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Visual Studio 11 Beta Won't Reflect Final Look and Feel

If you have questions about the Visual Studio 11 beta, Jason Zander, the Microsoft corporate vice president in charge of Visual Studio, posted a blog this week that addresses frequently asked questions, and serves as a helpful cheat sheet on what's supported and what isn't.

Bring Back Color
Patrick Smacchia, a commenter on the blog, asked Zander a question that is on many developers' minds, based on the sheer number of people who have voiced their dismay at some of the unexpected UI changes in the Visual Studio 11 beta:

The community [is] clearly concerned about the greyish icons, maybe we could add the question:

Is there a chance that the VS team takes account of the thousands of negative [comments] and feedback concerning greyish icons, and switches back to VS pre-11 colorful icons?

Zander responded:

@Patrick - we have definitely heard the feedback. As mentioned above, the beta is about getting feedback and will not reflect the final look and feel.

The beta does "not reflect the final look and feel." If that's true, developers have reason to be hopeful that their collective voices have been heard and could result in positive changes. However, if history is any guide, once a monster product like Visual Studio has reached the beta stage, any changes have been relatively minor -- outside of features not ready for primetime dropping out.

Reaction to the "new developer experience" has been dominated by naysayers, who either hate it or complain that Microsoft has just gone way too far with its changes. The Add some color to Visual Studio 11 beta suggestion on the visualstudio.uservoice.forum has drawn more than 3,500 votes; and many of these people are enraged.

The lack of color icons and lines, in particular, makes coding in Visual Studio 11 depressing for some people, and challenging for others, who say it's harder to navigate in the IDE. Developers who commented on my recent blog, "Visual Studio 11 Gets a New Look," echoed those sentiments:

I just looked at the VS11 screenshots. Typical of Microsoft's do-it-our-way happy talk they claim their new monochromatic UI is wildly popular with developers even as the blog comments aren't. This is the ribbon bar fiasco revisited…

[T]he UI is just horrid. I find it immensely difficult to pick out an icon, delineate borders etc. Colors GREATLY help me to locate what I need quickly, and the contrast is much needed (at least for me). The new icons and look just utterly stink. The overall look/feel is dreary and depressing, like being deprived of sunlight. What is up with Microsoft?! They think (I guess because of some lame research) that people want this on their desktop? That they want all this minimalism? Maybe sometime but not bloody everywhere! This whole metro thing started out nicely but is now getting waaaay out of control….

Seeing Red
The Coca-Cola Company has introduced some changes over the years that got customers riled up, and then quickly backtracked. New Coke bombed. A color change to the cans of Classic Coke from red, to a white polar bear theme over the holidays, got the thumbs down. Now the company, along with other manufacturers of caramel-colored soft drinks, is facing the possibility of carcinogen warning on its product label and must tinker with the formula. I better stock up now.

Lately, when consumers revolt en masse, companies react--and fast. Netflix, Bank of America and a laundry list of other companies either misjudged their base, or were forced to abandon strategies because customers left in droves and opted for competitors' services.

Is complex software any different? Many .NET developers, whose livelihoods depend on Microsoft, could opt to stay on Visual Studio 2010. Microsoft is trying to cast a wider net, but it may have to make some concessions with the Visual Studio 11 interface to keep its base moving forward, especially with the arrival of Windows 8 Metro-style development, which requires Visual Studio 11 (Express or higher versions).

Express your thoughts on the new developer experience in Visual Studio 11. Are you more productive, getting acclimated to the changes or completely turned off by the reductions in the interface and limited use of color? Do you think Microsoft can re-introduce color (perhaps as an option) or modify parts of the interface before the final release? Drop me a line at krichards@1105media.com.

Posted by Kathleen Richards on 03/13/2012 at 12:54 PM

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Reader Comments:

Mon, Aug 13, 2012 Deepak

MS is going the right direction. I think this look of VS is for the best and will eventually in time extinguish not only VS but MS from the world market.

Thu, May 31, 2012 Doug Cape Town, South Africa

I like the beta. It works well which is the most important factor. The color scheme is different but has not affected my productivity in any way. I can still easily find all the icons when I need them. Thank goodness the ui is not gaudy and does not look like a christmas tree. Too many colors are confusing. I think Microsoft got this right.

Mon, May 28, 2012 Reg Sydney

Hi Guys, Yep I totally agree with the negative feedback. The UI is so difficult to use, everything looks the same and its hard to distinguish the different folders etc. in the solution explorer. I find it incredibly hard to use. I love the look and feel of VS 2010 I sincerely hope they change it back or I'll have to stick with 2010 and miss out on all the benefits of 2011.

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 YuriOh

I would like to see the VS 2011 Express editions have targets for Desktop Applications.

And why has the command-line build environment has been removed from Windows 8 SDK?

There should be a possibility to install a command-line build environment as it was one in the SDKs before.

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 Albert van Peppen The Netherlands

I can only agree that VS2008 had the best UI, VS2010 had worse performance and all kinds of changes that I was not expecting and now, after 2 years of using VS2010 I still need to search for some buttons.. My impression with VS11 was that I was almost totally lost in what went where and how did things change. The lack of familiar (color) buttons etc. really doesn't help. I think it can all be great for some (new?) VS users but I would really like to switch in a more familiar look (at best even the VS2008 look ;) ) About the speed of things I can only say that this is a Beta version, and I compare this one against the Beta version of VS2010 then they are at the same speed level, some points are faster, other are slower.. All I can hope is that they bring back color and speed!

Sat, Apr 7, 2012 alex

Indeed without colour is hard sometimes for fast coding as in the vs 2010 intellisense i would quickly recognize methods properties etc. Now i have to look carefully the icon shape in order to know what to do and is time consuming.

Thu, Apr 5, 2012 George Cooney

The next release of VS will no doubt come with Braile icons. New icons make no sense anyway and after all there are tolltips for each button and that's what people end up reading.

Wed, Mar 28, 2012 Jules

Surely Visual Studio is Desktop envirnment App, not a Metro App ! I was a Silverlight and .NET fan, but all I can see is that Microsoft are deserting me jts to keep the Webby Javscript guys happpy. Windows 8 is is confused mess right now, especially with consumers. Maybe OK on Tablets, but a disaster on Desktops. MS needs to get its act together to convicne the Enterprise Business user that it is a realistic platform, and not a Tablet toy

Wed, Mar 28, 2012

VS 11 Beta's Black theme is ok. VS2010 is ugly too. VS2008 was the best. IMHO.

Tue, Mar 27, 2012

The Visual Studio 11 Beta Survey is Live - Voice your opinion: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/visualstudio/archive/2012/03/21/visual-studio-11-beta-survey.aspx?CommentPosted=true#commentmessage

Tue, Mar 27, 2012

UI is just downright gloomy, I greatly dislike it now. Rocker, I agree that name calling is a bit much but the problem is that although it's a Beta, Microsoft has a history of not changing much (if anything) from Beta->RC->RTM/RTW. Usually they just resolve bugs with the existing codebase. So people, including me, are really aggravated with this change. This whole Metro UI thing is getting way out of hand and has now reached VS (something I think should not be driven by a 76 person survey). VS is not for the avg user, it's a professional devt tool. My vote is to make the VS2010 UI the standard, and this grey thing a selectable option, and not the other way around. Windows 8 needs a START button with an option to select the default desktop. There is an alarming trend these days to dumb things down to the lcd, and that is something MSFT should not fall victim to.

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 Sw Eng

MS - fire the color blind UI guy and get someone from Eclipse team to replace him. Color is information stupid!

Tue, Mar 27, 2012 Zapper 0,0,0

Who needs color when you have a borg implant? Resistance is futile! You will be assimilated! Visual Studio 11 will rule us as the Borg Queen (who is rather gray herself). I think adding color will require VS extension unfortunately.

Sun, Mar 25, 2012 Ron

“The key to change… is to let go of fear.” – Rosanne Cash

Wed, Mar 21, 2012 JimC

I do not like it. VS2010 was fine, why mess it up?

Mon, Mar 19, 2012 The VS beta 11 sucks!!! Art Tangiersky

What are you thinking MS!??!?? The arrogance is simply galling!! Do you honestly think you can just make us eat anything your half brain dead marketing apartment cooks up? Well not this developer. I'm skipping windows 8 and visual studio 11. Take this downgrade and shove it!!!!!

Fri, Mar 16, 2012 Gideon USA

Rocker, while I agree that people should not descend to name (Microsoft) calling, the emotional expression will get the company to act fast. MS should know that there is an emotional attachment to Visual Studio tool. It is the best IDE out there, and any changes, especially the color scheme is a step backward.

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 Richard Lee UK

I cannot believe what they have done with VS11's color scheme!? Can anyone believe it? Microsoft what a poor decision you have made. Once again pushing your own agenda without consulting your users. tut tut!

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 Akis

They "solved" a problem that never existed and made the UI bland and depressing.

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 Rob J.

I agree with the majority of negative comments regarding the color scheme. My other comment at this time is if they are going to have a Metro emulator, why the requirement to run VS 11 on a Windows 8 platform? VS 11 should be able to run on a Windows 7 platform or is Microsoft going to force developers to upgrade their OS in order to develop apps for legacy systems?

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 Roman Switzerland

The lack of color in VS2011 is a step backwards and incomprehensible. The use of color in symbols is not only nice, but indispensable for recognition. Screen resolution are getting better every year...

Tue, Mar 13, 2012 80s Rocker

This is a customer preview (aka: beta) so people need to take a chill pill and state what they like and do not like in the proper formats. Calling MS names and insulting their developers is not productive and I tend to not take those who make those type of comments seriously. That is what a beta is for to introduce new things to user and get their feedback, both good and bad. If you do not like it then let MS now and explain why you do not like it and make some suggestion on how they can make it better. That is what beta testing is all about. Visual Studio has always been the premium development tool and other languages wish they had such a great IDE. So lets make VS2011 better by offering feedback that will help make it better instead of name calling and insulting MS and those who worked on VS2011.

Tue, Mar 13, 2012 Mike Bierly

The VS 11 beta UI sucks. The Black and grey look as well as changing the icons for code view or form view - why??? MS just needs to go back to the same color scheme and icons from VS2010.

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