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Visual Studio 2012 Update 1 arrives, first of many

Rapid releases planned to fix bugs, add features

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Microsoft has released the first major update to Visual Studio 2012, in what company reps say is only the first in "a regular cadence" of planned improvements to its flagship developer tool suite.

Redmond launched VS2012 just over two months ago, but according to S. Somasegar, corporate veep of Microsoft's Developer Division, coders should expect regular updates at shorter intervals from now on.

"Importantly, this isn't just about bug fixes, though it contains quite a few of those," Somasegar wrote in a blog post on Monday. "This update also delivers a wealth of new functionality into Visual Studio 2012."

Predictably, several of those new features are designed to aid developers who want to build Windows Store apps for Windows 8's new Start Screen. VS2012 Update 1 adds debugging support for mixed-mode managed/native apps and for ARM-based apps, as well as improved diagnostics and testing support for Windows Store apps.

The update also adds static code analysis for Windows 8 Phone apps, to help developers make the most of handset resources and extend battery life.

Not everything in the update is about Microsoft's latest platforms though. It also enables C++ developers to target Windows XP from within VS2012, which means they can now use a single tool chain to build applications for a broader range of systems. (Visual Studio 2012 itself requires Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1, or Windows Server 2012 to run.)

In addition to code-authoring tools, VS2012 Update 1 also includes a number of new features that aid code testing. In particular, it introduces load, performance, and UI testing tools for SharePoint applications, but it also includes a number of improved testing tools for other types of projects, including HTML and ASP.Net apps.

Finally, the update gives developers new tools for managing agile development processes. Building on the task board and Scrum support that was included when VS2012 shipped, the update adds tools for creating Kanban boards and flow diagrams. It also overhauls the web-based interface to Team Foundation Server with an improved UI.

The update is available now as a free download for all versions of Visual Studio 2012, via a web installer. A helpful blog post from Microsoft's Rob Caron also explains how to create a standalone installer for updating systems offline.

As for when the next update for Visual Studio 2012 will arrive, Somasegar gave no hint, saying only "stay tuned." If Microsoft really is planning to release updates at a regular pace, though, we may see another one as early as February. ®

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