Review: Visual Studio 2013 Cookbook, by Jeff Martins and Richard Banks

I was recently offered a complimentary copy of Visual Studio 2013 Cookbook. This was timely, since I focus primarily on the Microsoft stack and use Visual Studio 2012 daily, and our team at work is considering upgrading soon.

Before you read further, note that this book is neither an in-depth guide to Visual Studio for someone who’s never used it before, nor a complete tutorial on the C# language, .NET 4.5 / 4.51, or any particular construct(s) therein.

Instead, this book is split between general enhancements, such as the Quick Find box and continuous testing, and enhancements that support specific technologies like store apps, the .NET Framework versions 4.5 / 4.51, web development, etc.

The first chapter focuses primarily on the interface of the IDE. Some of this will be a review for VS2012 users, including navigating around windows, accessing different panes, advanced search features and accessing the built-in NuGet Package Manager. Some of it is brand new to VS2013, including sync’ing your settings, viewing code in the scrollbar, peek definition, and more. If you’re still using VS2010, then most of this will be new.

Much of the following several chapters focuses on how VS2013 helps you develop specific applications. For example, creating an MVC 5 app, WinRT (store) apps, advancements in web development (such as intellisense and Go To Definition options for JavaScript) and how the IDE makes creating and modifying CSS easier. One of the coolest topics (for me) was previewing web changes across multiple browsers. I think Scott Hanselman demoed this at the VS2013 launch, but I never tried it myself… it’s pretty slick. The technologies are not discussed in depth, but introduced such that you can try them out using VS2013 while playing around with some new features. The authors include links to external resources, should you care to go deeper.

Regarding WinRT apps, if you want to get the most out of this book, get access to Windows 8.1. The second chapter is about store apps, and you can’t develop those in Windows 7. You can follow along easily enough, but you’ll get more out of it if you can try it yourself too. That’s how I learn anyway. Personally, I just installed a copy in a VM instance on my main development machine.

Also, a note regarding the title, since some of the other reviews (including for the 2012 version of this book) felt it was misrepresentative of the content. While I personally found it a little awkward to keep up the kitchen motif, referring to sections of the book as recipes instead of, well… sections, I didn’t find the title misleading – especially with the descriptive caption right under the title on the book cover:

Over 50 simple but incredibly effective recipes to get you up and running with the powerful features of Visual Studio 2013

Keep that in mind, and read through the detailed table of contents available online, and you’ll have a good idea of exactly what you are (and are not) getting. If you’re a current Visual Studio user, and you want/need to quickly familiarize yourself with the new features in the latest VS, I think you’ll find Visual Studio 2013 Cookbook to be a good resource.

Other random notes:

  • The authors do a good job of indicating which features are only available in Premium or Ultimate, such as duplicate code detection and CodeLens. Saves us Professional / Express users from pulling our hair out wondering why some cool feature seems to be missing.
  • The content is more breadth than depth, covering how the IDE makes development easier across the board.
  • I didn’t read the chapters on C++ and TFS very closely, as I don’t currently use either technology and don’t have much personal interest in it.

Disclaimer: In the interest of full disclosure, and in accordance with FTC 16 CFR, Part 255, I received the eBook mentioned above free of charge from the publisher. I only recommend products I personally find useful. All opinions are my own, unless otherwise noted.
 

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