It's finally here.
Three and a half years after Visual Studio .NET 2003 had been published and nearly one year after it's successor Visual Studio .NET 2005 saw the dawn of light, the first service pack for 2003 became available last week. And it is going to save us tons of otherwise wasted time (we are still stuck with .NET 1.1 in this project because of some third-party libraries that just won't work under .NET 2.0).
Over the last years, we have experienced all kind of difficulties with Visual Studio 2003. One of my "favorites": Controls disappearing unpredictably in WinForms designer. After a while we even figured out what was going on under the hoods, how the designer generated initialization code in a different order when child controls were being added to parent controls, in case the parent controls had in turn had been created AFTER the child controls. This consecutively led the designer to throw away parts of the code during the next code generation cycle. We already knew how to rearrange the originally generated code segments, so we managed to prevent that from happening (if that does sound sick to you, you are not alone).
But one of the biggest productivity killers was the incredible amount of time it took WinForms designer to open complex forms, e.g. forms with lots of controls spread over several tabpages. It lasted minutes of up to 100% CPU usage on typical developer machines in 2003 (remember, no dualcores back then) and required close to a Gigabyte of additionally allocated memory. Sometimes the IDE crashed during the process and we had to start all over. I blamed the third-party controls we used. They probably misbehaved at design time. Never would Microsoft have left such a bug unpatched for more than three years, right?
The following CPU and memory usage charts represent the same activity - opening our most complex form in Visual Studio 2003 WinForms designer on a dualcore Pentium 4 3.0GHz with 2 Gigs of RAM.
Visual Studio 2003 w/o SP1: 90 seconds, memory allocation 800MB:
Visual Studio 2003 SP1: 10 seconds, memory allocation 20MB: