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Visual Basic .NET for Beginners
Rocket Powered Programming
Using Visual Studio .NET with VB
 More of this Feature
• Part 2: The Visual Studio IDE
• Part 3: The Files Behind the IDE
• Part 4: The Future of Visual Studio
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 Elsewhere on the Web
• The Free SharpDevelop IDE
• VB .NET Learning Edition
• The Visual Studio Icons Explained

To this point, I've tried hard to stick with examples and code that can be run as a Console Application so you could use a simple and free text editor to create your VB.NET programs and compile them with the free compiler in the .NET Framework SDK. It's a great way to learn .NET. But after a while, you will need to create software a lot more efficiently. And for most of us, that means Visual Studio .NET.

Keep in mind that there is at least one free option (SharpDevelop) and one less expensive option (VB.NET Learning Edition) that you can at least try out before plunking down the major bucks that the full Visual Studio system requires.

But in view of the fact that nearly all of you either are using VS.NET already ... or will use it in the future ... this last lesson is an introduction to this (really amazing) system. Also - remember that this course is for beginners, so we're going to try to stay as basic as possible. If you have experience with VS.NET already, you might already know most of what is in this lesson.

Meet VS.NET!

Start Page tabsThe first thing to know about Visual Studio .NET is that Microsoft has done the same thing for their development software that they did for their development languages: they integrated everything. We learned earlier that C# and VB.NET are close cousins because they're both really the .NET Framework under a thin skin of code syntax. VS.NET is even more integrated. So it shouldn't surprise you to discover that the VS.NET IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is the same for all of the .NET languages too. In fact, Visual Basic .NET, Visual C++ .NET, Visual C# .NET, and Visual J# .NET all use the same VS.NET IDE.

The VS.NET Start Page

Many of the "global" resources in VS.NET are on the VS.NET Start Page. The links available from the Start Page are organized into three tabs. (See the illustration.) If you have closed the Start Page and you want to display it again, Microsoft decided to put the link to the Start Page on the Help menu.

One of the first configuration tasks you should do is select a "profile" that presents a view of VS.NET that will be most helpful to you. On the My Profile tab, in addition to an overall "style" of programming (of course, we'll select the "Visual Basic" style), you can select these differences ...

  • Keyboard Schemes - to change the default keys in some actions
  • Window Layout - sets the default position of windows
  • Help Filter - to select only the Help content that applies to the type of programming you do
  • Show Help - Chooses whether to show help as an integrated part of the IDE or in its own window
  • At Startup - What VS.NET displays when you first open the IDE

Start Page linksIn addition to integrating VS.NET across their development languages and platforms, Microsoft also integrated it with Windows and the MSDN web site. So, when you select the Start Page tab at the top of your VS.NET environment, the right side is a menu of links to a whole community of Microsoft help and reference sites. (Note that these links are only available if you're connected to the Internet when you start VS.NET.)

You can even run processes like Windows Update from the VS.NET Start Page just as you can from the Start Button in Windows itself.

Next page > The Visual Studio IDE > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

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