Visual Studio IDE User’s Guide

The Visual Studio IDE (interactive development environment) can increase your productivity when you write, debug, and test code. This guide introduces you to some of Visual Studio’s most useful features, from IntelliSense and code completion to interactive debuggers and diagnostics.

If you have never used Visual Studio before, you can get up to speed with our Getting Started with Visual Studio tutorials and walkthroughs.

If you want to find out about new features in Visual Studio 2013, see What's New in Visual Studio 2013.

Visual Studio Setup

You can find out which edition of Visual Studio is right for you at Visual Studio Editions.

You can install Visual Studio 2013 by downloading it from Visual Studio Downloads and following the directions. If you need to know more about the installation process, see Installing Visual Studio

When you start Visual Studio for the first time, you can sign in using your Microsoft account. Being signed in allows you to synchronize your settings across multiple devices and connect automatically to Visual Studio Online. For more information, see Signing into Visual Studio.

Visual Studio IDE Overview

Visual Studio IDE

When you write code in Visual Studio, the first thing you generally do is open a Visual Studio solution, which consists of one or more Visual Studio projects. Projects contain the different code and other files you need to compile the project. You can see the structure of a Visual Studio solution in the Solution Explorer on the right side of the graphic above. The name of the solution is App1, and the name of the project (just below the solution in the tree) is App1. You can find more information about projects in Solutions and Projects.

You open a file by double-clicking one of the files in the Solution Explorer or right-clicking and selecting Open on the context menu (the menu that pops up after a right click). In the graphic above, the C# code file App.xaml.cs is open in the document window in the center of the graphic. Code files in different programming languages show different syntax coloring and features. To find out more about editing features, see Writing Code in the Code and Text Editor.

When you are ready to compile your code, go to the Build menu at the top of the IDE window and click Build Solution. You can see the results in the Output window (just below the document window). If the build process generates errors or warnings, the Error List window shows the error and a basic description. You can find out more about compiling code in Building Applications in Visual Studio.

You run the code by clicking the green arrow on the tool bar. The configuration (debug or release) is shown in the text box to the right of the green arrow. When you want to debug your code, you usually start by setting a breakpoint, which stops program execution so that you can examine the application’s state (for example, the values of different variables). In the graphic above, the breakpoint is the red dot on the left margin of the code window. You set a breakpoint by clicking at the line where you want execution to stop; if you want to unset the breakpoint, click the red dot again. To debug the code, click the green arrow when the configuration is set to debug, or go to the Debug menu at the top of the IDE and click Start Debugging, or just click the green arrow on the toolbar. For more information about debugging, see Debugging in Visual Studio. You can also find out about diagnostics tools in Improving Quality with Visual Studio Diagnostic Tools.

If you can’t find a window or command you’re looking for, you can use the Quick Launch window at the top right of the IDE. Just type a word or phrase, and you should see a list of Visual Studio commands, windows, settings, and other features.

In this Guide

Installing Visual Studio

Signing into Visual Studio

Productivity Tips for Visual Studio

Solutions and Projects

Writing Code in the Code and Text Editor

Building Applications in Visual Studio

Debugging in Visual Studio

Improving Quality with Visual Studio Diagnostic Tools

User Permissions and Visual Studio

Security in Visual Studio

Customizing Development Settings in Visual Studio

Visual Studio Reference

See Also

Other Resources

Application Development in Visual Studio