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I’ve been pretty quiet about my latest extension for Visual Studio 2010 outside of Twitter, so I’m thinking it’s due time for a blog post about how and why Web Essentials came to be.

If you don’t know what Web Essentials is or haven’t tried it yet, you might want to read Scott Hanselman’s blog post.

Web Essentials was originally called CSS Essentials when it was first released in early 2011 because I wanted a name that clearly stated it was all about CSS. Years of web development had left me frustrated about the lack of attention CSS editors was getting by almost all IDEs, which in general only provided syntax highlighting, decent formatting and useless validation. Why did VB.NET and C# almost write itself when CSS was such a uphill battle with even the simplest tasks such as cross-browser rounded corners? That should be simple, right? Right?!

I still considered myself a new employee at Microsoft at the time, with plenty of stuff to learn in my new role as Program Manager for the CSS and HTML editors in the Web Platform & Tools team. That’s why CSS Essentials remained dormant for the first many months providing little to no features.

It wasn’t until September 2011 after the //BUILD conference, where we shipped the Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview that I revived the project with a few clear goals:

  • Have fun writing code
  • Live test features that we might consider including in Visual Studio
  • Provide value to existing Visual Studio 2010 users

Having fun

Spare time projects have to be fun to survive. I learned that when I started BlogEngine.NET almost 5 years ago.

Because it was so much fun adding new features to Web Essentials, I updated the extension almost daily. Some people really liked the frequent updates, but I got a lot of feedback from people who was so annoyed about it that they uninstalled it. That was no fun. Now I’ve slowed down the updates a bit and I still have fun.

Live testing of features

Some of the features are stolen inspired by Visual Studio 11 and some are unique to Web Essentials. Some of the shared features are implemented in different ways, but essentially solves the same problems. As a Program Manager for HTML, CSS and now also JavaScript, this is an ultimate way to get feedback on possible new features for Visual Studio. Please keep the feedback coming!

Provide value to VS2010 users

This is perhaps the most important part of the project. New versions of Visual Studio are usually 2-3 years apart and that’s a long time to wait for new features and general improvements. That’s also the reason why I released the Web Standards Update extension last June.

Despite my role at Microsoft, Web Essentials is a completely private project. No Microsoft developer was hurt during the making of the extension. Scouts honor, boss! The reason I have for keeping it a private hobby project is that it gives me complete freedom to experiment with various features and improvements. It unfortunately also means that there is no QA other than myself. And you of course.

Anyway, back to the story.

After the project was revived I decided to change the name to Web Essentials because it reached broader while keeping focus on web development. Also, I wanted to add features to the HTML editor, such as drag ‘n drop of user controls, video and audio files. Something I had wanted for years as a web developer.

The purpose now was to provide a broad set of improvements to make the experience writing client-side web code in Visual Studio better and more up-to-date.

As of this writing, the extension is now on version 2.6 with 44.000+ downloads. That’s 16 releases in 2 months and it includes features for CSS, HTML, JavaScript and general web project features as well. The future of web development in Visual Studio, I think, has never looked better then with Visual Studio 11 on the horizon. Until then, Web Essentials will continue being updated and push the envelope on what Visual Studio 2010 is capable of.

I would love to hear from you what sort of features, tweaks and improvements would make your life easier and more fun using the web tools in Visual Studio and Web Essentials. Most of the features in Web Essentials came from suggestions on Twitter and around the interwebs. So if you have a good idea, please share it.

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For the past few months, I’ve been looking at how to improve the web development experience in Visual Studio. This summer I released the Web Standards Update which brings HTML5 and CSS3 to Visual Studio, and a few weeks back Web Essentials was published.

This week I’ve been working on a proof of concept that eliminates the need for typing curly braces, colons and semi-colons when working with CSS. In non-English keyboard layouts, these characters can be rather difficult to type, because you need to use SHIFT and ALT to get to them.

Here is a quick demonstration of how to write CSS without the need for these characters.

I’ve been using this for about a day now on an English keyboard and I am so much more productive writing CSS. What I’m really interested in though, is whether or not YOU are when using this extension. Also, is it annoying, in your way, a waste of time, or the best thing EVAR!! Please try it out and let me know. I’d appreciate any feedback on this. Thank you!

Try it today!

Download the SpeedTyping extension for Visual Studio 2010 and let me know what you think on Twitter

Who knows, we might add this to the next version of Visual Studio…

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At //build and today at VS Live I gave a talk about performance optimizing ASP.NET web applications using bundling, minification and other cool tricks.

See the video presentation

The Visual Studio 2010 extension I used were:

The demo website can now be downloaded here. It runs in ASP.NET 4.0

Optimize Website.zip (4.39 mb)

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Web Standards Update for Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 SP1We just released the first Web Standards Update for Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 SP1. Despite its name, the update also works for Visual Web Developer Express 2010 SP1. You can read more on our team blog.

In this first release of the update, we have focused on bringing the HTML5 support up-to-date, adding CSS 3 support and bring more new API’s to the JavaScript intellisense.  The plan is to make a release on a regular schedule to keep Visual Studio updated with the changes made by W3C.

HTML5

Last year, we managed to sneak in HTML5 support when working on SP1 for Visual Studio 2010. Normally, a service pack is about bug fixes but we found that HTML5 was so important that the lack of it should be considered a bug. Unfortunately we where not able to do the same with CSS3 or the JavaScript API’s, but it was a good start.

Due to a combination of the instability of the HTML5 specifications at the time and the resources we had to add HTML5 support for SP1, we ended up with very descent support for both intellisense and validation. Now the HTML5 specifications are more stabile and some additions and modifications have been made by the W3C since then. It’s therefore a good time to update the HTML5 and XHTML5 schema files that Visual Studio uses under the hood to provide intellisense and validation.

Among the changes are:

  • Added missing elements like u, s and bdi
  • The type attribute is no longer required on script elements
  • The source element is now supported inside video and audio elements
  • Support for microdata including intellisense for schema.org vocabularies
  • Full WAI-ARIA intellisense

CSS3

For CSS3 we were not as lucky as we were with getting HTML5 into SP1. This was largely due to a combination of time and resources in terms of available developers. CSS3 is more difficult because the specifications change much more frequently than the specification for HTML5. For us it is a constant battle with keeping up to date with these changes and subsequently getting them into the next version of this update. That way we make sure that you will always have the latest and most accurate CSS3 support in Visual Studio.

The CSS3 support includes:

  • Will not invalidate filter, zoom and behavior properties
  • Have intellisense for vendor specific schemas (-ms-*, -moz-* and -webkit-*)
  • Up-to-date intellisense and validation for CSS3 properties and values

JavaScript

We’ve gotten a lot of customers asking for better intellisense for some of the new web API’s such as DOM Storage and Geolocation. In this update we are including intellisense for a lot of the API’s found in EcmaScript 5 including:

  • New selectors such as getElementByClassName
  • Geolocation, DOM storage and other new web API’s

More info

Check out the unofficial announcement or Scott Hanselman’s run-through

Download

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to download the Web Standards Update for Visual Studio SP1and try it out today. It’s a small and quick install.

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Since the release of Visual Studio 2010 SP1 beta last month, there has been a lot of questions regarding the support for HTML5 and CSS3.

HTML5

Visual Studio 2010 was originally released without HTML5 support, so does SP1 finally add support for it? Yes, to some extent. The entire HTML5 specification isn’t supported but most of the new elements and attributes are. That means you get both intellisense and validation for HTML5 with SP1.

Turn it on

After installing SP1 you have to tell Visual Studio to start using the HTML5 schema. Go to Tools -> Options, and then select Text Editor -> HTML -> Validation. You should now be able to select HTML5 or XHTML5 as the target schema.

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Or if you have the HTML Source Editing toolbar enabled, you can select it in the target schema dropdown.

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Intellisense support

The new elements that are specific to HTML5 are shown in the intellisense list as you would expect.

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Even the new HTML5 specific attribute values for existing elements are shown.

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Prior to SP1 there had been a bug that caused a runtime error when an input element used some of the new type attribute values such as email in conjunction with runat=”server”.

<input type="email" runat="server" />

This error has been fixed and will be included in the final SP1. However, it is not part of SP1 beta. In the meantime, you can use the Textbox control instead which doesn’t cause the error.

<asp:textbox type="email" runat="server" />

CSS3

In SP1 there are a few improvements in the CSS3 support as well, though not as elaborate as with HTML5. The editor now supports the more advanced selectors such as div:nth-child(2n+1) without giving validation errors and the new color values rgba, hsl, hsla and 8 digit hex values are also supported.

Start today

The conclusion is that with Visual Studio today, you can build HTML5 and CSS3 web applications on top of ASP.NET, and with SP1 we are making it a lot easier for you. We encourage all ASP.NET developers to start taking advantage of what HTML5 and CSS3 has to offer already today. The Web Platform and Tools team takes web standards very seriously and you will see much better support for HTML5 and CSS3 in the future.