Visual Studio: Software Development Made Easy

By Alex Roberts

Technology fascinates me. 3D printing, video editing, digital interviewing, you name it, I’ve probably tried it. That exploration brings me to my latest technical discovery: Microsoft’s Visual Studio.

Visual Studio is an integrated development environment (a bit of a mouthful, I know) designed to develop Windows-based applications. It provides developers with a wealth of tools and coding languages to make all their software development dreams come true. Visual Studio’s languages include C++, C#, F#, JavaScript, and Visual Basic, the language I’ll be talking about in this blog.

Many people don’t know how to make a pretty program, or even how to code. Microsoft has made it easy to create and to make your program look pretty by providing elements to beautify any program. They’ve already made some of the elements you need to beautify the programs you make. Text boxes, background pictures, list boxes, and more are all included in Visual Studio’s toolbox. To make beautiful software, all you have to do is drag and drop the elements you want onto a form object, and BAM! you have a graphical user interface.

Before you worry about beautifying your program, however, you need to consider what your program is going to do. What’s its purpose in its digital life? Is it a calculator? Maybe a calendar? In order for your interface and your code processing to work well together, you must consider the type of program you intend to create. Pictured below is a program I created in class:

Screenshot of program created in Visual Studio

Fitness Challenge Team Weight Loss Program created in Microsoft Visual Studio

This example program is relatively simple: the user inputs weight lost by 8 people and the program averages the numbers together. The list box object in the middle of the screen records the user’s input to confirm to the user that processing is happening. It then calculates the average and displays it at the bottom of the program window, letting the user know if the group has met their weight loss goal.

Should you feel lost after you’ve started building a program, there are loads of resources out there for new software developers. Microsoft has, of course, great tutorials that show you how to build apps in C#, C++, and ASP.NET. (C# is a coding language capable of building installable software and ASP.NET is a framework that allows a developer to design websites.)

Another excellent source for Visual Studio help is YouTube. (Check out the video embedded below to watch a professional build a program step-by-step.) After watching this video and reading some of these other resources, basic coding won’t seem nearly as hard as you thought it could be.

It’s important to note that Mac users aren’t left in the dust by Microsoft – you have access to a version of Visual Studio 2017 as well! Mac users may purchase and download the Mac version of the software from Microsoft’s so that they can develop websites alongside PC users.

The sources I’ve provided should bring you up to speed on Visual Studio. In not time you’ll be managing a website or desktop program with just a few strokes of your keyboard and a few clicks of the mouse. Before you get started, here are some tips that should make your programs a success.

  1. Give everything a name. No really, give EVERYTHING a name.

When you create a new project, it comes pre-built with a starter form with the uninspiring name “Form1.” Change this immediately. Call it something that pertains to what you intend to make. A calculator’s main form may be “frmCalculator” or something similar (just so you know, “frm” stands for form and is what you put in front of every name of a form object). Each object you use has its own prefix – lbl for label, txt for textbox, etc. You can look up prefixes on Google.

  1. Break your code down into modules.

Perhaps you’ve heard of a “modular program?” Sounds complicated, but it’s a really easy concept to understand. In a modular program, you code some sort of action once–such as calculate a value–and assign a name to that action. Then, you can use that procedure elsewhere without creating it again. This saves you time and effort in the long run.

  1. Test your program. Often.

Testing is key to building a program that won’t frustrate your users. Ever been to a website that didn’t function as it was supposed to? It was no doubt frustrating. I also bet you decided to use another website that actually did what you wanted it to do. Testing everything you code may help you avoid this frustration. From the most miniscule radio button to a list box that shows some kind of output, test your program so that your users don’t dump your program for another one.

  1. Problems? Questions? Google it.

Seriously, Google it. I guarantee there are many people who’ve run into the same issue you’re running into. And there are a lot of forums full of software developers and engineers who’ll know what your problem is and be able to provide a solution almost instantly. The development world’s a big one, but you aren’t alone.

Some great places to seek help are GitHub and W3Schools. Check one of them out when you hit a roadblock. You aren’t the only one who runs into problems with code and there is no shame in Googling a question.

I wish you the best of luck on all your software engineering endeavors! And remember, if you run into a problem that you can’t figure out on your own, there’s a wealth of resources out there to help you.