Web Workbench 3.0 is primarily focused on usability improvements, in two main areas.
Sass and Less files can get big. Really big. One customer sent us a Sass file to reproduce a performance issue and it was four and a half thousand lines long. We reeled, we really did. But even on more modest files, compilation can take long enough to interrupt your smooth flow.
We’ve rearchitected Web Workbench 3.0 to use a background compilation model, so when you save a Web Workbench file, you’ll be able to continue working in Visual Studio without waiting for the compilation to complete.
The new compilation model also means you can compile files in Web Sites as well as normal Web application projects. Because of the limitations of Web sites, this isn’t quite as seamless as Web applications, but for those of you who love Sass, Less and CoffeeScript but are stuck with a Web Site-based codebase, we hope it will bridge the gap! (Unfortunately our templates still don’t show up in the Web Site Add Item dialog. Still digging away on that one!)
Better compilation control
Some customers prefer to use external compilers or third-party minifiers. Others want to tweak the compiler options, for example to apply the CoffeeScript ‘bare’ option. In Web Workbench 2 you could do this to some extent by deleting the custom tool and by putting special directives in your file. In Web Workbench 3 we’ve pulled this out into a project-level Web Workbench Settings dialog where you can turn compilation and minification on and off centrally for your files. See the Mindscape > Web Workbench Settings menu item. We’ve also provided limited control over compilation options, and we’ll be beefing this up over time — drop us a line in the forum to let us know what’s a priority for you!
We’ve also made compilation smarter about dependencies. If you have a file A which imports file B, and you change and save file B, we’ll recompile file A as well.
The new architecture and features do have some compatibility implications.
First, in order to switch over to the background compiler and configurable compilation, we have to remove the Visual Studio custom tool settings that were used in Web Workbench 2. This has three implications
We apologise if this causes any inconvenience but we hope you find the improved responsiveness, compilation control and dependency handling are worth it!
Second, if you’re using compiler directives in the files, these take precedence over the Web Workbench Settings dialog. The options in the settings dialog won’t take effect as long as you have a compiler directive in your file.
Faster, safer support turnaround
In order to make it easier to deliver features like this, we’re going to be making nightly builds of Web Workbench available through the Mindscape Web site. This means that customers who are keen to try out new features can get those features more quickly, while we don’t have to push an update to the Visual Studio Gallery and risk impacting other users if we’ve shipped a bug. We’ll still push updates to the Visual Studio Gallery regularly, so that all users will get new features and bug fixes, but we’ll use the nightly builds to provide more rapid support to those who need or want it.
Where can I get it?
If you’ve already got Web Workbench, just jump into Visual Studio Extension Manager and the latest version will appear on the Updates tab (eventually!). Otherwise, you can get it from the Visual Studio Gallery or by searching in the Extension Manager Online Gallery tab. Or learn more on the Web Workbench product page. Happy coding!