Visual Studio Setup and Deployment “the missing step”?

Visual Studio 2012 Logo

Visual Studio, over the last years, is trying to give you the full ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) experience. Architecting, designing, prototyping, development, testing and deployment. With Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate and Team Foundation Service/Server it is all there … or is it?

Well yes -and- no. If you used to deploy your own projects using the Visual Studio Setup and Deployment templates you may have noticed that it just went away and, suggested to be, replaced by a third party tool writer Flexera Software with their InstallShield LE (note: not the full product).

Setup and Deployment Project – EOL (End Of Life)

What happened was that Microsoft with Visual Studio 2012 removed support for their Setup and Deployment Project templates (.vdproj). This didn’t happen over night and sure this is not something new. It was announced looooong ago with the release of Visual Studio 2010 in a tiny note here:

Caution

Future versions of Visual Studio will not include the Visual Studio Installer project templates. To preserve existing customer investments in Visual Studio Installer projects, Microsoft will continue to support the Visual Studio Installer projects that shipped with Visual Studio 2010 per the product life-cycle strategy. For more information, see Expanded Microsoft Support Lifecycle Policy for Business & Development Products.

Obviously no one ever noticed this announcement (I didn’t either) except a few exceptions. Most people just found out as they bought their brand new Visual Studio 2012 box and started converting their projects that they had been working for several years happily using Visual Studio 2010 or earlier VS versions. After converting their projects it appeared that it was no longer possible to build the Setup (.msi) output and developers started to wonder what went wrong and why.

User Voice

This is where the UserVoice site kicks in. The UserVoice site is a medium where developers can vent their ideas and post suggestions on what to improve or add to Visual Studio vNext. Really quickly the number one request (to restore color) but soon after that the number two option became the request to “Bring back the basic setup and deployment project type Visual Studio Installer”.

Users continued to add feedback explaining that the proposed alternative InstallShield LE edition was not a valid option (no x64 support, no services, no customizations, no VSTO support etc. etc.) and most and for all existing projects were breaking after moving to Visual Studio 2012 making it a -real- showstopper. From the comments you can read that users were not amused and even became somewhat aggressive to Microsoft on this.

Declined

It was quite for a long time, that is … comments were still added at a high rate but Microsoft did not respond. Until there was June 21st. Tony Goodhew, PM at the Visual Studio team, declined the request with a quick note that it was not going to happen and InstallShield LE should be the road to go, according to the Microsoft team. The voting option was closed, the counter stopped and the topic was moved out of sight. Discussion closed. Ehh … was it?

Well, shutting down their only option to provide feedback triggered something for many people to respond even more aggressive on the subject and the rate of comments now went even higher than before closing it down the option to vote. Everything went from bad to worse. I’ve met Tony Goodhew a couple of times in the previous years and I just can say that he does not deserve the things they throw at him in the comments. Sure, the decision to remove the templates is, mildly put, questionable but still no reason to get aggressive.

Decline Updated.

As things tended to escalate (or already did) it was time to add some extra information to the ‘declined’ mark:

UPDATE:
We have more information on the next version of InstallShield Limited Edition that will be included in Visual Studio 2013.

What’s new in Visual Studio 2013 and InstallShield Limited Edition

Obviously, while you all continued to post your angry comments Microsoft tried to solve the issue that bothered all of you and worked with Flexera to design a version that added all the missing options you had in your .vdproj templates:

    • Installing x64 applications and services
    • Installing Windows Services
    • Distributing the VSTO runtime
    • Using Relative Paths within project files
    • Improvements when migrating installation projects and custom actions to InstallShield Limited Edition

This should solve the pain you are experiencing and if you still have problems with migrating go to Visual Studio Connect and explain there what goes wrong to give Microsoft an option to get it fixed.

The improvements are targeting Visual Studio 2013 but also existing Visual Studio 2012 customers will get the updated version.

Alternatives

Is InstallShield (LE) the only option? No, besides sticking to Visual Studio 2010, there is the option to buy the full product of InstallShield or look at a number of alternatives:

Windows Installer XML (WiX) toolset

The Windows Installer XML (WiX) is a toolset that builds Windows installation packages from XML source code. The toolset supports a command line environment that developers may integrate into their build processes to build MSI and MSM setup packages.

VDProj to WiX Converter

VDProj to WiX Converter is a Visual Studio extension that generates WiX-based setup projects from your existing Visual Studio setup projects (aka vdproj). It supports all Visual Studio versions starting from VS 2005 and all vdproj features including variables, msm and msi packages, custom actions, built-in dialogs, etc.

There are more alternatives, if you think yours should be listed as well, let me know and I‘ll add it for you.

Concluding

Personally I think Visual Studio should contain an installer product, out of the box. Not a third party tool or a third party tool to convert existing installer products. Microsoft, at this time however, decided not to go that route and somehow partnered with Flexera to cover that part.

I haven’t had the time yet to explore the InstallShield LE Beta Release in detail nor did I check to migrate my solutions to 2012 with this beta, but if it contains what is promised it should be sufficient.

Despite my preference to have it all in one box. Until I checked it out myself I’m on neutral ground and really hoping this will fix the issue that my Visual Studio 2010 projects could not be deployed anymore after moving to Visual Studio 2012.

What did annoy me though was that in order to access the InstallShield LE Beta Flexera requires you to register. Even if you want to provide feedback on the product. In my opinion you shouldn’t be required to add all your personal information to get to the beta. Maybe someone who reads this has the authority to change this.

Let me know if you found issues building new solutions or migrating your existing VS 2010 projects to VS2012/13 using the InstallShield LE Beta Release!

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Office templates not available in VS2012 with ‘converted’ project.

Some time ago I hit a somewhat strange issue where I opened one of our existing projects targeting Office 2010, .NET 4 Client in Visual Studio 2010 and moved this project forward to Visual Studio 2012. After the migration I did not see the Office templates in the Add New Item dialog in Visual Studio 2012.

When adding a ‘new item’ to the project it did not display the Office options to insert a Ribbon for instance:

OfficeTemplatesMissing1

When you create a -new- project, the Office Templates show up without issues:

OfficeTemplatesMissing2

What we see here is a minor issue in the migration code in Visual Studio 2012 and is relatively easy to solve by manually editing the .csproj project file.

What you need to do here to fix this minor issue is to go and look for the entry in the project file called AddItemTemplatesGuid. The migration code changed the AddItemTemplatesGuid property from

AddItemTemplatesGuid="{51063C3A-E220-4D12-8922-BDA915ACD783}”
TO
AddItemTemplatesGuid="{147FB6A7-F239-4523-AE65-B6A4E49B361F}”

Changing it back to the original value makes the Add Item dialog start showing Office category correctly again. So the right Guid should be: "{51063C3A-E220-4D12-8922-BDA915ACD783}”

You can easily check this by creating a small new AddIn project, open the project .csproj file in your editor and search for the AddItemTemplates Guid again. You will see that it is the “{51….” one as specified above. Even better, if you go back into your source control software (TFS or other source control option) environment and look at the value in your original file before migration.

So if you also encounter the fact that you don’t get the Office Templates when adding a New Item in your Office project, dive right in to your .csproj file and change the AddItemTemplatesGuid back to its original value the one that was there before migrating your code.

Visual Studio 2012 Cookbook

One book I’ve been reading lately was “Visual Studio 2012 Cookbook” available from the Packt Library written by Richard Banks also Microsoft Visual Studio ALM MVP.

Visual Studio 2012 in itself is big enough to publish a whole range of books on each of the project types it supports and also the IDE has so many features that could be covered in a book. This book did not do that, it especially relates to the new areas in Visual Studio 2012.

Despite the fact that I have been working with Visual Studio 2012, provided early feedback and work with the product on a daily base the book allowed me to find several gems in the product that I had not seen or did not use before.

The book covers a lot of new items in areas such as Windows 8 Store Applications, Web Development, .NET 4.5, Debugging, Async, C++ (yes, C++ is back, blow the dust of your old book sets!) and also Team Foundation Server 2012.

As I said earlier, each areas covered in the book could be, and I’m sure in fact will be covered by individual books and dive deep in the subject matter but that is not the goal for this book. Visual Studio 2012 Cookbook provides a quick overview of ‘What is new’ to not only the novice user but also more experienced users can benefit from discovering all these new features and enhancements as are provided by version 2012.

So if you are looking for a book that quickly runs you down with an overview of the new things in Visual Studio 2012 and Team Foundation Server 2012 this book could be a big help to you. Just read it from cover to cover, or select the items you need, learn about the updates and deep dive from there as you now know where to look for it.

Here is the official link to the book with the complete Table of Contents, the sample chapter 6 “Asynchrony in .NET” and references to where you can buy it:

http://www.packtpub.com/visual-studio-2012-cookbook

If you also read it let me know what -you- thought of the it, what you liked and what you would like to see improved. The best way to learn is by working and discussing it with others!

Visual Studio 2012 Update 1 Now Available!

VisualStudio2012Logo

Earlier the Visual Studio team in Redmond announced that as of Visual Studio 2012 their update frequency would go up and planned to release an update with bug fixes but also with new features. By doing so the development team is able to respond in a more dynamic manner to changes in direction and respond to feedback on a shorter notice.

This is how they expressed it:

“Microsoft is planning to update Visual Studio 2012 periodically to provide new and improved tools and capabilities. These improvements will be aligned with the latest software development trends so that you will always have access to the best solutions for building modern apps. The updates will also contain bug fixes and other enhancements.”

Today their first update was released to the Web and you can install it today from the download page (see “Visual Studio 2012 Update 1” under the “Additional software” section.

You can read more about it on Somasegar’s blog:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/somasegar/archive/2012/11/26/visual-studio-2012-update-1-now-available.aspx

or at The Visual Studio Blog:

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/visualstudio/archive/2012/11/26/visual-studio-2012-update-1-is-here.aspx

Download it here:

http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/eng/downloads#d-visual-studio-2012-update

Have Fun!

Visual Studio Productivity Power Tools

Remember Visual Studio 2010? Visual Studio 2010 had a couple of Power Tools available that provided you some productivity options that made life within Visual Studio just a little bit better. Some of the tools ended up in the next version (2012) such as the Find option, Solution Navigator and the References Dialog.

With Visual Studio we lost some of the options available in the 2010 version. Personally I really liked the Enhanced Scrollbar feature showin a little outline of your source document where you immediately could identify where issues are located in the code.

But now it’s back! Microsoft deployed a Visual Studio 2012 (November) edition to the Visual Studio Gallery:

http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/3a96a4dc-ba9c-4589-92c5-640e07332afd

Visual Studio 2012 (November) edition features:

New additions for Visual Studio 2012

  • Quick Tasks
  • Power Commands
  • Color Printing

In Addition to

  • Enhanced Scrollbar
  • Middle-Click Scrolling
  • Organize Imports for Visual Basic
  • Custom Document Well
  • Tools Options Support
  • Auto Brace Completion
  • HTML Copy
  • Fix Mixed Tabs
  • Ctrl + Click Go To Definition
  • Align Assignments
  • Move Line Up/Down Commands
  • Column Guides
  • Colorized Parameter Help

Go to the Visual Studio Gallery (Tools/Extensions and Updates and search Online for “Productivity Power Tools”) and try it.

For more information on each of the features and a full description go to the Visual Studio Gallery page and read all about it:

http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/3a96a4dc-ba9c-4589-92c5-640e07332afd

Do you know more great tools our readers should know about? Leave a comment!

Have fun!

Build 2012

Build2012

Last year I attended Build 2011. It was highly secretive and more or less Apple-ified kind of conference held by Microsoft however this time. No one knew what to expect other than that Microsoft planned to make a big shift in their plans for the upcoming years. As I blogged about it last time, it seemed that Microsoft decided to align all products with the same type of User Interface and able to run on most devices from phones to data servers.

One of the big announcements was that Windows would be able to run on ARM processor based devices and would be prepared as touch enabled Operating System.

Tomorrow, Eight-Eight-Eight (8-8-8, August 8th at 8AM) it will happen again. Microsoft is opening their doors this time on Microsoft Campus in Redmond, not in a fancy location with Disneyland or Vegas setting but ‘just’ at Microsoft’s home base.

Again, no-one knows what to expect and what to arrange for traveling and lodging but I’m pretty sure it will provide a lot of interesting information and options to build your network for the next year or so. Build 2011 provided insights in completely new areas and was definitely worth attending. In general I am an autodidact, the reason often is that I am learning the things that I ‘predict’ to be big in the -next- couple of years and a lot of it is simply not available soon enough. Living on the bleeding edge. Events like Build are different, mainly because the speakers on the conference -are the developers- working on the new technologies. Not some consulting guys but the ones who designed it.

So, it won’t take more that 24 hours until we know what it’s all about. Or maybe not … maybe you only know how to register and where to stay. That was what happened last year. No information at all.

For me I’ll try to register and see if I can get a ticket to learn what to focus on the next couple of years. Maybe my boss is willing to sponsor me, maybe not -in that case I’ll break my piggybank and will it be my early Christmas vacation- but the ones who get in will be the ones with the Golden ticket ….

Let me know, are you trying to get registered, to get the Golden Ticket …?

To be continued …

A world with new software and a landing

Visual Studio 2012 Logo

Last year

… has been a rollercoaster ride of new beta opportunities in a wide variety of software products. Not one product but the complete line, ecosystem if you like, was going through a huge make-over. Within Microsoft there was finally the decision to align all products and make sure each product is complementing the other.

This was something I personally favored for a long time. Instead of having all these products doing their own thing let’s have all the tools and applications in one big bowl and make sure everything looks similar and one product ads to the other. One and One is Three!

I was lucky to be able to beta test a lot of the software that is about to get released soon. This, for me is an important part of my work and just fun to do as a hobby. The software wasn’t publicly available, but I was most certainly not the only one outside Microsoft working with it. Thousands of others with me provided input and recommendations that we thought were important to implement. Obviously to say that not all of our recommendations will make it into the product but I’m sure that a large part of the feedback was adopted making the products even better.

While working on the beta software, next to our daily lives and coping with professional issues at work along with doing your stuff at home not all the things we worked on could be discussed in public was not ready to be blogged about. So that created somewhat of a gap in my blog history.

Let’s see if we can change that. A lot of exciting things is about to happen over the next few weeks and months and I’m sure that with your holiday season at the end of the year, only a few months from now, you just don’t know where to start acquiring all the new stuff and get your wannahaves.

Some history

Years ago, and I -mean- yeeeeeaaaars ago, there was this vision of one solution on multiple screens. You would be able to run the things you needed to run on all devices. Going from mobile (Windows Mobile Phones), palmtop (remember the ‘small’ iPaq devices), laptop, desktop to server machines.

Reality was however that it never was a real tight fit. Windows Mobile Phones were just clumsy and hard to handle synchronizing using a wire. Same thing with the palmtops, internally running an embedded OS lacking the wireless connection (you could go wireless but that needed a sleeve to put around the device that was even bigger than the device itself).

The laptop and the desktop integration was a bit better, it ran the same operating system but servers, (How many server types can you name, from Windows Home Server to Data Center?) was, again, another complete different story. And the cloud was not even there yet!

Improvement was needed

As you can see, if you overlook all these things, it was quite a mess. Sure the tools if you each view them in their own context often were great tools. From the start they accomplished a huge boost in productivity. Let’s be real. A lot of’em I still use every day for my personal use, professional life or just as a hobby and I love working with it.

It is however time to change. All products have been re-evaluated, been looked at, and it was decided how the product will fit in scope of all the other products. Are there duplicates? Is there something missing?

The new world of software

With all of that, a complete range of products were developed that covered all devices. Some products are new others are existing but had a complete makeover. Going from small devices (phones) to handhelds (tablets), traveller machines (ultrabook), mobile workstations (notebooks), desktops, servers and all the way to the cloud.

All devices will get the same Windows 8 style UI interface and each tailored to the way it will fit on the device. Integration will take place between your mobile devices, your desktop workspace and The Cloud. A lot of work has been put into the scenario to access all your data wherever and whenever you need.

Some of it is already in a position ready for release other parts are about to be released to manufacturer and another set of parts will be on the release schedule very soon.

If you haven’t already done so, go over to the locations I added below and start exploring some of it. Go slow, there is lots and lots of it where that came from and a lot to learn!

Curiosity

And what better way to conclude this blog item for today with the other great event that just happened. Today the Curiosity Rover  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curiosity_rover) landed on Mars to explore the things we don’t know. Exciting time to live in and looking forward to see what Curiosity discovers …

http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/

The new Software

Windows 8 Release Preview

http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows-8/release-preview

Office 2013 and Office365 Customer Preview

http://www.microsoft.com/office/preview/en

Visual Studio 2012 Release Candidate

http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/11/en-us

 

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