What’s new in Visual Studio 2013 for Windows 8.1 developers?

Visual studio 2013 came with amazing changes to developers. Some could be counted for Windows 8.1 and others could be counted for visual studio 2013. These improvements were mainly focused around how to help our developers build better apps and have a better development experience. I’ll be trying to go through some of these changes and additions in this post in this post.

XAML Editor in Visual Studio

So from the feedback that the Visual studio team got they made the following changes:

IntelliSense for Data Binding

This is my favorite feature, now while building you windows 8.1 app you’ll to take advantage of Data binding auto complete but in order to have this functionality you will need to sign your DataContext from the XAML or set the design-time DataContext in the View.

IntelliSense with resolved DataContext

IntelliSense with resolved DataContext

IntelliSense with design time DataContext

IntelliSense with design time DataContext

As you can see both ways of setting the DataContext result in the exact same intelliSense.

Go To Definition

Go To Definition which you can get by either pressing F12 or right click and press go to definition are now available in XAML now you can use them against Local resources, System Resources and Extension SDK resources.

For example lets if you pressed F12 while you were standing over the system resource ApplicationPageBackgroundThemeBrush.

Go to Definition on ApplicationPageBackgroundThemeBrush

Notice that you are taken to the exact location where that resource was defined.

exact location where that resource was defined

another example if pressed go to definition on the GridView object, it will open the Object Browser and take you to that object.

Object Browser

IntelliSense for Resources

So in the older days if I was interested in binding to a Resource I would have needed to search what is the Resource Name and go back and forth between your app and that document, now visual studio auto completes that for you automatically.

Setting Grid.Background to a System brush

Setting Grid.Background to a System brush

Setting TextBlockStyle to a System style

Setting TextBlockStyle to a System style

Setting GridView.Style to a Local resource

Support for "insert snippet" and "surround with" commands in XAML editor

Code Snippets

Code snippets has always been on of the greatest features in visual studio but it was missing form XAML, now in 2013 you can easily Insert a snippet or surround some of your XAML with other Snippets.


Snippets can be imported using the Code Snippets Manager:

Snippets can be imported using the Code Snippets Manager

Better commenting support

There was always a problem when you tried to comment commented XAML because XML doesn’t support nested comments. In Visual studio 2013 that problem was solved.

Better commenting support

IntelliSense matching

The IntelliSense was updated to make it easier to find what you were looking for with additions like Camel case, Substring and fuzzy matching.

In the example below you can notice that I misspelled StackPanel but the IntelliSense was able to detect what I wanted.

Fuzzy matching intellisense

In the example below you can see you didn’t have to type the whole word you just wrote the first letter of each word and the IntelliSense was able to detect what you meant.

CamelCase matching intellisense

this last example is around matching with a substring.

Substring matching intellisense

Start Tag / End Tag refactoring

This is one of the most helpful features simply the ending tag gets edited automatically after editing the starting tag.

Tag Refactoring

Removing the end tag

Rulers and Dynamic Guides

precision and attention to details is what makes the difference between a good app and a great one. so in order to help you achieve that extra mile Rulers and dynamic Guides where introduced.

Rules & Dynamic guides

Style and template editing

Its now much easier to edit styles and templates while staying in context of the edited item unlike the older versions of blend.

So this was changed in 2013 due to the received feedback around productivity. so now you can edit a style or a template that’s available in the App.XAML without the need to go there.

Style and template editing

Smarter visual snapping engine

Snapping has been improved a lot to allow a more precise alignment of controls which aligns to the visual bounds instead of the layout bounds.

Smarter visual snapping engine

New controls

This is my favorite change in Windows 8.1 it brings a lot of really needed controls and they really make a huge difference your development time and development experience some of these controls are:

  • AppBar controls
  • CommandBar
  • DatePicker
  • Flyout
  • Hub
  • Hyperlink
  • MenuFlyout
  • SettingsFlyout
  • TimePicker

The example below is from the properties of the new control CommandBar and from there you can see how easy it is to add commandBar Buttons.

New controls: Modify the properties in the Properties Inspector

I’ll try to talk into details around new controls in the upcoming posts.

Device panel updates

New devices were added to the device panel to enable mimicking more devices with more resolutions. it also allows you resize your app to different sizes to mimic the different snap view sizes.

Device panel updates

Updated project templates

When It comes to the visual studio templates the old ones improved to match the updated guide lines and new templates were introduced like the Hub template in the example below.

Updated Project Templates

Performance and reliability of the designer

This is one of the greatest Improvement in Visual studio 2013. This was very important to give our developers a frustration free development experience. so the table below contains some of the stuff done to achieve that.

Scenario Visual Studio 2012 Update 3 Visual Studio 2013 Preview Percentage Improvement
Designer load time - Large Windows Store project 15.92 seconds 6.11 seconds 61.6%
XAML Intellisense Availability – Large Windows Store project 13.5 seconds 2.55 seconds 81.1%
Create Data Binding’ dialog for a 120 element XAML file 6.7 seconds Instantaneous N/A


So you can see that a lot of improvements were done in Visual Studio 2013 in order for our developer to have a frustration free experience and to be armed with the right tools that will help them in achieving that extra mile which will enable them to convert the good to great. The Visual Studio team is always interested to hear your feedback and suggestions you can do that through UserVoice or Connect.