Visual C++ 2010 Beta 1

Visual Studio 2010 Beta 1 was released yesterday for MSDN subscribers. Probably the most anticipated release in a while for C++ developers, 2010 is Microsoft's attempt to give C++ first-class support, something which hasn't been seen since Visual Studio 6.0.

Update: downloads are now available for non-MSDN subscribers.

On the compiler side of things, we get partial C++0x support in the form of lambda expressions, rvalue references, auto, decltype, and static assert. The features are piled on with an improved TR1 library—finally including the much requested stdint.h and cstdint headers, but still lacking inttypes.h.

Also included is the Parallel Patterns Library, a new task-based concurrency library that makes heavy use of the C++0x features for a nice modern design. I mentioned before that on Windows 7 this will make use of a User-mode scheduled thread pool so it should be really efficient. Unfortunately given its proprietary nature I'm not sure how much use it will get.

The first thing you will notice on the IDE side is the inline error checking. Something we've enjoyed while editing C# for some time, we now get the red squiggly lines when an error is found. It works fairly well, but support for lambda expressions has not been written yet.

Intellisense has markedly improved since 2008. Using advanced C++ or a Boost library no longer guarantees it breaking. It has worked with nearly all the C++ I've thrown at it so far.

You can also see an External Dependencies virtual folder added to your project source, which is dynamically filled with all the files Intellisense will scan. I've found it is not terribly useful, though, because even with small projects the header count increases rapidly enough to make the virtual folder become an unintelligible mess.

The problem is only aggravated by libraries like Boost, which have hundreds of headers organized nicely in folders. Putting them into a single virtual folder just doesn't work.

This release also marks the move to the extensible MSBuild system for C++ projects, which aims to provide functionality similar to GNU make in an XML format.

Perhaps the most obvious change for the overall IDE is that the main UI is now done entirely in WPF. It sounded like a decent plan at first but I'm not too happy with it now. Minor differences from the way native controls behave can be pretty annoying, and the five to twenty second load time makes it less useful for opening random .cpp files when 2008 would load them in one or two seconds.

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