Since the launch of Visual Studio 11 Beta back in February, many of us decided to try this new version of the famous Microsoft IDE. Since then it has received many reviews, most of them focusing on usability and color loss of its interface compared to the previous version, Visual Studio 2010.
With this new version of VS11, the Release Candidate (RC), it seems they have heard the critics and color came back. As we can see in the image below comparing the two versions of the new Visual Studio, we can see some changes in the RC over the Beta, which resemble more closely the usability achieved in VS2010, from my point of view the best IDE that Microsoft has developed so far.
We are told, the main part of change requests focused on three aspects:
- Give the IDE more visual «energy» and contrast
- Achieve a greater balance in the Metro style
- Obtains greater clarity and differentiation in buttons through color
Let’s look more closely at each of these improvements in the new version of Visual Studio 11.
The gray colors dominating the Beta were way too dark and made the visualization of the various buttons or text menus much more difficult. In the RC grays have been clarified, as seen in the pictures.
A second change has been made to add color to the status bar. Now it’s pretended to give more information using color when making any state change to the IDE. Needless to say, the set of colors used is highly Metro style.
The third change, related to contrast enhancement, has been to add colors to highlight different areas of the IDE, such as in the headers of the windows and tabs (tabs).
Controlling the Metro style
One of the most frequently requests made about this point was to remove the case in all menus and window titles. This change is reflected in the RC having removed the uppercase letters for window titles, «auto-hidden» tabs and members of groups of tabs.
In the new version, the only place where will remain the uppercase letters is in the main menu. It also has been created a custom main bar, which gives greater use of all the available space and is more in sync with the new Metro style.
The majority of the changes that have been made in Visual Studio 11 have been designed to maximize the area dedicated to the visualization of code regarding Visual Studio 2010. The number of default toolbars have been reduced and some icons have been combined to achieve this extra space, which gives about 3 lines extra of code visible.
A final change requested on the Metro style has been to try scroll bars and other interface elements to have a greater appearance and sync with the new style that is driving Microsoft in all its products.
Usability of Icons
This point focused a lot of complaints, especially motivated because discoloring in different action icons in the toolbars reduced drastically the productivity. An action that previously could be performed at a glance without stopping to look carefully if the button was pressed right, thanks to the visual support they gave color, was lost in the new version and was needed to stop and look if the button was pressed the correct, since a wrong button could be clicked instead of the one we wanted to click.
The first place we can see that color is back in the RC is on the buttons of the most common actions performed on the IDE (create/new, add/remove, start/stop, search, undo/redo, etc.).
A second place where the color has came back is the Solution Explorer. As we are told, this is a very important place where they had to pay attention to get a greater usability as it is one of the places where we spend more time in Visual Studio (apart from the text editor, obviously). The changes here have focused on giving color to the icons to distinguish more clearly each file type.
The third place where color is back is in the use of IntelliSense, for greater familiarity and differentiation. This achieves also productivity improvements as less time is spent to find the code you want to add.
One complaint that many people showed about the Beta was that many icons appear with blurred edges. In this new version have been profiled more and greys have been adjusted to highlight them on the background and not to result complicated at all at the moment of performing the desired action, eliminating the halo effect that occurred with previous icons.
By now, these are all changes that have been introduced in the new version of Visual Studio 11, although new ones may appear in the final version. From my point of view they are very important as they greatly enhance the user experience compared to Beta.
Thankfully, Microsoft has listened to all our requests and reviews and has emphasized in improving even more one of its most important products and best recognized for developers.