Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Stackify Blog, Liz McMillan, David H Deans, Automic Blog, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Microsoft Cloud

Microsoft Cloud: Article

.NET Development with Visual Build Pro

Work smarter, not harder

I have used Microsoft Visual Studio at various companies over the years, starting with Visual Basic 3 to create simple, stand-alone Windows applications, then later using Visual Basic 5 and 6 for multitiered development. More recently, I've used Visual C++ to create a commercial application, and have recently been doing extensive .NET development using C# for both WinForms and ASP.NET development.

In all of these development environments, I've used the Visual Studio IDE as the primary tool for editing source code, testing, debugging, etc. Back with VB3, it was fairly simple to build the application as well with the IDE, because I was only building single executables (without even the need for an installer). As I progressed into more complex projects using components, then different layers of components, source code control, installers, and databases, my build experience became increasingly tedious, error-prone and frustrating.

About that time I discovered Visual Build, and quickly began automating my build process, starting with checking my code in and out of SourceSafe and compiling my Visual Basic project groups. I saw an immediate increase in consistency and repeatability and a significant decrease in my frustrations (and stress) when building, testing, and releasing updates to the applications I was writing.

The Visual C++ gig was part of larger team that required more coding discipline (and a lot of studying to learn C++), working across a relatively slow VPN link, as I was working remotely. Fortunately, this work environment was already using Visual Build Professional to automate many of their processes, which enabled me to join the development team quickly, as I could use existing build scripts and read them to quickly understand how they operated without constantly bothering fellow coders.

Over the years, the Visual Studio IDE has steadily added new features and (for me) maintained its position as my primary development tool. Visual Studio has consistently provided the ability to build and deploy applications; however, there have always been significant reasons why it wasn't an optimal build solution in my real world. These reasons include the use of third-party tools, source code control, the manual nature of builds using a nonautomated process, and the need to extend a build to do things that weren't necessarily build-related.

Details
The Visual Studio .NET IDE provides a good framework for developing .NET applications and managing the relationships between projects and components as part of a .NET solution. Extensive debugging capabilities are provided, along with Intellisense and other coding assistance, which greatly boosts developer productivity. And it does provide a limited means of automating builds via the devenv.com console application. Visual Build Pro hides the complexity of building Visual Studio projects and solutions by providing a graphical front end for configuring the appropriate command-line flags and adding additional functionality, such as easily building a single, multiple, or all configurations, more control over setting or incrementing versions and assembly properties, etc.

Another advantage of utilizing Visual Build Pro for Visual Studio .NET builds is that you are isolated from changes made between the different versions of Visual Studio. When migrating from Visual Studio 2002 to 2003 to 2005, once the projects have been opened in the IDE and converted to the new format, the build process remains unchanged, since VBP's Make VS.NET action detects and handles each version appropriately, and even takes advantage of MSBuild for Visual Studio 2005 projects and solutions (thereby preventing the need to install Visual Studio itself on the build box).

Employing Visual Build Professional for .NET builds also provides the ability to continue building legacy applications or projects (without a rewrite) as you move forward with the latest technology. The builds you have defined for older languages and tools continue to work and can simply be extended for any new applications you develop (regardless of the manufacturer). In my example, I have continued building some legacy VB 6.0 and VC++ 6.0 applications in addition to the latest .NET projects in development. And Visual Build Pro provides built-in support for all of the major source control systems (SourceSafe, Perforce, Vault, Surround SCM, Subversion, etc.), thus making it easy to incorporate these products into the build process as well.

As much as we like to keep things standard and follow conventions, every shop I've worked at had many exceptional situations that required customization to their build process. This is another major reason to maintain the process using the flexible and powerful build framework provided with Visual Build Professional. Some examples I have encountered are the need to deploy ASP Web sites (first shutting down the IIS server, compiling Delphi components, a legacy method of deploying components to central server, updating metadata in a SQL Server database, etc). I have been very impressed with VBP because I rarely find a build problem that can't be solved using common-sense programming techniques.

Building software is challenging and demanding business, and often requires highly skilled expertise and extensive knowledge. As applications and the tools used to create them have evolved, they have become highly complex and specialized. As mentioned earlier, using Visual Build Professional can greatly reduce the amount of perishable information and research used within the build process. The files used by Visual Build Professional are XML files, which typically are checked in to your source control system just like your application source code, thus preserving the history of your build process. When your core developers leave the company, they don't leave you stranded. Instead the necessary information remains with the company, so the build process isn't compromised.

While the .NET development system is extensive and powerful, it is a very complex tool that spans a wide range of technologies and capabilities. Unless you work for a large company, you probably won't get personal support from Microsoft. It is comforting to have access to the knowledgeable Kinook Software support staff and the Visual Build Professional user base through their support forum. Their level of support is outstanding, the depth of the samples and documentation is second to none, and they have repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to provide assistance when I have been stumped by a particular issue.

Conclusion
I have been a long-time user of Visual Build Professional, and I can honestly say that it has paid for itself many times over. It is the primary tool in my build toolbox that allows me to focus on what I enjoy best: developing and producing software. It is a powerful yet flexible application that achieves what it was designed for: automating any Windows-based software build process. If you either haven't automated your build process or are struggling with your current system, you owe it to yourself and your company to give Visual Build Professional a try!

References

More Stories By Kevin Alons

Kevin Alons currently serves as the president of Alons Software, Inc., primarily doing contract Visual C++ development. In the past, he has worked as a network administrator, SQL Server DBA, and has done various types of software development, including corporate VB, Delphi, C/C++, and ASP.NET. Kevin previously served as a fighter pilot in the Air National Guard (where he also functioned as "Computer Officer"). He is happily married with three children, and enjoys recreational flying, racquetball, reading, and playing trumpet at his church.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on ...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
NHK, Japan Broadcasting, will feature the upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special 'Internet of Things' and smart technology documentary that will be filmed on the expo floor between November 3 to 5, 2015, in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to the BBC in the UK and the largest in Asia with many award-winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology and will be covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Val...
NHK, Japan Broadcasting, will feature the upcoming @ThingsExpo Silicon Valley in a special 'Internet of Things' and smart technology documentary that will be filmed on the expo floor between November 3 to 5, 2015, in Santa Clara. NHK is the sole public TV network in Japan equivalent to the BBC in the UK and the largest in Asia with many award-winning science and technology programs. Japanese TV is producing a documentary about IoT and Smart technology and will be covering @ThingsExpo Silicon Val...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @CloudExpo | @ThingsExpo, June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY and October 31 - November 2, 2017, Santa Clara Convention Center, CA. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Most technology leaders, contemporary and from the hardware era, are reshaping their businesses to do software in the hope of capturing value in IoT. Although IoT is relatively new in the market, it has already gone through many promotional terms such as IoE, IoX, SDX, Edge/Fog, Mist Compute, etc. Ultimately, irrespective of the name, it is about deriving value from independent software assets participating in an ecosystem as one comprehensive solution.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi LTD., will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) will be featuring the Hitachi Content Platform (HCP) portfolio. This is the industry’s only offering that allows organizations to bring together object storage, file sync and share, cloud storage gateways, and sophisticated search an...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitachi, the leading provider the Internet of Things and Digital Transformation, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Hitachi Data Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., offers an integrated portfolio of services and solutions that enable digital transformation through enhanced data management, governance, mobility and analytics. We help globa...
Five years ago development was seen as a dead-end career, now it’s anything but – with an explosion in mobile and IoT initiatives increasing the demand for skilled engineers. But apart from having a ready supply of great coders, what constitutes true ‘DevOps Royalty’? It’ll be the ability to craft resilient architectures, supportability, security everywhere across the software lifecycle. In his keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 20th Cloud Expo, Jeffrey Scheaffer, GM and SVP, Continuous Delivery Busine...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CollabNet, a global leader in enterprise software development, release automation and DevOps solutions, will be a Bronze Sponsor of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, taking place from June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. CollabNet offers a broad range of solutions with the mission of helping modern organizations deliver quality software at speed. The company’s latest innovation, the DevOps Lifecycle Manager (DLM), supports Value S...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Super Micro Computer, Inc., a global leader in compute, storage and networking technologies, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Supermicro (NASDAQ: SMCI), the leading innovator in high-performance, high-efficiency server technology, is a premier provider of advanced server Building Block Solutions® for Data Center, Cloud Computing, Enterprise IT, Hadoop/...
Amazon has gradually rolled out parts of its IoT offerings in the last year, but these are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to optimizing their back-end AWS offerings, Amazon is laying the ground work to be a major force in IoT – especially in the connected home and office. Amazon is extending its reach by building on its dominant Cloud IoT platform, its Dash Button strategy, recently announced Replenishment Services, the Echo/Alexa voice recognition control platform, the 6-7 strategic...
@GonzalezCarmen has been ranked the Number One Influencer and @ThingsExpo has been named the Number One Brand in the “M2M 2016: Top 100 Influencers and Brands” by Analytic. Onalytica analyzed tweets over the last 6 months mentioning the keywords M2M OR “Machine to Machine.” They then identified the top 100 most influential brands and individuals leading the discussion on Twitter.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), an industry leader in automated, scalable and secure networks, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Juniper Networks challenges the status quo with products, solutions and services that transform the economics of networking. The company co-innovates with customers and partners to deliver automated, scalable and secure network...
The age of Digital Disruption is evolving into the next era – Digital Cohesion, an age in which applications securely self-assemble and deliver predictive services that continuously adapt to user behavior. Information from devices, sensors and applications around us will drive services seamlessly across mobile and fixed devices/infrastructure. This evolution is happening now in software defined services and secure networking. Four key drivers – Performance, Economics, Interoperability and Trust ...
Data is an unusual currency; it is not restricted by the same transactional limitations as money or people. In fact, the more that you leverage your data across multiple business use cases, the more valuable it becomes to the organization. And the same can be said about the organization’s analytics. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bill Schmarzo, CTO for the Big Data Practice at Dell EMC, introduced a methodology for capturing, enriching and sharing data (and analytics) across the organization...