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What's New in Visual Studio 2005 

This topic has been updated for Visual Studio 2005 SP1 Update for Windows Vista.

This topic contains information about the new features and enhancements that are available in Visual Studio 2005 and associated service releases.

Topic Contents

New in Visual Studio 2005 SP1 Update for Windows Vista

Visual Studio 2005 SP1 Update for Windows Vista includes enhancements for installing and using Visual Studio 2005 on the Windows Vista operating system. To be supported for use on Windows Vista, you must run this release of Visual Studio under administrator permissions. For more information, see Windows Vista and Visual Studio, Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1 Update for Windows Vista FAQ, and User Rights and Visual Studio.

New in Visual Studio 2005 SP1

For a list of customer-reported issues fixed in this update, see Connect Bugs Fixed in Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1.

Web Application Projects

The new Web application project model provides the same Web project semantics as the Visual Studio .NET 2003 Web project model. This includes a structure based on project files and a build model based on compiling all the code for a project into a single assembly. In addition, the new project type supports many of the new features of Visual Studio 2005 (such as class diagrams, test development, and generics) and of ASP.NET version 2.0 (such as master pages, data controls, membership and logon, role management, Web parts, personalization, site navigation, and themes).

The Web application project model in Visual Studio 2005 removes two elements that are required for Web projects in Visual Studio .NET 2003:

  • Using FrontPage Server Extensions. These are no longer required, but they are supported if your site already uses them.

  • Using a local copy of Internet Information Services (IIS). The new project model supports both IIS and the built-in ASP.NET Development Server.

The following list provides a guideline for Web application project tasks. Use Web application projects when you have to do the following:

  • Migrate large applications from Visual Studio .NET 2003 to Visual Studio 2005.

  • Control the names of output assemblies.

  • Use stand-alone classes to reference page and user-control classes.

  • Build a Web application that includes multiple Web projects.

  • Add pre-build and post-build steps during compilation.

For more information about Web application projects, see Web Application Projects Overview.

The Visual Studio Project Designer supports Web application projects, with the following limitations:

  • On the Settings page, Web application projects can only be application-scoped.

  • On the Signing page, the manifest signing option is disabled because Web application projects do not use ClickOnce deployment.

For more information, see Settings Page, Project Designer and Signing Page, Project Designer.

Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server

Lists new features for work items, data management, and database performance.

Basic Authentication and Digest Authentication Support

A new ISAPI filter enables you to deploy Team Foundation Server more easily in environments where Internet users need access to Team Foundation Server without using a VPN connection. For more information about basic and digest authentication support, see Team Foundation Server, Basic Authentication, and Digest Authentication.

Custom Controls in Work Item Types

You can now embed custom controls on your work item forms. You can persist custom control data in work item type fields, or elsewhere. For more information about custom controls, see "Work Item Tracking Custom Controls" in the Visual Studio 2005 SDK.

Detailed Merge History

Visual Studio 2005 Team Foundation Server only provides summary data on merge history. This makes it difficult to build any sophisticated change tracking tools that track the flow of changes through branches. This service pack includes a new Web service method and object model API that provides detailed merge history data. The new API is named QueryMergesWithDetails and is available on the SourceControl object. For more information about detailed merge history, see "Merge History" in the Visual Studio 2005 SDK.

Move the Data Warehouse SQL Server Analysis Services Database to a Separate Server

You can now increase the capacity and performance of your Team Foundation Server database tier by moving the SQL Server Analysis Services database to a separate server. After you move the database, the data tier is composed of two computers: the relational data-tier server, and the analysis services data-tier server. For more information about how to move the data warehouse, see How to: Move the Data Warehouse SQL Server Analysis Services Database to a Separate Server.

Smart Device Development

SQL Server Compact Edition replaces SQL Server 2005 Mobile Edition. You will see this change reflected in dialog boxes in the Visual Studio integrated development environment (IDE).

The eMbedded Visual C++ Upgrade Wizard is improved for SP1.

There are 15 new desktop MFC classes in the device MFC libraries.

For more information, see What's New in Smart Device Projects.

Support for SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition

Visual Studio 2005 SP1 supports SQL Server Compact Edition as a local data provider. This means you can add SQL Server Compact Edition database files (.sdf) to an application in the same way you add SQL Server Express (.mdf) and Microsoft Access database files (.mdb). For more information, see Using SQL Server 2005 Compact Edition.

New in Visual Studio 2005 Original Release Version

Development Environment

Lists new and enhanced productivity, navigation, and community features.

Productivity Features

Integrated Development Environment (IDE) Settings

Predefined settings consist of customizations made to the IDE based on different types of development activities and your own customizations. These customizations include window configurations, hiding or exposing menu commands, menu and menu command name changes, keyboard shortcuts, and changing defaults for tools options, and others.

You are asked to select a predefined setting the first time that you start Visual Studio. Any additional customizations that you make to the IDE, such as adding a keyboard shortcut or changing the docking location of a window, are tracked and stored together with the predefined settings. You can reset your current settings by clicking Import and Export Settings on the Tools menu. For more information, see Visual Studio Settings.

Exporting and Importing Settings

You can now export the settings that you use in the IDE to a file and use that file on other computers. Use the Import and Export Settings wizard, available on the Tools menu, to save all your environment settings or just specific categories of settings such as fonts and colors or editor settings. From this same wizard, you can import a settings file created by you or a trusted co-worker. For more information, see How to: Share Settings Between Computers.

Task List

The following features are available in this release:

  • Text display   Multiple lines of text can be displayed in any row. For example, a complete description can be displayed.

  • Column sorting   A sort triangle has been added to column headers to show that the column is sorted and whether sorting is ascending or descending.

  • Multiple-column sorting   To sort on a second column, press and hold the Shift key and click the second column heading.

  • Show Columns command   Specify which columns to display by using the Show Columns command on the shortcut menu for the Task List.

  • Move columns   Columns can be moved by using the drag-and-drop method.

  • Show files   By default, only the file name is displayed, not the path. To change the default, click Options on the Tools menu, and then click Environment. On the Task List page, clear Hide full file paths.

For more information, see Task List (Visual Studio).

Error List

The Error List helps you speed application development. In the Error List window, you can do the following:

  • Display the Errors, Warnings, and Messages produced as you modify and compile code.

  • Find syntax errors noted by IntelliSense.

  • Find deployment errors, certain Static Analysis errors, and errors detected when Enterprise Template policies are applied.

  • Double-click any error message entry to open the file where the problem occurs, and move to the error location.

  • Filter which entries are displayed, and which columns of information appear for each entry.

For more information, see Error List Window.

Brief and Emacs Shortcut Keys

The Code and Text editor supports a subset of the shortcut keys available in Brief and Emacs editors. For more information, see Brief Default Shortcut Keys and Emacs Default Shortcut Keys.


Window Layout Management

This release includes improved visual feedback for window docking. As you drag a tool window across a frame where it can be docked, a guide diamond appears. The four arrows of the diamond point toward the edges of the enclosing frame. Whenever the window you are dragging reaches a position where it can be docked, the arrow that points toward the edge where it can be fastened darkens.

Figure 1: Guide Diamond used to dock windows
Guide diamonds for docking windows

If the window can join a tabbed group, the center of the diamond darkens. To dock the window, release the mouse. The guide diamond makes it much easier to put your active windows just where you want them. For more information, see How to: Arrange and Dock Windows.

IDE Navigator

Visual Studio now includes a way to switch between open windows and files available in the IDE, similar to the ALT + TAB feature in Windows.

Figure 2: IDE Navigator
IDE Navigator

The Window.NextDocumentWindowNav command can be mapped to a keyboard shortcut to let you move among open files in the editor or open tool windows. Depending on the settings that you use, Window.NextDocumentWindowNav might be automatically mapped to CTRL + TAB. For more information, see How to: Navigate Within the Integrated Development Environment.

Start Page

The Start Page has been redesigned for this release. The new Start Page consists of a single page with four separate information areas: Open an Existing Project, Getting Started, Headlines, and News. To display the Start Page, on the View menu, click Start Page.

As in earlier versions, you can open recently modified projects, quickly create projects, or view certain Help topics. You can now also access product and event information from Microsoft, and also RSS feeds from Visual Studio. For more information, see Start Page.

Community Integration

This release makes it even easier to access resources in the developer community. A new menu, which is named Community, appears in the IDE. From this menu, you can post questions to MSDN newsgroups, send product feedback to Microsoft, access useful Web sites, and search online for components to use in your applications. For more information, see Interacting with Other Developers.

You can also create and share custom project templates, code snippets, starter kits, and other items with the developer community. For more information, see Working with Community Components.

Code Editing

Lists new features and enhancements in the text editor, Web page and HTML designer, and XML editor.

Text Editor

The following features are available in this release:

  • Code Snippets   Visual Studio now provides segments of sample code ready to insert into Visual Basic, Visual C#, or Visual J# projects. To display a list of available code snippets, right-click the active document in the Code Editor and then click Insert Snippet on the shortcut menu. Click the name of the snippet you want, and the code is inserted into the editor, ready for you to modify as needed. To manage the folders in which you store code snippets and to add new snippets, click Code Snippet Manager on the Tools menu. For more information, see How to: Manage Code Snippets.

    Figure 1: Inserting snippets in Visual Basic code

    Insert Snippet user interface
  • Smart tags   Similar to Office smart tags, Visual Studio smart tags make common tasks available that apply to the context of your work. For example, using smart tags you can now correct some common errors in Visual Basic with a click of a button.

  • Refactoring   You can now use tools to update the internal structure of your Visual C# and Visual Basic code, a process called refactoring. Available refactoring options include rename, extract method, extract interface, change signature, and encapsulate field. For more information on C# refactoring, see Refactoring. For more information on Visual Basic refactoring, see Refactoring and Rename Dialog Box (Visual Basic).

  • Track Changes   You can see where you have edited a file in the current IDE session. Edits are identified by a visual indicator in the margin. Lines that have been edited or lines adjacent to deleted lines are marked. When the margin is highlighted yellow, this means that the line was edited and the file has yet to be saved. If the margin is highlighted green, it means that you have saved the file since the line was edited. You can customize the highlight color in the Options dialog box by updating Track Changes before save in Display items on the Fonts and Colors page. You can turn this option off by clearing Track Changes on the General tab of the Text Editor page in the Options dialog box.

  • Bookmark window   This tool window enables you to manage and control your bookmarks. You can put related bookmarks in folders, name them, and re-order them as you see fit.

  • AutoRecover   This feature automatically saves files that contain changes every five minutes. If the IDE shuts down unexpectedly, files with changes are available for recovery. You can customize the AutoRecover options in the Options dialog box. For more information, see AutoRecover, Environment, Options Dialog Box.

  • Document Outline window   The Document Outline window now supports outline views for Windows Forms in addition to ASP.NET Web pages and HTML pages. You can use the Document Outline window to navigate among the controls on Windows Forms while in Design view of the editor. To access this window, on the View menu, point to Other Windows and then click Document Outline.

Web Page and HTML Designer

Visual Studio features a new Web page designer that includes many enhancements for creating and editing ASP.NET Web pages and HTML pages. It provides a simpler, faster way to create Web Forms pages than in Visual Studio .NET 2003.

Visual Web Developer features improvements in all areas of Web site development. You can create and maintain Web sites in local folders, as in Internet Information Services (IIS) applications, or across a File Transfer Protocol (FTP) connection. The Visual Web Developer designer supports all ASP.NET enhancements, including nearly two dozen new controls that simplify many Web development tasks.

Design view of the HTML designer includes many improvements that support new ASP.NET features or enhance the WYSIWYG Web page design experience. Task-based editing using smart tags guides you through performing the most common procedures with controls, such as data binding and formatting. You can edit the new ASP.NET master pages visually. Template editing has been improved to make it easier to work with data controls as well as new controls such as the Login control. Editing HTML tables for layout or to display columnar information is now easier and more intuitive.

Visual Web Developer produces XHTML 1.1 markup by default. At the same time, you can select from a list of schemas that help you produce markup to match the abilities of different browsers or standards. HTML validation points out markup that does not conform to the selected schema.

The HTML editor also provides options to allow you to precisely control the format of all HTML and of ASP.NET markup. Formatting is preserved exactly when you switch views.

You can easily move around your documents with the new tag navigator that shows you where you are in the current hierarchy. Using the tag outline feature, you can collapse sections of the document, such as large tables.

Figure 2: Tag navigator in the Web Page Designer

Tag navigator in Web Page designer

For programming, the code editor provides better productivity with enhanced IntelliSense. Visual Web Developer supports both ASP.NET models for writing the code for an ASP.NET Web page, including the single-file page model and the improved code-behind model. You can reference components automatically by simply adding them to a folder in your site. Data binding is substantially easier, and in many cases requires no code at all. At the same time, you can easily access data in databases, XML files, or business objects. For more information, see What's New in Web Development for Visual Studio.

XML Editor

A new XML editor is available in this release of Visual Studio. This editor takes advantage of the power of the System.Xml and System.Xml.Xsl classes in the .NET Framework and conforms with XML standards. Some of the features included are:

  • Full XML 1.0 syntax checking    XML and DTD syntax errors are reported while you type, and detailed descriptions appear in the Error List Window.

  • Validation   Many XML editors require that you manually check for XSD, DTD, or XDR validation errors. The Visual Studio XML editor uses a validation engine that can perform XSD or DTD validation while you type.

  • Code snippets   The XML editor adds dynamically generated code snippets based on your XML schemas. Press the TAB key after the element name to automatically populate the required attributes and child content. Many useful XML snippets are also provided, including a snippet for building new code snippets.

  • Flexible schema association   The editor searches for XML schemas and automatically associates them with your document. The editor can find schemas in a schema cache directory and in your project, or by using schemaLocation attributes or user-specified locations.

  • XSD-based IntelliSense   All IntelliSense is based on your XML schemas and the editor provides accurate IntelliSense with full support for XSD.

  • Auto-insertion   The editor inserts attribute quotes and end tags automatically, as well as required namespace and xsi:type attributes.

  • Auto-formatting   The editor supports the Format Selection feature, available on the Advanced submenu of the Edit menu, to auto-format when you type the closing tag or paste from the Clipboard. This feature also auto-formats code snippets.

  • Configurable text colors   The editor includes several customizable color options for text in the Fonts and Colors, Environment, Options Dialog Box that are separate from HTML color options so you can customize the XML colors differently.

  • Create XML schema   The editor can infer a schema from existing XML documents, which makes XSD schema design much easier. The editor can also convert your DTD or XDR schemas to XSD.

  • Editing XSL   Additional features and color-coding for XSL keywords are available when you edit XSL. In addition, a two-pass validation algorithm is applied to ensure better XSD validation and IntelliSense with the XSLT style sheets.

  • Secure XSL transformations   The Show XSL Output feature enables you to perform your XSL transformations securely with a single button click so you can preview the results. The editor supports writing HTML to a Web browser window and XML and text output to another code editor.

  • Debugging XSL   The XSL debugger is new to Visual Studio and is built on the IL generating XslCompiledTransform class provided in the .NET Framework. You can now step from your C# or Visual Basic applications directly into your XSLT transforms. The XSL debugger is based on the CLR debugger; it enables you to do all the things you can normally do with a debugger, including evaluating XPath expressions in the Watch window.

For more information, see XML Editor.

Projects, Solutions, and Items

The following new features and enhancements are included:

  • Temporary Projects   With Temporary Projects, you can create and experiment with a project without having to save it; simply create a new project and start coding.

  • Stand-alone projects   If a solution contains only one project, you will not see the solution in Solution Explorer nor do you see commands that act on solutions in the IDE, although the solution files will still be created.

  • Simplified Build   Provides Visual Basic 6.0-style build options for Visual Basic programmers.

  • Solution Folders   Enables users with very large, complex solutions to organize projects by grouping them in folders in Solution Explorer.

  • Project Designer   All project properties and settings are now centrally located in the Project Designer, including improved access to resources and strong-name signing within the IDE. For more information, see Introduction to the Project Designer.

  • Referencing an EXE   You can now reference .EXEs as well as .DLLs in Visual Studio. Use this feature when you would like to use classes and methods which are contained in an executable.

  • Visual Studio Conversion Wizard   Solutions or projects that were created in or upgraded to Visual Studio .NET 2002 or Visual Studio .NET 2003 must be converted to the format that is used by this version of Visual Studio before you can work with them in this version of Visual Studio. Converted solutions or projects are no longer compatible with Visual Studio .NET 2002 or Visual Studio .NET 2003. Using the wizard, you can choose whether to create a backup of the solution or project before it is converted. For more information, see Visual Studio Conversion Wizard.

  • Create Project from Existing Code Files Wizard   Use this wizard to create a Visual Studio project from existing code files. The project is created on your computer and all relevant files are added to the project. When you work with this new project in the IDE, you have all the tools you need to design, develop, debug, and deploy your application. You can view, edit, build, and debug your code files using coding aids such as IntelliSense.

  • Solution and Project Platform Targeting   In the Configuration Manager dialog box, you can now select the platform on which to build the solution, add new solution platforms, and edit existing solution platforms.

  • Starter Kits   A starter kit is essentially an enhanced project template that can be shared with other members of the community. A starter kit includes code samples that compile, documentation, and other helpful resources to enable you to learn new tools and programming techniques while building useful, real world applications. For more information, see How to: Create Starter Kits.

  • Projects and Solutions options   A new node has been created in the Options dialog box, called Projects and Solutions, that contains separate pages for General and Build and Run options.

  • Custom Project and Project Item Templates   You can now easily create your own custom template for projects or project items or modify existing project and project items templates to better meet your development needs. Once created, these custom templates appear in the New Project dialog box and Add New Item dialog box. In addition to the project file and code files, the template includes an XML file that provides template metadata, which Visual Studio uses to define how to display the project in the development environment and, if you have specified the appropriate properties, to customize how the project is created in the development environment. All the files are compressed into a .zip file that can easily be shared with others. For more information, see Visual Studio Templates.

Building, Testing, and Deployment

Lists the new features and enhancements available for building, testing, and deploying applications.

Microsoft Build Engine

The Microsoft Build Engine (MSBuild) is the new build platform for Microsoft and Visual Studio. MSBuild introduces a new XML-based project file format that is simple to understand, easy to extend, and fully supported by Microsoft. The MSBuild project file format enables developers to fully describe what items need to be built as well as how they need to be built with different platforms and configurations. In addition, the project file format enables developers to author re-usable rules that can be factored into separate files so that builds can be done consistently across different projects within their product. The MSBuild build process is defined by atomic units of build, called tasks. You can author your own tasks in any .NET language in order to extend the build process. Visual Studio projects are now stored in the MSBuild project file format, providing the ability to customize the Visual Studio build process. MSBuild is completely transparent with regards to how it processes and builds software, enabling developers to build projects on computers without Visual Studio. For more information, see MSBuild.


  • Class Designer   Class Designer allows you to visualize systems and applications. While you design class types, members, and methods, Class Designer generates the corresponding source code.

  • Object Test Bench   As you code, you can use Object Test Bench to quickly test your .NET Framework or Visual J# applications.


These features are not available in Express Editions.

For more information, see Designing and Viewing Classes and Types and Object Test Bench.


  • ClickOnce Deployment ClickOnce deployment allows you to deploy self-updating Windows applications that can be installed and run as easily as Web applications. You can deploy Windows client and Command Line applications. There is a new Publish Project command on the Project menus. For more information, see ClickOnce Deployment.

  • Bootstrapping Prerequisites   You can now include required system components, such as the .NET Framework runtime, as a part of a deployment project or ClickOnce deployment. For more information, see Deploying Prerequisites.

  • Windows Installer Deployment   Improvements to Setup and Deployment projects include the ability to choose between per-user or per-machine installation, support for 64-bit deployment, and deployment to Web Servers that host multiple Web sites.

For more information, see What's New in Deployment.


Many enhancements have been made to Help, including the following:

  • Help viewer default   Help displays in an external Help viewer, Microsoft Document Explorer, by default rather than inside the IDE.

  • How Do I page   This page contains a list of task topics, organized by category and subcategory, for a subset of the documentation for a product. Use this page to quickly locate information by subject area.

  • Community integration   You can access forums and newsgroups, directly from within Help, to post questions, search for interesting threads, or check the status of your post.

  • Search   Search results now display an abstract for each topic. In addition, icons appear at the bottom of the topic abstract that provide additional information such as the programming language a topic applies to, as well as the topic source.

    Figure 1: The new Help Search page

    The new Search page for Help
  • Filters   You can now choose one filter for Contents and Index and a separate filter for Search. For more information, see Help Filters for Visual Studio.

For more information, see What's New in Document Explorer.

Online Help Sources

You can now choose to incorporate MSDN Online, Codezone Community, and Questions content into your Help experience. MSDN Online has the latest product documentation, including quarterly updates. Codezone Community content includes articles, samples, and other information located on select third-party Web sites, such as GotDotNet. Questions content posts from online forums.

The first time you attempt to access Help, a dialog box appears requesting that you specify your help source preferences. You can change your online Help preference at any time from the Online, Help, Environment, Options Dialog Box. You can choose to display F1 topics located on MSDN Online and perform searches on Help content located on your computer as well as the Web. For search, results are grouped by the source of the topic: Local Help, MSDN Online, Codezone Community, and Questions. Only one set of results can be viewed at a time. You can switch among the different sources' results by selecting a source on the right of your search results.

More About What's New in Languages and Technologies

What's New in the .NET Framework Version 2.0Understanding the .NET Framework
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What's New in Visual C# 2005Writing C# Applications
What's New in DataData Access in Visual Studio
What's New in Visual BasicVisual Basic Concepts
What's New in JScript 8.0?JScript
What's New in Smart Device ProjectsSmart Device Projects
What's New in Visual C++Getting Started with Visual C++
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What's New in the Visual Studio 2005 DebuggerDebugging with Visual Studio
What's New in Visual J# 2005Getting Started with Visual J#
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What's New in Visual Basic
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