Having previously played with Dreamweaver for web publishing, I was a bit apprehensive to try Visual Studio Community. I was not won over by Dreamweaver in any way — sure, it has some nice features, like live view, but overall I just found it more of a hindrance and ended up hand coding my site all in code view. So I was not overly excited to use a different WYSIWYG editor. But, as I soon found out, Visual Studio Community is way beyond that.
The first (and most important) thing you need to know about Visual Studio Community is it’s free! Yep. Just follow this link and boom! You’ve got awesome free software! The second thing you need to know about Visual Studio is it’s massive! It’s not just a web publishing tool. It’s a complete IDE, able to handle anything from web to apps to programs and games. The third thing you need to know about it is you’re going to need a tutorial — especially if you’re like me and are just getting your feet wet. When I first launched it, I had no idea where to even start, so I did what any n00b program user does — File > New > Web Site. Seemed easy enough — until the pop-up window asking you to select from a template. There were so many options — I just wanted to make a website! What’s the difference between an empty web site and a web forms site? And why is it saying ASP.NET? I thought this was going to be HTML? What the heck is going on!? Needless to say, I was a bit overwhelmed. Luckily, there are a ton of tutorials available to help you out, so do some Googling, browse YouTube, or even check out Microsoft’s Virtual Academy (although I will warn you, these guys like to talk. A lot.) One thing that comes in handy with regards to the tutorials is they help you get a good feel for the work space. Once you understand how to create a new web page and where everything is in Visual Studio, writing the mark-up flows just as easily as using Notepad++. The program helps you out by giving you a selection of tags when you open your first angle brace and start typing. It supports common name colors and gives you a color selector just like Dreamweaver. It doesn’t have a live view, but it allows you to set and change your browser preference so you can view your site and see exactly how it will look in different browsers as you develop it. It also has a really cool drag and drop feature for style sheets, audio, video, and images that creates the mark-up for you — all you have to do is drag in the media you want to use.
Overall, I enjoyed my experience with Visual Studio Community much better than with Dreamweaver. And just knowing everything you can develop with it is making my fingers itch, wanting to code. I have had an idea for an app floating around in the back of my head. Maybe it’s time to dig deeper and see what else I can do with this incredible tool.