An integrated development environment (IDE), also known as integrated design environment and integrated debugging environment, is a type of computer software that assists computer programmers to develop software. In the case of Visual Basic .NET, that IDE is Visual Studio.
The Visual Studio IDE consists of several sections, or tools, that the developer uses while programming. As you view the IDE for a new project you generally have three sections in view:
- The Toolbox on the left
- The Solution Explorer on the right
- The Code / Design view in the middle
The Toolbox is a palette of developer objects, or controls, that are placed on forms or web pages, and then code is added to allow the user to interact with them. An example would be TextBox, Button and ListBox controls. With these three controls added to a Windows Form object the developer could write code that would take text, input by the application user, and add it to the ListBox when the button is clicked.
This is a section that is used to view and modify the contents of the project. A Visual Studio Windows Application Project will generally have a Form object with a code page, references to System components and possibly other modules with special code that is used by the application.
The properties windows shows all the control (like TextBox) properties to be changed at design time. Most of these properties can be also changed with code at run time, but basically most properties change the way the control is displayed on your application.
Code / Design viewEdit
This is where the magic takes place. Forms are designed graphically. In other words, the developer has a form on the screen that can be sized and modified to look the way it will be displayed to the application users. Controls are added to the form from the Toolbox, the color and caption can be changed along with many other items.
This center window of the IDE is also where developers write the code that makes everything in the application work. The code is written in modules, or files, that are either connected to an object (Forms) or called specifically when needed.
By pressing F2 or selecting it into the View menu, it's possible to explore all the available objects of the libraries (types, functions...).
The Visual Studio IDE is a complex and exciting work space for developers, providing many enhancements and upgrades from the days of Visual Basic 4.0 or the introduction of C++. This section only serves as a mere introduction to this multi-functional interface.