NodeJS for Visual Studio – what to expect

Visual Studio and NodeJS are two names you don’t generally see next to each other – but today the NodeJS for Visual Studio plugin hit version 1.0 and as an avid NodeJS developer I had to check it out and see how it compares to my standard suite of OSX and Webstorm!

But wait you say, I thought Node didn’t need an IDE? Well, technically no, but once your app gets even slightly big, it makes life much easier – especially if you get intellisense.

Installation was a breeze, as was creating my first project. I decided to build a quick little ExpressJS app as I know my way around it and it’s almost the defacto library for building web apps on Node.

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Straight out of the box you get a “Hello world” Express app. Nice. I hit F5 (standard Visual Studio debug key) and boom, it kicks off Node, your application and opens your default browser. So far, so good. So what else have they added then?

Intellisense, and really good intellisense at that

We’ve all been there before – calling a module and we can’t quite remember the parameters a method takes in… especially when we wrote the module ages ago. Visual Studio traditionally has really good intellisense and the Node plugin is no different. It provides tips and autocomplete for both the current Javascript file and any modules imported via the require command.

Screenshot 2015-03-26 12.04.20

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One of the harder things to do in NodeJS is step through debugging. There are a few tools out there these days, but none are quite as polished as the one inside of Visual Studio. The plugin team have done a brilliant job of integrating Visual Studio with the Node debug tool. You get full step through support and can see the value of each and every object. Perfect.

Performance tracking

While there are quite a few different options for tracking NodeJS performance, having one built straight into the tools you’re using always helps keep things simple. From my short play with the tools, they appear to provide a reasonably comprehensive overview of your application and how well it’s running and where you could look to make improvements in performance.

It wasn’t all good though sadly – the NPM package installer wouldn’t work no matter what I tried. I also attempted to open an older, very big Express app and didn’t get very far, though I’m sure that’s more my project than the Visual Studio stuff. But it can only get better right? And with Microsoft supporting NodeJS as a first-class citizen on Azure, the future looks pretty bright for Node and Windows/Visual Studio.

For me though, it’s not quite there yet, sadly. Will definitely be back to check it out though to see how far it’s come!

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