Months ago when I wrote Professional IronPython, I had to show you all kinds of workarounds for seemingly simple problems because the Visual Studio IDE didn’t provide the support required to do things like create an IronPython project. For example, in Chapter 8 I have to show you how to create a Windows Forms application without using the visual designer. That’s right, you need to write all of the component code manually, rather than rely on the GUI. Microsoft’s decision not to support IronPython and IronRuby any longer seemed to put a nail in a great product’s coffin and I thought that perhaps the days of IronPython were numbered.
Fortunately, I was wrong. Microsoft has finally decided to release a beta add-in for Visual Studio 2010 that provides IDE support for both CPython and IronPython called Python Tools for Visual Studio (PTVS). You’re not getting any sort of new functionality from the language perspective. The add-on relies on the underlying language features to perform its work. The benefit to using this add-in is that it allows you to use the IDE to perform tasks such as creating an application using a template, rather than coding everything by hand.
Of course, the add-in provides far more functionality than simply creating projects. The fact that I now get IntelliSense support is amazing. You don’t know how helpful an IDE feature is until you try to write code without it. Over the years, I’ve become somewhat addicted to IntelliSense because it helps me “remember” what it is that I want to do next. Otherwise, I have to sit there and think about how things are supposed to go together; not always an easy task when you regularly work with multiple languages.
The add-in must be striking a chord with everyone. It was only released on the 7th and there have already been 1,380 downloads (as of yesterday when I downloaded my copy). If you program with IronPython and you often use IronPython to overcome procedural language limitations, this is a must have add-in for Visual Studio.
I’ll be working with this add-in over the coming weeks and will report back on what I find. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your input on it at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.