Scott Hanselman

SharpScript from ServiceStack lets you run .NET apps directly from a GitHub Gist!

August 15, '19 Comments [9] Posted in DotNetCore | Open Source
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I've blogged about ServiceStack before. It's an extraordinary open source project - an ecosystem of its own even - that is designed to be an alternative to the WCF, ASP.NET MVC, and ASP.NET Web API frameworks. I enjoy it so much I even helped write its tagline "Thoughtfully architected, obscenely fast, thoroughly enjoyable web services for all"

ServiceStack is an easy drop-in that simplifies creating Web Services in any ASP.NET Web App, but also in Self Hosting Console Apps, Windows Services and even Windows and OSX Desktop Apps - supporting both .NET Framework and .NET Core. The easiest way to get started is to create a new project from a ServiceStack VS.NET Template.

ServiceStack has released a new and amazing project that is absolutely audacious in its scope and elegant in its integration with the open source .NET Core ecosystem - #Script (pronounced "sharp script.")

Scripts IN your app!

There are a number of .NET projects that simulate REPL's or allow basic scripting, like "dotnet script" as an example or ScriptCS but I'm deeply impressed with #Script. To start with, #Script is somewhat better suited for scripting than Razor and it doesn't require precompilation. #Script is appropriate for live documents or Email Templates for example.

Here's a basic example of embedding a ScriptContext in your app:

var context = new ScriptContext().Init();
var output = context.EvaluateScript("Time is now: {{ now | dateFormat('HH:mm:ss') }}");

Where ServiceStack's #Script really shines is its use of .NET Core Global Tools. They've nabbed two global tool names - web and app (sassy!) and allow one to create SharpApps. From their site:

Sharp Apps leverages #Script to develop entire content-rich, data-driven websites without needing to write any C#, compile projects or manually refresh pages - resulting in the easiest and fastest way to develop Web Apps in .NET!

The web tool is cross platform and the app global tool is great for Windows as it supports .NET Core Windows Desktop Apps.

Your app IS a script!

You can write interactive SharpScripts or SharpApps that uses Chromium as a host.

You can literally run a "desktop" app self contained from a GitHub Gist!

Sharp Apps can also be published to Gists where they can be run on-the-fly without installation, they're always up-to-date, have tiny footprints are fast to download and launch that can also run locally, off-line and cross-platform across Windows, macOS and Linux OS's.

There's also a "gallery" that maps short names to existing examples. So run "app open" to get a list, then "app open name" to run one. You can just "app open blog" and you're running a quick local blog.

SharpApps

Easy to develop and run

The global tools make SharpApp a complete dev and runtime experience because you can just run "app" in the source folder and as you make code changes the hot-reloader updates the site as you Ctrl-S (save) a file!

If you've got .NET Core SDK installed (it's super quick) then just grab the local tool here (app on Windows and web anywhere else):

dotnet tool install --global app

And if you have a existing .NET Core web app you can launch it and run it in a Chromium Embedded Framework (CEF) browser with "app foo.dll" Check out this example on how to make and run a .NET Core app on the Windows Desktop with #Script.

ServiceStack CEF App

Then you can make a shortcut and add it to to the desktop with

app shortcut Acme.dll

Slick!

Code in #Script is done in markdown ```code blocks, while in Razor it's @{ } but it does use mustache template style. Go try out some of their Starter Projects!

#Script and SharpApps is an extraordinary addition to the .NET Core ecosystem and I'm just touching the surface. Do check out their site at https://sharpscript.net.

What do you think?


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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The PICO-8 Virtual Fantasy Console is an idealized constrained modern day game maker

August 8, '19 Comments [4] Posted in Gaming | Hardware | Open Source
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Animated GIF of PICO-8I love everything about PICO-8. It's a fantasy gaming console that wants you - and the kids in your life and everyone you know - to make games!

How cool is that?

You know the game Celeste? It's available on every platform, has one every award and is generally considered a modern-day classic. Well the first version was made on PICO-8 in 4 days as a hackathon project and you can play it here online. Here's the link when they launched in 4 years ago on the forums. They pushed the limits, as they call out "We used pretty much all our resources for this. 8186/8192 code, the entire spritemap, the entire map, and 63/64 sounds." How far could one go? Wolf3D even?

"A fantasy console is like a regular console, but without the inconvenience of actual hardware. PICO-8 has everything else that makes a console a console: machine specifications and display format, development tools, design culture, distribution platform, community and playership. It is similar to a retro game emulator, but for a machine that never existed. PICO-8's specifications and ecosystem are instead designed from scratch to produce something that has it's own identity and feels real. Instead of physical cartridges, programs made for PICO-8 are distributed on .png images that look like cartridges, complete with labels and a fixed 32k data capacity."

What a great start and great proof that you can make an amazing game in a small space. If you loved GameBoys and have fond memories of GBA and other small games, you'll love PICO-8.

How to play PICO-8 cartridges

Demon CastleIf you just want to explore, you can go to https://www.lexaloffle.com and just play in your browser! PICO-8 is a "fantasy console" that doesn't exist physically (unless you build one, more on that later). If you want to develop cartridges and play locally, you can buy the whole system (any platform) for $14.99, which I have.

If you have Windows and Chrome or New Edge you can just plug in your Xbox Controller with a micro-USB cable and visit https://www.lexaloffle.com/pico-8.php and start playing now! It's amazing - yes I know how it works but it's still amazing - to me to be able to play a game in a web browser using a game controller. I guess I'm easily impressed.

It wasn't very clear to me how to load and play any cartridge LOCALLY. For example, I can play Demon Castle here on the Forums but how do I play it locally and later, offline?

The easy way is to run PICO-8 and hit ESC to get their command line. Then I type LOAD #cartid where #cartid is literally the id of the cartridge on the forums. In the case of Demon Castle it's #demon_castle-0 so I can just LOAD #demon_castle-0 followed by RUN.

Alternatively - and this is just lovely - if I see the PNG pic of the cartridge on a web page, I can just save that PNG locally and save it in C:\Users\scott\AppData\Roaming\pico-8\carts then run it with LOAD demon_castle-0 (or I can include the full filename with extensions). THAT PNG ABOVE IS THE ACTUAL GAME AS WELL. What a clever thing - a true virtual cartridge.

One of the many genius parts of the PICO-8 is that the "Cartridges" are actually PNG pictures of cartridges. Drink that in for a second. They save a screenshot of the game while the cart is running, then they hide the actual code in a steganographic process - they are hiding the code in two of the bits of the color channels! Since the cart pics are 160*205 there's enough room for 32k.

A p8 file is source code and a p8.png is the compiled cart!

How to make PICO-8 games

The PICO-8 software includes everything you need - consciously constrained - to make AND play games. You hit ESC to move between the game and the game designer. It includes a sprite and music editor as well.

From their site, the specifications are TIGHT on purpose because constraints are fun. When I write for the PalmPilot back in the 90s I had just 4k of heap and it was the most fun I've had in years.

  • Display - 128x128 16 colours
  • Cartridge Size - 32k
  • Sound - 4 channel chip blerps
  • Code - Lua
  • Sprites - 256 8x8 sprites
  • Map - 128x32 cels

"The harsh limitations of PICO-8 are carefully chosen to be fun to work with, to encourage small but expressive designs, and to give cartridges made with PICO-8 their own particular look and feel."

The code you will use is LUA. Here's some demo code of a Hello World that animates 11 sprites and includes two lines of text

t = 0
music(0) -- play music from pattern 0

function _draw()
cls()
for i=1,11 do -- for each letter
for j=0,7 do -- for each rainbow trail part
t1 = t + i*4 - j*2 -- adjusted time
y = 45-j + cos(t1/50)*5 -- vertical position
pal(7, 14-j) -- remap colour from white
spr(16+i, 8+i*8, y) -- draw letter sprite
end
end

print("this is pico-8", 37, 70, 14)
print("nice to meet you", 34, 80, 12)
spr(1, 64-4, 90) -- draw heart sprite
t += 1
end

That's just a simple example, there's a huge forum with thousands of games and lots of folks happy to help you in this new world of game creation with the PICO-8. Here's a wonderful PICO-8 Cheat Sheet to print out with a list of functions and concepts. Maybe set it as your wallpaper while developing? There's a detailed User Manual and a 72 page PICO-8 Zine PDF which is really impressive!

And finally, be sure to bookmark this GitHub hosted amazing curated list of PICO-8 resources! https://github.com/pico-8/awesome-PICO-8

image image

Writing PICO-8 Code in another Editor

There is a 3 year old PICO-8 extension for Visual Studio Code that is a decent start, although it's created assuming a Mac, so if you are a Windows user, you will need to change the Keyboard Shortcuts to something like "Ctrl-Shift-Alt-R" to run cartridges. There's no debugger that I'm seeing. In an ideal world we'd use launch.json and have a registered PICO-8 type and that would make launching after changing code a lot clearer.

There is a more recent "pico8vscodeditor" extension by Steve Robbins that includes snippets for loops and some snippets for the Pico-8 API. I recommend this newer fleshed out extension - kudos Steve! Be sure to include the full path to your PICO-8 executable, and note that the hotkey to run is a chord, starting with "Ctrl-8" then "R."

Telling VS-Code about PICO-8

Editing code directly in the PICO-8 application is totally possible and you can truly develop an entire cart in there, but if you do, you're a better person than I. Here's a directory listing in VSCode on the left and PICO-8 on the right.

Directories in PICO-8

And some code.

Editing Pico-8 code

You can export to HTML5 as well as binaries for Windows, Mac, and Linux. It's a full game maker! There are also other game systems out there like PicoLove that take PICO-8 in different directions and those are worth knowing about as well. There is a rich tiny game development community out  there, and you'd do yourself a favor to explore sites like https://pigame.dev.

What about a physical PICO-8 Console

A number of folks have talked about the ultimate portable handheld PICO-8 device. I have done a lot of spelunking and as of this writing it doesn't exist.

  • You could get a Raspberry Pi Zero and put this Waveshare LCD hat on top. The screen is perfect. But the joystick and buttons...just aren't. There's also no sound by default. But $14 is a good start.
  • The Tiny GamePi15, also from Waveshare could be good with decent buttons but it has a 240x240 screen.
  • The full sized Game Hat looks promising and has a large 480x320 screen so you could play PICO-8 at a scaled 256x256.
  • The RetroStone is also close but you're truly on your own, compiling drivers yourself (twitter thread) from what I can gather
  • The ClockworkPI GameShell is SOOOO close but the screen is 320x240 which makes 128x128 an awkward scaled mess with aliasing, and the screen the Clockwork folks chose doesn't have a true grid if pixels. Their pixels are staggered. Hopefully they'll offer an alternative module one day, then this would truly be the perfect device. There are clear instructions on how to get going.
  • The PocketCHIP has a great screen but a nightmare input keyboard.

For now, any PC, Laptop, or Rasberry Pi with a proper setup will do just fine for you to explore the PICO-8 and the world of fantasy consoles!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Dotnet Depends is a great text mode development utility made with Gui.cs

August 1, '19 Comments [10] Posted in DotNetCore | Open Source
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I love me some text mode. ASCII, ANSI, VT100. Keep your 3D accelerated ray traced graphics and give me a lovely emoji-based progress bar.

Miguel has a nice thing called Gui.cs and I bumped into it in an unexpected and lovely place. There are hundreds of great .NET Global Tools that you can install to make your development lifecycle smoother, and I was installing Martin Björkström's lovely "dotnet depends" tool (go give him a GitHub star now!)  like this:

dotnet tool install -g dotnet-depends

Then I headed over to my Windows Terminal (get it free in the Store) and ran "dotnet depends" on my main website's code and was greeted by this (don't sweat the line spacing, that's a Terminal bug that'll be fixed soon):

dotnet depends in the Windows Terminal

How nice is this! It's a fully featured dependency explorer but it's all in text mode and doesn't require me to use the mouse and take my hands of the keyboard. If I'm already deep into the terminal/text mode, this is a great example of a solid, useful tool.

But how hard was it to make? Surprisingly little as his code is very simple. This is a testament to how he used the API and how Miguel designed it. He's separated the UI and the Business Logic, of course. He does the analysis work and stores it in a graph variable.

Here they're setting up some panes for the (text mode) Windows:

Application.Init();

var top = new CustomWindow();

var left = new FrameView("Dependencies")
{
Width = Dim.Percent(50),
Height = Dim.Fill(1)
};
var right = new View()
{
X = Pos.Right(left),
Width = Dim.Fill(),
Height = Dim.Fill(1)
};

It's split in half at this point, with the left side staying  at 50%.

var orderedDependencyList = graph.Nodes.OrderBy(x => x.Id).ToImmutableList();
var dependenciesView = new ListView(orderedDependencyList)
{
CanFocus = true,
AllowsMarking = false
};
left.Add(dependenciesView);
var runtimeDependsView = new ListView(Array.Empty<Node>())
{
CanFocus = true,
AllowsMarking = false
};
runtimeDepends.Add(runtimeDependsView);
var packageDependsView = new ListView(Array.Empty<Node>())
{
CanFocus = true,
AllowsMarking = false
};
packageDepends.Add(packageDependsView);
var reverseDependsView = new ListView(Array.Empty<Node>())
{
CanFocus = true,
AllowsMarking = false
};
reverseDepends.Add(reverseDependsView);

right.Add(runtimeDepends, packageDepends, reverseDepends);
top.Add(left, right, helpText);
Application.Top.Add(top)

The right side gets three ListViews added to it and the left side gets the dependencies view. Top it off with some clean data binding to the views and an initial call to UpdateLists. Anytime the dependenciesView gets a SelectedChanged event we'll call UpdateLists again.

top.Dependencies = orderedDependencyList;
top.VisibleDependencies = orderedDependencyList;
top.DependenciesView = dependenciesView;

dependenciesView.SelectedItem = 0;
UpdateLists();

dependenciesView.SelectedChanged += UpdateLists;

Application.Run();

What's in update lists? Filtering code for that graph variable from before.

void UpdateLists()
{
var selectedNode = top.VisibleDependencies[dependenciesView.SelectedItem];

runtimeDependsView.SetSource(graph.Edges.Where(x => x.Start.Equals(selectedNode) && x.End is AssemblyReferenceNode)
.Select(x => x.End).ToImmutableList());
packageDependsView.SetSource(graph.Edges.Where(x => x.Start.Equals(selectedNode) && x.End is PackageReferenceNode)
.Select(x => $"{x.End}{(string.IsNullOrEmpty(x.Label) ? string.Empty : " (Wanted: " + x.Label + ")")}").ToImmutableList());
reverseDependsView.SetSource(graph.Edges.Where(x => x.End.Equals(selectedNode))
.Select(x => $"{x.Start}{(string.IsNullOrEmpty(x.Label) ? string.Empty : " (Wanted: " + x.Label + ")")}").ToImmutableList());
}

That's basically it and it's fast as heck. Probably to be expected from the folks that brought you Midnight Commander.

Are you working on any utilities or cool projects and might want to consider - gasp - text mode over a website?


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Docker Desktop for WSL 2 integrates Windows 10 and Linux even closer

July 30, '19 Comments [13] Posted in Docker | Linux | Open Source
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Being able to seamlessly run Linux on Windows is making a bunch of common development tasks easier. When you're running WSL2 (Windows Subsystem for Linux 2) in a version of Windows 10 greater than build 18945, a BUNCH of useful and interesting scenarios light up and stuff just works.

Docker for Windows (download the Docker Desktop for WSL 2 Tech preview here) is great, but it has historically worked on Windows by creating a Hyper-V virtual machine called Moby that is visible within the Hyper-V client. It's a utility VM, but it's one you're aware of.

Docker for Windows using WSL2

However, if WSL2 runs a real Linux kernel in Windows 10 and it's managing a virtual machine platform underneath (and not visible to) Hyper-V client tools, then why not just let WSL2 handle containers for us?

That's exactly what the Docker Desklop WSL 2 Tech Preview aims to do. And just like WSL 2, it's fast.

...the time required to start a Docker daemon after a cold start is significantly faster. It takes less than 2 seconds to start the Docker daemon when compared to tens of seconds in the current version of Docker Desktop.

Once you've got a Linux (Ubuntu or the like) set up in WSL 2, you can right click on Docker Deskop and click "WSL 2 Tech Preview." This is a goofy and not-super-intuitive UI for now but it's a moment in time.

Click WSL 2 Tech Preview

Then you just hit Start.

NOTE: If you've already installed Docker within WSL 2 at the command line, stop it and let Docker Desktop manage its lifecycle.

Here's the beginnings of their UI.

Docker for WSL2

When I drop out to PowerShell/CMD on Windows I can run "docker context ls."

C:\Users\Scott\Desktop> docker context ls    
NAME DESCRIPTION DOCKER ENDPOINT
default Current DOCKER_HOST based configuration npipe:////./pipe/docker_engine
wsl * Docker daemon hosted in WSL 2 npipe:////./pipe/docker_wsl

You can see there's two contexts, and I've run "docker context use wsl" and that's now my default.

Here is docker images from Ubuntu, and again from Windows (in PowerShell Core). They are the same!

Docker images in Ubuntu
Docker images from Powershell

Sweet. Here I am using PowerShell Core (which is open source and cross-platform, natch) to manage my builds which are themselves cross-platform and I can run both a docker build or a metal build on both Windows or Linux, all seamlessly on the same box.

building docker images

Also note, Simon from Docker points out "We are using a non default dataroot in this mode to avoid corrupting a datastore you use without docker desktop in case something goes wrong. Stopping the docker desktop wsl daemon and restarting the one you installed manually should bring everything back." I noticed this because my "Windows Docker" and my original WSL2 docker had a list of images that I naively expected to be available here, but this is a new context and new dataroot so you may need to fetch images again in this new world if you're have been historically an active docker user.

So far I'm super impressed. Linux on the Windows Desktop feels right. It's Peanut Butter and Chocolate.


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Ruby on Rails on Windows is not just possible, it's fabulous using WSL2 and VS Code

July 25, '19 Comments [12] Posted in Linux | Open Source | Ruby | Win10
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I've been trying on and off to enjoy Ruby on Rails development on Windows for many years. I was doing Ruby on Windows as long as 13 years ago. There's been many valiant efforts to make Rails on Windows a good experience. However, given that Windows 10 can run Linux with WSL (Windows Subsystem for Linux) and now Windows runs Linux at near-native speeds with an actual shipping Linux Kernel using WSL2, Ruby on Rails folks using Windows should do their work in WSL2.

Running Ruby on Rails on Windows

Get a recent Windows 10

WSL2 will be released later this year but for now you can easily get it by signing up for Windows Insiders Fast and making sure your version of Windows is 18945 or greater. Just run "winver" to see your build number. Run Windows Update and get the latest.

Enable WSL2

You'll want the newest Windows Subsystem for Linux. From a PowerShell admin prompt run this:

Enable-WindowsOptionalFeature -Online -FeatureName Microsoft-Windows-Subsystem-Linux

and head over to the Windows Store and search for "Linux" or get Ubuntu 18.04 LTS directly. Download it, run it, make your sudo user.

Make sure your distro is running at max speed with WSL2. That earlier PowerShell prompt run wsl --list -v to see your distros and their WSL versions.

C:\Users\Scott\Desktop> wsl --list -v
NAME STATE VERSION
* Ubuntu-18.04 Running 2
Ubuntu Stopped 1
WLinux Stopped 1

You can upgrade any WSL1 distro like this, and once it's done, it's done.

wsl --set-version "Ubuntu-18.04" 2

And certainly feel free to get cool fonts and styles and make yourself a nice shiny Linux experience...maybe with the Windows Terminal.

Get the Windows Terminal

Bonus points, get the new open source Windows Terminal for a better experience at the command line. Install it AFTER you've set up Ubuntu or a Linux and it'll auto-populate its menu for you. Otherwise, edit your profiles.json and make a profile with a commandLine like this:

"commandline" : "wsl.exe -d Ubuntu-18.04"

See how I'm calling wsl -d (for distro) with the short name of the distro?

Ubuntu in the Terminal Menu

Since I have a real Ubuntu environment on Windows I can just follow these instructions to set up Rails!

Set up Ruby on Rails

Ubuntu instructions work because it is Ubuntu! https://gorails.com/setup/ubuntu/18.04

Additionally, I can install as as many Linuxes as I want, even a Dev vs. Prod environment if I like. WSL2 is much lighter weight than a full Virtual Machine.

Once Rails is set up, I'll try making a new hello world:

rails new myapp

and here's the result!

Ruby on Rails in the new Windows Terminal

I can also run "explorer.exe ." and launch Windows Explorer and see and manage my Linux files. That's allowed now in WSL2 because it's running a Plan9 server for file access.

Ubuntu files inside Explorer on Windows 10

Install VS Code and the VS Code Remote Extension Pack

I'm going to install the VSCode Remote Extension pack so I can develop from Windows on remote machines OR in WSL or  Container directly. I can click the lower level corner of VS Code or check the Command Palette for this list of menu items. Here I can "Reopen Folder in WSL" and pick the distro I want to use.

Remote options in VS Code

Now that I've opened the folder for development WSL look closely at the lower left corner. You can see I'm in a WSL development mode AND Visual Studio Code is recommending I install a Ruby VS Code extension...inside WSL! I don't even have Ruby and Rails on Windows. I'm going to have the Ruby language servers and VS Code headless parts live in WSL - in Linux - where they'll be the most useful.

Ruby inside WSL

This synergy, this balance between Windows (which I enjoy) and Linux (whose command line I enjoy) has turned out to be super productive. I'm able to do all the work I want - Go, Rust, Python, .NET, Ruby - and move smoothly between environments. There's not a clear separation like there is with the "run it in a VM" solution. I can access my Windows files from /mnt/c from within Linux, and I can always get to my Linux files at \\wsl$ from within Windows.

Note that I'm running rails server -b=0.0.0.0 to bind on all available IPs, and this makes Rails available to "localhost" so I can hit the Rails site from Windows! It's my machine, so it's my localhost (the networking complexities are handled by WSL2).

$ rails server -b=0.0.0.0
=> Booting Puma
=> Rails 6.0.0.rc2 application starting in development
=> Run `rails server --help` for more startup options
Puma starting in single mode...
* Version 3.12.1 (ruby 2.6.2-p47), codename: Llamas in Pajamas
* Min threads: 5, max threads: 5
* Environment: development
* Listening on tcp://0.0.0.0:3000
Use Ctrl-C to stop

Here it is in new Edge (chromium). So this is Ruby on Rails running in WSL, as browsed to from Windows, using the new Edge with Chromium at its heart. Cats and dogs, living together, mass hysteria.

Ruby on Rails on Windows from WSL

Even better, I can install the ruby-debug-ide gem inside WSL and now I'm doing interactive debugging from VS Code, but again, note that the "work" is happening inside WSL.

Debugging Rails on Windows

Enjoy!


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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.