio development experience to the Mac."

This all sounds good, but the article continued with more details that made it obvious that things were a little more complicated. If Visual Studio were to be made fully available on the Mac, it would involve significant re-writing the entire UI as Visual Studio on Windows uses WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation) as its UI.

What the article seems to indicate is that what Microsoft will apparently call Visual Studio for the Mac is in fact a revamped version of Xamarin Studio, which Microsoft acquired when it bought Xamarin. Studio started life as a cross-platform IDE, and became Mac specific. 

In the article, Hutchinson says that:

"At its heart, Visual Studio for Mac is a macOS counterpart of the Windows version of Visual Studio. If you enjoy the Visual Studio development experience, but need or want to use macOS, you should feel right at home. Its UX is inspired by Visual Studio, yet designed to look and feel like a native citizen of macOS. And like Visual Studio for Windows, it’s complemented by Visual Studio Code for times when you don’t need a full IDE, but want a lightweight yet rich standalone source editor.

Below the surface, Visual Studio for Mac also has a lot in common with its siblings in the Visual Studio family. Its IntelliSense and refactoring use the Roslyn Compiler Platform; its project system and build engine use MSBuild; and its source editor supports TextMate bundles. It uses the same debugger engines for Xamarin and .NET Core apps, and the same designers for Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android.

Compatibility is a key focus of Visual Studio for Mac. Although it’s a new product and doesn’t support all of the Visual Studio project types, for those it does have in common it uses the same MSBuild solution and project format."

So essentially Xamarin Studio has been reworked to look more like Visual Studio, and it now uses MSBuild so you can share projects.


The IDE has been made to look quite similar, with a central tabbed source editor with a number of other docked windows or “pads” around it, such as Solution, Output, Properties, Document Outline and Toolbox. Hutchinson said that:

"Like Visual Studio, this layout is highly customizable and switches automatically, depending on whether you’re coding, debugging or using the drag-and-drop designer."

That's not quite the same as Visual Studio for the Mac, though, is it.

Adding to the confusion, the post was later removed, though it seems likely that the removal is temporary so as not to take the attention away from the actual launch. This looks as though it will happen on Wednesday at Microsoft Connect, as James Montemagno, Principal Program Manager of Xamarin at Microsoft, tweeted "I'm going to be on stage showing off amazing things at #MSFTConnect on Wed. Be sure to join the live stream  #Xamarin"



So we'll doubtless find out more on Wednesday.


More Information

Archived version of MSDN article

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Last Updated ( Friday, 18 November 2016 )