VS 11 Beta: again a painful release for add-ins (and other extensions)

A couple of days ago VS 11 Beta was released. I installed it yesterday and I am still shocked. A few days before, we could read in the Visual Studio Blog about the “New Developer Experience” of VS 11. First I thought is was a joke what I was reading, as if it was April 1 (in Spain that day for jokes is December 28 so I always forget April 1). Then I noticed that is was real. Some (new?) design team has taken full control of the user interface of Visual Studio and, well, you can read the post and the 750+ comments at the time of this writing. VS 11 Beta is almost gray, no colors, no borders, no gradients, toolwindow captions that are SHOUTING and with “:::::::::::::” characters that seem to come from the text-based screens of MS-DOS applications a couple of decades ago. Furthermore, you can choose between the “Light” and the “Dark” color themes, but no “VS 2010” color theme is provided.

Something is severely broken at the Visual Studio team in charge of the user interface since a couple of versions ago:

Furthermore, not only toolbar icons are affected. All the user interface is affected if you want to match the new themes. For example, if you use toolwindows that use icons for classes, interfaces, methods, etc.

What strikes me most is that nobody in the huge VS team (hundreds of developers) or in the VS management team (Scott Guthrie, Brian Harry, etc. or even S. Somasegar) has stopped this abomination before going Beta. This causes a lot of uncertainty to developers of extensions given the huge negative feedback and future direction:

  • How many betas will be? This has not been named “Beta 1”, but “Beta” (scary?)
  • How much time to final release (RTM)?
  • Will the VS 2010 theme color be back?
  • Will the Dark and Light theme colors be gone?
  • Will they coexist?
  • Should an extension that provides toolbars match the horrible Dark and Light themes, or be a color oasis in the gray desert?
  • Can the same custom pictures of an extension be used for both the Dark
    and Light themes, or two custom pictures must be provided?
  • How to provide custom pictures dynamically when the user changes the theme in the Options window?
  • Should I wait until next beta or release candidate?
  • Should I stop my current extension and get rich creating a new extension for VS 11 that provides commands, menus, toolbars and toolwindows that do the same that the ones of VS 11, but with color? 😉

My personal approach is that I will stick to VS 2010 during the next two years if VS 11 is released with the current color themes because actually they distract me a lot. About matching the new color themes in my MZ-Tools add-in, it won’t be my priority now. First I have to run hundreds of unit tests to check that they work and ensure that no bugs are introduced by VS 11, or get Microsoft to fix them. I already reported two of them here and here and more are coming in next posts.