C++ devs take a Step Back, let the UWP guy play with Visual Studio

Preview 2 of 15.9 promises speed, stability and new APIs

Microsoft has served up a second preview of the next version of its Visual Studio 2017 product with new toys for UWP and C++ devs.

Version 15.9 of Visual Studio inched a little closer to release last night as Microsoft released Preview 2 to developers brave enough to take the early code out for a spin. The release also hinted at how close the team at Redmond is to releasing Windows 10 with the latest SDK (build 17754) being included.

Will the UWP developer in the room please stand up

Universal Windows Platform (UWP) devs received a bundle of treats in the new release. Microsoft promised that the Build and Deploy function should be faster, although did not give too much in the way of detail on what the tweaks actually are. In our testing we noticed little difference between the last version and this so will have to take it on advisement.

What we did appreciate was a noticeable improvement in the XAML designer's stability. When targeting Windows 10 build 16299 (the Fall Creators Update) or later, Microsoft states that the designer should crash less often, particularly when using controls that throw catchable exceptions. Rather than simply falling over, the designer will now replace the offending control with a placeholder until the developer deals with the problem.

Developers brave enough to run an Insider build as well as the preview Visual Studio will also be rewarded with access to the new APIs coming in the next version of Windows 10 and the ability to package their projects in the newfangled .MSIX format, within the standard Visual Studio package creation workflow. Microsoft open-sourced MSIX at the last Windows Developer Day in March, and the addition of the packager is significant, since it applies to all Win32, WPF, Windows Form and UWP applications.

Skipping backwards with C++

C++ developers gained access to the handy IntelliTrace feature that other, less hardcore, Visual Studio developers have enjoyed for a while in the Enterprise edition of Visual Studio. Namely, the Step Back functionality.

Once enabled, the function creates snapshots of the complete state of the application as the developer steps through code. To step back a line would previously have required a C++ developer targeting Windows to restart the app. From Preview 2 of Visual Studio 15.9, devs can now simply jump back to a snapshot.

In practice, we found the process a little hit and miss, with snapshots not always being created as we stepped through during debugging by hitting F10. For its part, Microsoft warns that stepping through code too fast might stop the application state being captured, so perhaps keep those fingers in check, OK? ®

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