Microsoft, swallows feedback, bangs Visual Studio Online preview into shape


Microsoft’s managed development environment service Visual Studio Online has been updated, providing devs with access to a slew of features that consider the feedback collected since the service’s unveiling in November 2019.

Back then, a public preview was launched, promising to extend “Visual Studio Code Remote Development to provide managed development environments that can be created on-demand and accessed from anywhere”. 

The service includes a browser-based editor through which environments can be accessed, however, it is also meant to work using Visual Studio Code, or Visual Studio IDE for better integration into existing workflows.

In the latest iteration, the team behind the service has expanded upon its initial offering, so that environment configurations now support PowerShell, Azure CLI, native debugging for Go and C++, updated .NET Core SDKs, and Python out of the box. 

According to Microsoft, greater choice when customising development environments was one of the things high on the testers’ wishlists. Visual Studio Online therefore now comes with support for Docker images and Dockerfiles enabled, and gives users a way of specifying GitHub pull requests or branch URLs others should be automatically pointed to once an environment is created. This can, for example, ensure reviewers are all using the same system setup when feedback for specific pull requests is sought.

To accommodate use-cases in which a bit of additional computing power would be helpful, devs are now also able to change their environment settings once they have been created, allowing them to switch to a superior instance before running code.

Other, more minor updates, include an option to delete plans through the browser or Visual Studio Code instead of using the Azure portal for that, and a setting to enable VS Code Insiders so that experimental features can also be used in the development environments.

Visual Studio Online is still in preview and only available in selected regions. Teams interested in giving it a go need to register via the Microsoft website. However, a quick projection of costs is recommended before committing to the service as a more permanent alternative to other setups. 

Environment instances are “billed based on the number of consumed ‘environment units’, which are calculated according to an environment’s instance size, the total time the environment is active (i.e. a user is connected to it via the browser-based editor, or a client such as Visual Studio Code), and the total lifetime of the environment (base units).” 

While the updated version can help a bit to keep costs down by allowing users to set a lifetime for their environments, an evaluation of projects such as Eclipse Che might help to save even more – if you aren’t head over heels for VS Code, yet.