Visual Assist support for Visual Studio 2022 Previews!

Visual Assist support for Visual Studio 2022 Previews!

There’s a lot of interest in the developer community about the new version of Visual Studio, which is in preview currently. This week we released Visual Assist 2021.3 (build 2420), and Visual Assist includes beta support for the Visual Studio 2022 Previews.

VAssistX menu open in the Visual Studio 2022 Extensions menu
Visual Assist 2021.3 running inside Visual Studio 2022 Preview 3

Visual Studio Preview

Visual Studio (VS) 2022’s main change—and it’s a significant one—is that it will become a 64-bit process. Since Visual Assist (VA or VAX) runs as a plugin, in-process, we needed to build a 64-bit version of our plugin DLL. Those who have upgraded 32-bit code to 64-bit code before know that, even in well-architected code, it takes some work even just to review code to ensure it is correct. In addition, the new version adds and modifies a number of APIs we rely on to interact with the IDE. Adapting to those was the most significant change for us.

We’ve tested fully against VS 2022 Preview 2, and in fact the installer says ‘Preview 2’. There are some known regressions:

  • VA Quick Info not appearing when triggered by keyboard in VS 2022 [case: 146063]
  • Source Links example plugin does not load in VS 2022 [case: 146012]
  • Changing from Cascadia to another font for italicized system symbols requires restart in VS 2022 [case: 145979]
  • plus a few others.

Visual Studio 2022 Preview 3 was released two days ago—overlapping timing with our release—and our regression tests are showing some failures. Currently we believe those are because of changed behaviour in a Visual Studio API which we use when verifying in-IDE behaviour (ie not an issue in VAX itself), but it is always possible that once that is resolved further test failures will need to be resolved. However, we believe the current build is well worth trying out on Preview 3 as well.

Performance

Many of our customers strain the Visual Studio IDE, with many plugins and SDKs installed. Both to help them, and because we believe it’s part of being a good member of the Visual Studio ecosystem where our plugin sits alongside others, last November we greatly reduced the in-process memory usage largely through (spoiler: the full blog is worth reading) use of memory-mapped files.

Now that Visual Studio 2022 is a 64-bit process, that work is not necessary for VS2022. For older versions of Visual Studio, those techniques are still used, so if you’re using VS 2019 or even VS 2005 with Visual Assist 2021.3, you’ll still benefit from the lighter memory impact within the IDE.

When we did that work, we also focused on performance to ensure that the changes to memory access had either zero or a positive impact. The blog notes that for heavy usage, we had equal performance; for small projects, VAX actually was a bit faster. Despite no longer needing the memory usage code we added, VS 2022 benefits from that performance work as well, plus some more work we’ve done while adding support. Since it’s a beta build, and Visual Studio itself is in preview, we do not have hard numbers. But a rough guideline is that an operation like Find References that previously may have taken (say) two minutes will now take about one minute twenty seconds, or about two thirds the time.

Overall

It’s historically been very important to us to have swift support for new versions of Visual Studio, and this work is our foundation for quickly officially supporting Visual Studio 2022 when it is officially released. While the main focus of this release was VS 2022 support, there are other changes as well in 2021.3, which we’ll document in the What’s New. We know we have many customers using older versions of Visual Studio, and as well as those improvements today you can look forward to further improvements focusing on other, non-VS areas as we switch back to a more normal focus in our next release.

We’re really happy to be able to ship beta support for the Visual Studio 2022 previews, and providing an even faster Visual Assist is a happy bonus. We’ll continue to work and look forward to shipping full support when Visual Studio publishes its final release.

Visual Assist 2021.3 is available for download on our website now, and will be on the Visual Studio Marketplace in a few days. Enjoy!