First look at LightSwitch V4 in VS2013 Preview

VisualStudio 2013 ( #VS2013 ) Preview

… was released yesterday coinciding with the BUILD 2013 conference ( #BLDWIN )  in San Francisco.

There is a LightSwitch session by Joe Binder scheduled for today:

Building Modern, HTML5-based Business Applications on Windows Azure and Office 365 with Visual Studio LightSwitch

Today should also see the first blog articles and materials from the LightSwitch Team based on this new release.

So, we have installed and tried out LightSwitch V4 and our initial thoughts are here. This version is focused on improving team development and the LightSwitch IDE experience. We have yet to try out deployment and there should be some surprises unveiled later.

VS2013 Preview Install including LightSwitch V4

VS2013 Preview Install including LightSwitch V4

The VS2013 Preview can be installed side-by-side with VS2012 Update 3 (also released yesterday). You will be required to reboot after the installation. We installed it on an old Windows 7 Ultimate machine.

You can see the LightSwitch V4.0 contents on disk afterwards.

LightSwitch V4.0 on disk

LightSwitch V4.0 on disk

This “SQL Database Project” will require some more information later. Anyone?

[Update: @janvanderhaegen ] This is for providing ‘seed data’ to populate your database. Thanks Jan! We look forward to experimenting with this.

LightSwitch and SQL Database Project

LightSwitch and SQL Database Project

So we will not get too excited and read too much into this until we hear about it and try it out for real!

The most obvious difference in the IDE is the view of your project in Solution Explorer. The much maligned “Logical/File View” option is gone, there is only one view, it will feel more familiar now to non-LightSwitch developers.

LightSwitch V4 in Solution Explorer

LightSwitch V4 in Solution Explorer

The LSML files containing the application metadata have been split into separate LSML files, one per screen and entity, that contain partial fragments. This will be a big win for team development and source control management using TFS.

The screens and entities appear in the explorer as ‘lsml’ files with code-behind files appearing as child items, much like Xaml/C#/VB items appear.

The available menus for items in solution explorer are mostly the same as before.

Solution Explorer Menus

Solution Explorer Menus

You can still only officially have one of each type of client in a LightSwitch V4 project: one RichClient/SilverLight, one MobileWeb/HTML.

Screen Context Menu

Screen Context Menu

The screen context menu does not have a ‘Copy’ option.

Luckily we have Xpert360 Lightning AIDE for LightSwitch approaching release. AIDE provides a much anticipated ‘Clone/Copy’ screen feature, amongst other things, for LightSwitch V2 and V3 projects. This LightSwitch Power Toolkit will be upgraded to provide the same for V4 projects in VS2013 later this year.

There is a video of cloning screens in AIDE here.

Each screen and entity loads into it’s own designer window. Overall this is great, giving you the possibility of viewing project items side-by-side like below:

LightSwitch screen designer windows

LightSwitch screen designer windows

Sometimes this can be disconcerting in the entity designer windows if you are used to drilling-down through entities and relationships as you quickly end up with a multitude of windows open. It works perfectly well for screen but we would prefer it different for the entity diagram. Time will tell if this feeling persists.

There is still an odd anomaly with the HTML client property view for an entity.

HTML Client Default Screen?

HTML Client Default Screen?

The property window for the HTML client lists the RichClient/Silverlight screens as default screen options. Luckily it does not break the project and appears unused at the moment.

If you flick through the menus you will notice potential other commands and standard Visual Studio 2013 operations. They are tempting but please don’t try out anything on you critical solutions and projects, and make sure you have a backup!

You will:

  • Add new item
  • Add existing item
  • Create subfolders
  • Sometimes drag-n-drop screens and entities

All these operations will likely result in this:

Clone screen good the rest bad!

Clone screen good the rest bad!

So you have been warned, but it is a preview after all. Happy testing.


Clearly for team developments this version looks like it has the potential to be a big win. Most effort for V4 has been concentrated in the IDE.

Will multiple clients and clients that target Windows 8.1 be on the radar. We can hope, but at this speed of delivery we are not betting against LightSwitch V5 appearing before the end of 2013.


One response to “First look at LightSwitch V4 in VS2013 Preview

  1. Pingback: LightSwitch Community & Content Rollup– June 2013 - Beth Massi - Sharing the goodness - Site Home - MSDN Blogs

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