Note: Many of you who read this blog aren’t Windows developers. I think you might still be interested in skimming this announcement, because I think it matters to the cross-platform and global C++ community when major vendors are clearly still investing heavily in C++ and C++-based technologies, despite what some naysayers proclaim.
How much does Microsoft care about C++ and non-.NET code? In August, I already blogged about
- cool things coming in VC++ 2008 which is being released within three weeks (see below), and
- beyond that the front-end rewrite now underway plus hints about a major additions including to MFC.
This month: Visual Studio 2008 ("Orcas") ships
First the comparatively minor news: We have a ship date. By the end of this month, we will ship Visual Studio 2008 ("Orcas"), including Visual C++ 2008 in particular which includes a number of cool features I’ve blogged about before, such as /MP for parallel builds on multicore machines.
But VC++ isn’t stopping there. Instead of waiting another year or two between releases, we’re immediately doing another one, gratis to VC++ 2008 customers:
First half of 2008: VS2008 Update ships
In the first half of 2008, VC++ is additionally going to ship an "expansion pack"-like update that will be available to all owners of Visual Studio 2008 Standard and above. This includes two major pieces that I know will be welcome in two major developer communities.
"TR1" is the first set of library extensions published by the C++ committee, nearly all of which have also been adopted into the next C++ standard, C++0x. Now that we know what parts seem to be sealed for inclusion in the next C++ standard and stable, we can start shipping them.
The VC++ 2008 update will include a complete implementation of all parts of TR1 that were voted into C++0x, except only for the section on functions added for compatibility with the C99 standard. The update will include features like:
- smart pointers (e.g., shared_ptr<T>, weak_ptr<T>)
- regular expression parsing
- new containers (e.g., tuple, the fixed-size array<T,N>, hash-based containers like unordered_set<T>)
- sophisticated random number generators
- polymorphic function wrappers (e.g., function<bool(int)> and bind)
- type traits
and a bunch more of all that good stuff lurking inside ISO C++ Library TR1. C++0x may tweak some of the interfaces, and we’ll track that as they do. In the meantime, here they are right in VC++.
A huge update to MFC
I hinted about a "huge update to MFC" back in August. Here’s the scoop…
Using this update to MFC, developers will be able to create applications with the “look and feel” of Microsoft’s own UIs:
- Vista theme support, allowing your application to dynamically switch between themes.
- The Office 2007 UI, including the Ribbon bar look in all its glory, with the ribbon itself, the pearl, quick access toolbar, status bar, and more.
- The Office 2003 and XP UI, including Outlook-style shortcut bar, Office-style toolbars and menus, print preview, live font picker, color picker, etc.
- The Internet Explorer UI, including rebars and task panes in all their glory.
- The Visual Studio UI, with sophisticated docking functionality, auto hide windows, property grids, MDI tabs, tab groups, and more.
All in native C++ code. In MFC.
Oh, and there are also more things… for example, you can also enable your users to customize your application "on the fly" through live drag and drop of menu items and toolbar buttons; use the new Windows shell management classes to enumerate folders, drives and items, browse for folders, and more; and take advantage of many more new controls you can use right out of the box.
Where did we get the code? This time, we decided to buy rather than build. The code for Office 2007 look-and-feel and other items were based on code we got from BCGSoft rather than code we developed internally.
Some people wondered about this, but it’s just an implementation detail. In particular, here are two questions I’ve seen people ask, and my personal answers (I am not speaking for Microsoft):
Q: Does it matter that this is code originally written by another company (BCGSoft)?
A: No. This update is a Microsoft Visual Studio product, full stop. With the full level of testing and support that implies, today and tomorrow.
Like most software companies, Microsoft routinely both builds its own code and integrates licensed software. We’ve long done the latter for the C++ standard library implementation (from Dinkumware), the Office proofing tools and spelling/grammar/thesaurus/hyphenation/etc. dictionaries, and mapping data for Live, to name just a few off the top.
Q: Does it matter that this isn’t the code the Office team used to implement their own look-and-feel? Why didn’t Microsoft ship Office’s own internal code?
A: No, and because we usually don’t because internal code isn’t at the level required of a product, respectively. I wonder if people realize this is the norm, not the exception, so let me explain a little.
Think of Office as the biggest Windows ISV (independent software vendor) that operates mostly as a separate company, even though it happens to be a sister division. Office has always driven the development of their own UI advances separately from Windows and Visual Studio. Windows and Visual Studio, in turn, have always tried to follow quickly in adding support for Office’s advances so that the Windows shell and other third-party applications could present the same look-and-feel wherever they wanted to, and those implementations have usually been:
- Later, because Office drove the innovation and the platform and tools followed.
- Different from Office’s own internal home-brewed versions, because there’s a huge difference between "solid for internal use" and "productized" with all the additional level of documentation and testing and external usability that requires.
The fact that we have an internal and an external "real" implementation for the same thing doesn’t matter. We’ve always done it that way, and the "real" implementation is equal and fully supported. (I think it’s funny that some worry that they’re not getting Office’s original internal ‘real’ implementation; the real "real" implementation is the one that’s not just for internal use, almost by definition!) Once a UI innovation gets into the Windows UI and/or especially the Visual Studio toolset, it’s first-class and here to stay.
Finally, I said this a huge update. What does "huge" mean? This update nearly doubles the size of MFC. Now, "nearly do
ubles the size of X" can be a bad thing. In this case, though, it’s a Good Thing… in my opinion, at least.
Beta and release availability
The update is expected to be available in beta form in January 2008, and to ship in the first half of 2008. Enjoy!
Finally, let me express some well-deserved appreciation for a HUGE amount of hard work invested by the Visual C++ team, and our libraries team in particular, to make this happen and bring it to customers. Those of us who spend a good fraction of our lives on the second floor of Building 41 saw it firsthand, and know how hard everyone on the team has worked to make this happen at high quality. Thanks for that; it’s been quite a year of PM design work, coding and QA milestones, bug bars, and shiprooms.
For those who’ve asked what Visual C++ is planning beyond this month’s release, the above is an additional part of the answer. Far from the last part, however, because as Ale Contenti said in his announcement on VCblog about our plans beyond VC++ 2008:
"This is just the first step in our drive to improve the native development experience. There’s a lot more that we’re working on, but we hope you enjoy this first milestone."