Web Workbench 3.0 released

We’re pleased to announce the release of Web Workbench 3.0, the latest version of our Visual Studio add-in for the popular Web productivity languages Sass, Less and CoffeeScript.

Web Workbench 3.0 is primarily focused on usability improvements, in two main areas.

Improved responsiveness

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

  • If you open, modify and save a file under Web Workbench 3, it will no longer have the tag that compiles it under Web Workbench 2. So you can’t share projects between Web Workbench 2 and 3: you’ll need to upgrade all your developers at the same time.
  • If you had previously excluded a file from compilation by removing its custom tool, you’ll need to go into Web Workbench settings and re-exclude it.
  • The first time you save a file you may see source control messages about files being deleted. Don’t panic! This is a side effect of us removing the Custom Tool setting. We promise to put the file right back. Just choose ‘Keep the file in source control’ and you should be fine.

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.

What’s next?

We’re excited about Web Workbench 3.0 not only because we think the enhancements make the product even better, but because the new architecture will support many frequently requested features going forward — we’re thinking about things like configurable load paths, mashing and minifying plain JavaScript and CSS files, etc. We’re not making any promises but do keep up the feedback and we’ll see what we can do!

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!

Tagged as Web Workbench

6 Responses to “Web Workbench 3.0 released”

  • The update looks really good. I am liking the Mindscape menu – makes it very easy to access settings.

    I tried to install first from the latest nightly which was marked as 3.0 but it was actually 2.0.546.19710 but I tried the official 3.0 release and that is fine.

    Thanks for all the hard work.

  • Hi, Scott — the nightly builds should be sorted out now. Thanks for catching that so quickly!

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  • Have you implemented support for intellisense of @import-ed variables and mixins? We tend to keep colour and common variables in a single file and then import it int every SCSS file so we have a single point of change afterwards.

    The problem that we’re having is that we have to know those variable names by heart, because WebWorkbench doesn’t provide intellisense for imported data…

    When can we expect an update to support this?

  • Hi Robert,

    We’ll have that in the next nightly build (available from about 1200 GMT, see the FAQ sticky in the forums for download details). Let us know in the forums if you run into any problems.

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