Massive VS Code update adds Profiles, fine-grained suggestions, signed extensions… and local to remote ‘continue working on’

Massive VS Code update adds Profiles, fine-grained suggestions, signed extensions… and local to remote ‘continue working on’

The Visual Studio Code (VS Code) team has released its January update with a huge number of new features, including general availability of the long-awaited Profiles feature and progress towards signed extensions in the extension marketplace.

Extensions in the VS Code marketplace. There are now over 43,000

Profiles reflect the fact that developers need different settings and extensions for different types of project. Profiles can also be imported and exported so that colleagues can have the same setup. VS Code is designed to be a lightweight editor but easily extended, and the marketplace currently offers over 43,000 extensions. This combined with the array of available settings means that one setup can differ greatly from another, so the ability to package the configuration into a profile is useful both for individuals and teams.

Another key feature for extensions is that since November last year all extension uploads are signed by the VS marketplace. Microsoft said in the release notes that “VS Marketplace is in the process of signing all existing extensions (including extensions that have not been updated since November).” This is expected to take two more months. When completed, developers will be able to verify that an extension has not been tampered with since upload.

This is good for security, but not as reassuring as publisher signing which verifies the source of the code. Publisher signing is also in progress but at an early stage. One factor is that open source contributors are not enthusiastic about paying for a certificate. “I don’t use it to generate any income so it would wind up costing me money just to share something I made available to others,” said one extension author. Microsoft’s Isidor Nikolic, a senior product manager, said that “we acknowledge that without a free solution this feature would most likely not be successful. Thus, we are currently investing into a free signing solution.”

Remote developers get a new feature called “Continue working on.” The idea is that if a developer is working locally on a project, it should be possible to switch to a remote environment without interruption. This feature prompts to publish a Git branch so that the same code will be available in the remote environment. When working in the remote, the feature also supports creating a new local clone.

A small but potentially important new feature is called Suggest selection mode. Suggestions are pop-up code that will be inserted automatically as you type, on pressing Enter or Tab. These suggestions can be annoying especially if the top suggestion is not correct. The selection mode can now be set to several options including “Never” to make the behaviour more controllable.

VS Code has a monthly release cycle, the exception being that there is no December release. Each release is published early in the following month, which is why the “January” update actually appears in early February. The lack of a December release may be a factor in the amount packed into this one, but it is still a remarkable pace of development and the release notes are over 7,500 words. The above is therefore only a subset of what is new, showing the continuing momentum behind the project.