Visit Us at the Build 2016 conference in San Francisco

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If you will attend Build 2016 in San Francisco this week, be sure to stop by our booth and say hello. Whole Tomato will demonstrate Visual Assist at the conference in an area dedicated to Visual Studio partners. We will have technical people on hand to answer questions about Visual Assist, walk through specific features, and listen to your wish lists. We will have a few giveaways as well.

Compatibility of Visual Assist with Releases of an IDE

A few days ago, Microsoft announced the release candidate (RC) of Visual Studio 2015 Update 2. If you are a user of Visual Assist in this newest Microsoft IDE, any build of Visual Assist beginning with 2073 should work for you. I write “should” because builds of Visual Assist made before the RC, for obvious reasons, have not been tested against the RC. (We can’t test what we don’t have.)

Builds of Visual Assist usually install to a particular IDE if you have any flavor of it: beta, RC, or RTM. Only when we announce full support for a flavor are you assured we have successfully run our full suite of tests against it. And, only then should you expect complete compatibility between Visual Assist and your IDE.

Visual Assist install dialog

As for timing, we don’t synchronize our builds and those of Microsoft. But because we issue six or seven builds of Visual Assist a year, one is destined to ship not long after every Microsoft release. That said, the next build we ship may or may not fully support the Microsoft release. Before tackling full support, we consider the readiness of our next build at the time of Microsoft announcement, the scope of delay to provide full support, the assumed quality of Microsoft’s release, and the estimated shelf-life of that release.

We give top priority to Microsoft RTM releases; the build of Visual Assist that follows an RTM almost always fully supports it. Other Microsoft releases are usually rolled into our normal development cycle, and they are also the releases that require the most development time.

We are already aware of two conflicts between the release candidate of Visual Studio 2015 Update 2 and Visual Assist build 2089, our latest. We expect to address these in our next build:

  1. line breaks are doubled during in-line expansion of VA Snippets. The behavior is likely due to a bug in Update 2. For now, don’t use your affected VA Snippets or edit expanded code.
  2. a new feature for C# users in Update 2 inserts * at the start of new lines when writing /**/ comments. That feature conflicts with the more powerful “Auto-extend Multi-line Comments” feature in Visual Assist. For now, disable one or the other.

If you subscribe to any of our social channels, you will learn about our builds and the IDE flavors they support. If you are ahead of us, meaning you use Visual Assist in a flavor of an IDE that Visual Assist does not yet fully support, we ask that you report incompatibilities between Visual Assist and your IDE. Your reports help us attain full support.

A Developer of Visual Assist Saves Energy

I am a long-time member of the development team for Visual Assist. I also read a lot, often about the workings of the brain.

I read recently Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. The author divides thinking methods into fast and slow. Fast is automatic; slow requires effort. Fast occurs when you drive a car on an empty road; you have capacity to think about something else. Slow occurs when you multiply 43×15 in your head.

“As you become skilled in a task, its demand for energy diminishes,” writes Mr. Kahneman. “Studies of the brain have shown that the pattern of activity associated with an action changes as skill increases, with fewer brain regions involved.”

The author goes on to write, “a general law of least effort applies to cognitive as well as physical exertion. The law asserts that if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action. In the economy of action, effort is a cost, and the acquisition of skill is driven by the balance of benefits and costs. Laziness is built deep into our nature.”

Fair point: I often prefer to be lazy—when I think and when I exert myself physically.

“But, why do I write about brain matters in a blog about Visual Assist?” you ask. I write because Mr. Kahneman’s assertion might articulate—in nerd speak—the deep reason I like Visual Assist.

Take the following scenario of simple code generation: flushing out case statements for a switch on an enum. I have completed this scenario so often it now requires only fast thinking. I go to an enum declaration using Alt+G, select its cases, copy-paste them into my switch body, and execute a couple of tricks like search and replace, block select to insert “case” before each enum item, and finish the task.

I suspect you invent your own steps for the code-editing scenarios you tackle repeatedly. Your slow-thinking tasks become fast-thinking ones with repetition. The tasks become mundane. You are driving a car on an empty road.

When I find myself in such a state of “driving”, I have capacity to think about Visual Assist. I often wonder if I can give my mundane, fast-thinking task entirely to Visual Assist. I wonder if I can get more lazy.

As a developer of Visual Assist, I have the luxury of implementing features in Visual Assist to pursue the laziness that Mr. Kahneman says is deep in my nature.

And as a user of Visual Assist, I take advantage of the product’s many features because they provide the least demanding courses of action. Visual Assist lets me conserve my energy.

I am hooked on creating Visual Assist, and hooked on using it.

Look for Add Missing Case Statements in the next build of Visual Assist.

Visual Assist and Visual Studio 2015 RTM

Microsoft released Visual Studio 2015 RTM this week. Visual Assist build 2068–the most recent build–supports the new IDE but not yet at release quality. There are a few known issues that will be resolved in our forthcoming builds:

  • Enhanced listboxes–the ones with colored content and filtering toolbar–are available in C/C++ only. They are not yet available in C#.
  • Not all internal quality tests for Visual Assist run under Visual Studio 2015.

Future builds of Visual Assist will improve support for Visual Studio 2015. If you discover a problem during your own testing, please report it via our forums or contact form.

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Visual Assist supports Visual Studio Community 2013

Yesterday, Microsoft announced Visual Studio Community 2013—a terrific addition to its lineup of IDEs. In addition to being fully featured, Visual Studio Community 2013 provides access to the Visual Studio extensibility ecosystem, including to Visual Assist. This extensibility should appeal to every user of the non-extensible Express Edition.

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If you install Visual Studio Community 2013, any build of Visual Assist numbered 2001 or greater will install to your IDE. If you are new to Visual Studio or migrating from an Express Edition, find out if you qualify for an Academic or Personal License of Visual Assist. The audiences for these licenses of Visual Assist overlap the targeted audience of Visual Studio Community 2013.

And to the multitude of developers who have asked us to make Visual Assist work in the Express Edition, we finally have a positive answer.

License and maintenance options get an update

We’ve updated our license and maintenance options for Visual Assist, and we want to take this opportunity to explain what remains the same, what’s changed, and what it means for you.

  • Our standard license of Visual Assist now better serves the needs of our corporate customers. The terms of the license agreement now grant ownership to the purchasing entity, not the individual installing the software. Also, standard licenses can now be transferred with prior written permission, if a company or division is sold or merges. The price for a standard license is $279, and purchase continues to include one year of software maintenance.
  • Our personal license is now better targeted for the private individual—the hobbyist or freelancer. A personal license for Visual Assist can be used for private or commercial development, but the license must be purchased using personal funds. (Personal licenses cannot be purchased by companies, nor reimbursed by them in any manner.) Terms for the personal license have been updated to grant ownership to the individual purchasing the license, so the individual can use Visual Assist wherever he works. The price for a personal license remains $99, and the term of included maintenance has increased to one year.
  • Our academic license remains targeted for students, researchers, and faculty members of accredited institutions. The price of an academic license remains $49, and the term of included maintenance has increased to one year.
  • Our classroom license remains targeted for instructors of programming courses. The license is still free and includes a year of maintenance.
  • Software maintenance still includes our steady stream of builds, which include all of our new features and bug fixes. We still do not charge separately for major upgrades, e.g. version 8.0 to 9.0.
  • Renewal of software maintenance for a standard license of Visual Assist provides a year of priority support and software updates—beginning the date of renewal. Price to renew is $79, and there is still no penalty for late renewal. Customers who demand maximum productivity continue to renew maintenance promptly. Customers on a tight budget are free to delay renewal until accrued improvements exceed their threshold for purchase.

With our updated policy, we believe every customer can find an option that suits his needs. Whatever your needs might be, trust that we will continue to make you more productive in all the Microsoft IDEs you use, to whatever capacity you use them.

Visit the Tomato at Build 2014

Build 2014
Join Whole Tomato Software at the Build 2014 conference this year, April 2nd-4th in San Francisco. We’ll be demonstrating Visual Assist to the uninitiated, and offering existing customers a sneak preview of an enhancement to the Visual Studio debugger. Stop by to share your stories and suggestions, grab a stress tomato, or show a friend why Visual Assist is a must-have extension.

You’ll find us at Build 2014 in the Visual Studio Partner Pavilion.

Support resources for Visual Assist get a makeover

If you’ve been anywhere near our website in the last month, you’ve undoubtedly noticed we embarked on a major upgrade of the support resources for Visual Assist. We are happy to say we’re finished with the heavy lifting, and done fussing with our discussion forums.

Reference material that existed previously in the forums, e.g. examples of VA Snippets, now lives in our knowledge base. To avoid broken links, we updated the links in your posts so they point to the new material.

We hope the organization and accessibility of our support resources serve you well. Let us know if we missed anything.

Discussion forums

The Tomato introduces a new website

We are happy to introduce a revamped website for Visual Assist. We think the site is simple, well organized, responsive, and replete with content new and existing developers need to be productive with Visual Assist. You’ll find:

  • A “What’s New” page that introduces you to new features in successive builds of Visual Assist
  • A wiki for documentation that’s easy to read, searchable and indexed
  • A knowledge base for support articles previously scattered in web pages and forum categories

What you won’t find:

  • A stock image of smiling people

We’ve also shamelessly entered the 00’s with a suite of official channels to keep you informed of news, tips, and build announcements. (We’re not convinced we need to tweet.)

We invite you—as the cliche goes—to connect with us. And by all means, share your suggestions for making our site better—in a blog comment or privately in our feedback form.

Happy coding.

Whole Tomato Software, Inc.

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Visual Assist loses her X

After ten years of dealing with her ex, Visual Assist X has regained her simpler name, Visual Assist.

Now for a bit of history.

The X in Visual Assist X became part of the product name in 2004, when developers at the Tomato decided it was important that customers get new features and support for IDEs as soon as the improvements were ready, not when customer wallets would tolerate the next paid upgrade. Our developers felt strongly that as a productivity tool, Visual Assist shouldn’t hold back productivity.

With the change in policy, the X took the place of all prior version numbers of Visual Assist, including 4.1, 6.0, and .NET. Customers could convert old copies of Visual Assist to the X version, get the latest version plus a year of upgrades, and thereafter optionally renew maintenance to continue the steady stream of upgrades.

Today’s change is in name only. New features, support for IDEs, and bug fixes continue to be released as soon as they are ready.

Customers will see a gradual disappearance of the X from the product, website, and corporate communications. When the change is complete, the only visible remnant of the X will likely be in the menubar of Microsoft Visual Studio, where X is the established mnemonic or access key for VAssistX.

Visual Assist Mnemonic