Welcome!

Microsoft Cloud Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Mihai Corbuleac, Pat Romanski, David Bermingham

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
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data...
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
SYS-CON Events announced today TechTarget has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TechTarget is the Web’s leading destination for serious technology buyers researching and making enterprise technology decisions. Its extensive global networ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MangoApps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. MangoApps provides modern company intranets and team collaboration software, allowing workers to stay connected and productive from anywhere in the world and from any device. For more information, please visit https://www.mangoapps.com/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management...
The essence of data analysis involves setting up data pipelines that consist of several operations that are chained together – starting from data collection, data quality checks, data integration, data analysis and data visualization (including the setting up of interaction paths in that visualization). In our opinion, the challenges stem from the technology diversity at each stage of the data pipeline as well as the lack of process around the analysis.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, Inc., the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Alert Logic, Inc., provides Security-as-a-Service for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid infrastructures, delivering deep security insight and continuous protection for customers at a lower cost than traditional security solutions. Ful...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects). Bruce Swann has more than 15 years of experience working with digital marketing disciplines like web analytics, social med...
Designing IoT applications is complex, but deploying them in a scalable fashion is even more complex. A scalable, API first IaaS cloud is a good start, but in order to understand the various components specific to deploying IoT applications, one needs to understand the architecture of these applications and figure out how to scale these components independently. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nara Rajagopalan is CEO of Accelerite, will discuss the fundamental architecture of IoT applications, ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Tintri Inc., a leading producer of VM-aware storage (VAS) for virtualization and cloud environments, will exhibit at the 18th International CloudExpo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ContentMX, the marketing technology and services company with a singular mission to increase engagement and drive more conversations for enterprise, channel and SMB technology marketers, has been named “Sponsor & Exhibitor Lounge Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. “CloudExpo is a great opportunity to start a conversation with new prospects, but what happens after the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that EastBanc Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. EastBanc Technologies has been working at the frontier of technology since 1999. Today, the firm provides full-lifecycle software development delivering flexible technology solutions that seamlessly integrate with existing systems – whether on premise or cloud. EastBanc Technologies partners with p...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, will discuss the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to fo...
The IoT is changing the way enterprises conduct business. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Eric Hoffman, Vice President at EastBanc Technologies, discuss how businesses can gain an edge over competitors by empowering consumers to take control through IoT. We'll cite examples such as a Washington, D.C.-based sports club that leveraged IoT and the cloud to develop a comprehensive booking system. He'll also highlight how IoT can revitalize and restore outdated business models, making them profitable...
SYS-CON Events announced today the How to Create Angular 2 Clients for the Cloud Workshop, being held June 7, 2016, in conjunction with 18th Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Angular 2 is a complete re-write of the popular framework AngularJS. Programming in Angular 2 is greatly simplified. Now it’s a component-based well-performing framework. The immersive one-day workshop led by Yakov Fain, a Java Champion and a co-founder of the IT consultancy Farata Systems and...
What a difference a year makes. Organizations aren’t just talking about IoT possibilities, it is now baked into their core business strategy. With IoT, billions of devices generating data from different companies on different networks around the globe need to interact. From efficiency to better customer insights to completely new business models, IoT will turn traditional business models upside down. In the new customer-centric age, the key to success is delivering critical services and apps wit...
Join us at Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo 2016 – June 7-9 at the Javits Center in New York City and November 1-3 at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – and deliver your unique message in a way that is striking and unforgettable by taking advantage of SYS-CON's unmatched high-impact, result-driven event / media packages.
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, will provide an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC Software has been named "Siver Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2015 at the Javits Center in New York, New York. BMC is a global leader in innovative software solutions that help businesses transform into digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive advantage. BMC Digital Enterprise Management is a set of innovative IT solutions designed to make digital business fast, seamless, and optimized from mainframe to mo...