Web Workbench 2.0 – Faster, Minification and Pro

We’ve been blown away by the interest in the Mindscape Web Workbench. It seems .NET web developers were hungry for Sass, Less and CoffeeScript inside Visual Studio as we’ve now passed 14,000 installs! We’ve had a boat load of feedback and we’ve been incorporating the smaller bug fixes into our nightly builds while in the background working on a grunty new version for you all!

Going Pro

We originally released this tool to scratch an itch. We wanted to play with some of the cool new tech that was being used in the open source camps and so the idea of the Web Workbench was born. With the massive uptake in interest of the product though we’re thinking it would be fantastic to spend even more time investing in making it the best Visual Studio Extension possible. To be able to achieve that we need to fund the development while still keeping this as inexpensive as possible and also keeping what is currently there free.

Here’s what we have done:

  • There will always be a free version and everything in version 1 continues to be free.
  • None of the existing features will require you to have a Pro version and in fact they will just continue to run better than v1!
  • Some new features will be for Pro users only by way of thanks for supporting the new developments.
  • The price of the Pro edition should be low enough that it’s a no brainer to support future development.

That last point is the key one I want to make. We’ve been swamped with great ideas, feature requests and things we could improve. By purchasing a Pro license you’re helping support the future development of the tool and as a sign of appreciation we want those that help to get some nice extra bits and pieces.

So what is new in Version 2?

V8 Engine Enabled – Free FeatureGoogle V8 JavaScript Engine Logo
Feedback on the initial version was great… until folks had BIG files. Like 1000+ line CoffeeScript files. Unfortunately the JavaScript engine we used, while very cool, wasn’t quite fast enough to keep up with such large files. We have spent the last few weeks baking in Google’s V8 JavaScript engine that ships with Google Chrome to super charge the speed when working with larger files. Early feedback on a test release was very promising:

“I am using win7 x64 – I just applied the update and I am seeing a great improvement! Woohoo!” – Dan

“10 words: “Awesome job”!” – Bagosm (aka Binary Man)

This improvement is included for everyone, including the free users.

LESS compilation – Pro Feature
Initially we did not compile LESS files into .css files as we assumed folks used the JavaScript parser. Feedback was that it would be really cool if the Web Workbench would just create the CSS files on save in the same way that we do with Sass. So this is now included.

CSS & JavaScript Minification – Pro Feature
Editing the files is great, but having another step to do minification was proving to be a hassle to users. In the pro edition we now include the option to minify both the CSS output and the JavaScript output, saving you even more time!

Thanks again for all your feedback to date and we hope this release makes the Web Workbench even more compelling for you. Thanks to everyone who helps support the ongoing development effort by upgrading to the Pro edition — we have some really great ideas for the future and you’re helping it become a reality.

You can obtain version 2.0 by doing an update from the Extension Manager in VS 2010, or by clicking here to download it free. If you wish to support further development the purchase options are available within the Web Workbench itself. And if you don’t, well, all the features you love are still there and we hope you enjoy the free V2 enhancements as well!

Used Mindscape Web Workbench... Now the most ninja coder in the company

Buy Visual Studio and MSDN online in New Zealand

Great news for folks living in New Zealand – today we launched the New Zealand Visual Studio Store at www.getvs.net.nz.

Now New Zealand developers and companies can purchase Visual Studio licenses and MSDN subscriptions completely online and in New Zealand dollars. This is a big step forward over the existing approach to purchasing Microsoft software for developers in New Zealand. You can also buy Mindscape products there in NZ dollars and we plan to offer further Microsoft and third-party products over time.

Get Visual Studio and MSDN online in New Zealand

What’s available in the store?

We’ve started the store with VS 2008 / MSDN options (1 year, 3 year subscriptions) and the entire Mindscape catalogue. We’ll be growing the lineup over time so if there is a product you’d like to get your hands on that is not listed then please let us know – we’ll help make it happen.

One thing we’ve tried to do is to make it easy for you to identify the editions of products that make the most sense to you – no more needing tensor calculus to work out what licenses you need! We’ve also tried to make pricing a little simpler by pricing everything in New Zealand dollars.

However, if you know you need a licensing option that’s not listed, or you’re not sure what products you need, just get in touch, we’re happy to help.

I’m not a New Zealander!

Just ignore this post! Our main outlet for Mindscape products continues to be our own online store: there’s no change there!

For Visual Studio and MSDN licences, you’ll need to contact a local retailer just as you do at the moment. Due to how Microsoft licensing is divided up amongst countries and regions, we’re not able to sell Microsoft products to customers outside New Zealand.

Additional services

Through the Visual Studio Store we are also providing service options to help development teams in New Zealand. The initial offerings include helping larger organisations ascertain what their licensing requirements are as well as more technical workshops on getting the most from your software infrastructure. As with everything, we’re open to feedback on any support and service options you would like to see.

Go and check it out and let us know what you think!

Tagged as News, Visual Studio

SimpleDB Managment Tools screencast

With SimpleDB Management Tools newly released we decided it would be helpful to those who are interested in it to see it in action. I have created a short 3 minute screencast providing an overview of common functions:

  • Connecting to a new SimpleDB instance inside Visual Studio 2008
  • Managing domains
  • Querying data both with Amazon query syntax and SQL-like SELECT syntax
  • Editing and deleting data
  • Working with attributes

View the screencast of getting started with SimpleDB Management Tools.

As always, we appreciate feedback on this – is there anything else you would like to see? something missing? Let us know in the comments :-)

What’s coming in 2009 from Mindscape?

Happy new year everybody, I hope you’ve all had a fantastic break and recharge over the last couple of weeks. We have returned energized and ready to bring a slew of new products and enhancements to our line up.

Amazon SimpleDB Love

SimpleDB went into public beta late last year and people have been playing with it to work out what cool things they can do with it. Of course we thought that with the rising interest in “the cloud” that adding support for SimpleDB to LightSpeed would be a nice first step. If you’re interested in using the only .NET O/R Mapper that supports SimpleDB then you can get the latest nightly which already supports SimpleDB! Grab the latest nightly from the nightly build page.

But wait, there’s more!

As part of Ivan exploring SimpleDB we rapidly found that we needed to build some things to make it easier for us to work with SimpleDB. Not out the door yet but coming very soon, we will ship a SimpleDB add-in for Visual Studio which will enable you to manage your SimpleDB domains and data in a fashion similar to SQL Management Studio, and of course to create LightSpeed models from your SimpleDB domains.

Editing data and managing SimpleDB domains inside Visual Studio

WPF goodies

Adding to our existing line up of the WPF Property Grid and WPF Elements we will be significantly enhancing our WPF product line up in in the first half of 2009.

LightSpeed 2.2

LightSpeed is continuing to evolve and it will be an exciting year for what we have planned for LightSpeed. LightSpeed 2.2 will be shipping shortly and includes several major features:

  • Stored procedure support
  • Dynamic data support
  • SimpleDB database support
  • Many more smaller enhancements

Of course all of these will be available in the nightly builds if you want to get your hands on them early – many already are!

Anything else?

We have other plans for later in the year however our best source of inspiration around new products and enhancements is you – our excellent geek audience. What would you love to see delivered in 2009?

Here’s to making 2009 a huge year!

Extending Visual Studio properties

We’ve been doing a bit of work with Visual Studio Extensibility recently through the LightSpeed designer and the VS File Explorer add-in, so I thought I’d start jotting down some of the stuff we’ve come across. We’ll start with a nice obscure one…

One of the features we’ve always had in mind for the LightSpeed designer is the ability to use your own custom templates. An example of why you might want to do this is if you want to have the property setters always call logging code. But how would you tell LightSpeed which custom template to use? Well, of course, it could be a model-level thing, but then if you’ve got multiple models in a project, you have to specify it on each one individually. More likely, you’ll want to choose the custom template at project or solution level because the reasons for needing custom code are likely to be at the project or solution level, e.g. design policy or coding standards. To support this, we would need to add a property to the Visual Studio project object, to be displayed in the Properties window when the user selected the project. But that object is defined by Visual Studio, not by us!

If you’re familiar with Windows Forms, you probably know that some controls (such as ToolTip and HelpProvider) have exactly the same problem — they want to add a pseudo-property to other controls on the form. Windows Forms solves this using an interface called IExtenderProvider. Visual Studio provides an analogous interface, also called IExtenderProvider though with slightly different methods.

So to add properties to a Visual Studio object, you implement IExtenderProvider and register your implementation using DTE.ObjectExtenders.RegisterExtenderProvider. For add-ins, do this in your connection method. For DSL Tools packages, you can do it in your package’s Initialize override. As part of registration, you have to say what kind of object you’re interested in extending (expressed as a CATID string for your old-skool COM nostalgia-inducing pleasure), so you may need to register multiple times (for example to extend both C# and Visual Basic projects). You may need to do a bit of poking around to find out what CATID to register with for any given selection, though the EnvDTE.Constants class and the VSLangProj namespace are good places to start.

When the user makes a selection, Visual Studio asks all suitably registered extender providers whether they are interested in this selection by calling IExtenderProvider.CanExtend. At this point you have access to the extendee object so you can make a more specific decision if required. For example we’d only want to display our custom property against projects that contain LightSpeed models.

If you return true from CanExtend, Visual Studio calls your GetExtender implementation. All you need to do from here is return an object with the properties you want added to the property grid. (Well, you need to do some bookkeeping as well, but this is described in the VS SDK documentation.) One thing we found is that the returned object needs to be COM-visible; otherwise, it’s just a plain old CLR object. Your returned object can use WinForms design-time attributes like CategoryAttribute, DisplayNameAttribute, DescriptionAttribute and EditorAttribute to customise the display.

Be aware that all this does is display the extension properties in the Properties window. Sometimes this is all you need: for example, the AnkhSVN add-in for Subversion displays read-only source control information using this technique. But in our case we would also need to save whatever the user enters into the “template file” extension property. How you do this depends on what you’re extending, but if you’re extending a project or solution, one simple solution is to have Visual Studio save the values as part of the project or solution file by using the Globals property of the Project or Solution interface, and setting VariablePersists to true.

As so often with Visual Studio, much of the battle is knowing what to do. You can see from the above that there’s not a lot of code to write to extend a Visual Studio object, but the documentation is ropey and the samples are often out of date. Hopefully this will provide a few pointers for the two other people on the planet who need to extend the VS properties window…

Tagged as Visual Studio


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