Visual Studio Code VS. Visual Studio

Visual Studio Code

VS Code is a lightweight and cross platform code editor that has gained massive popularity ever since its release in 2015.


  • Free and open source
  • Cross platform (Windows, macOS, Linux)
  • Lightweight and fast
  • Very customizable with a vast extension ecosystem
  • Great for web development, JavaScript and TypeScript
  • Built in Git integration
  • Fairly regular updates and active community


  • Less robust out of the box for large and complex projects
  • Fewer features compared to Visual Studio

Visual Studio

Visual Studio is a complete IDE that has been a staple in Windows development for decades.


  • Comprehensive IDE with built in tools for debugging, testing and deployment
  • Excellent for .NET development and Windows centric projects
  • Powerful IntelliSense and refactoring capabilities
  • Integrated GUI designers for Windows Forms and WPF
  • Great support for team collaboration and DevOps with Azure integration


  • Primarily Windows and x86 only (though a Mac and ARM based version exists with limited features)
  • Resource intensive and slower to start up
  • Steeper learning curve
  • Can be expensive (but it has a free Community Edition)

Choosing Between VS Code and Visual Studio

Project Type

For web development, cross platform projects or lighter coding tasks VS Code is the better choice.

For complex Windows or .NET applications, Visual Studio has better overall tools.


If you’re working on a less powerful machine or want a faster interface, VS Code should be your choice.

For larger projects where you need robust debugging and profiling tools Visual Studio’s power will be worth the performance issues.


VS Code’s extensibility means it is very adaptable to different languages and workflows.

Visual Studio comes with deeper integration with Microsoft technologies but it is less flexible overall.


VS Code is free for everything.

Visual Studio has a free Community Edition but Professional and Enterprise editions come at a fairly high price.

Learning Curve

VS Code is easier to pick up and start using right away.

Visual Studio has more features to master but comes with better developed tools for professional Windows development.

Visual Studio Code: Hidden Gems

1. Remote Development

VS Code’s Remote Development extension pack allows you to use a container, remote machine or Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) as a full featured development environment. This is very useful for maintaining consistent development environments across teams.

2. Live Share

This feature gives you real time collaborative editing and debugging, regardless of the programming languages you’re using. It’s more powerful than some developers realize because it gives you shared terminals and localhost servers.

3. Custom Snippets

While many developers know about the extensions, not that many people take advantage of creating custom snippets. These can significantly speed up your coding for repetitive patterns specific to your projects.

4. Profiles

VS Code allows you to create and switch between different settings profiles which is useful for maintaining separate configurations for different types of development work.

5. Integrated Terminal Splitting

You can split the integrated terminal into multiple panes, each running different shells or commands helping you with your multitasking capabilities.

Visual Studio: Power Features

1. CodeLens

This feature gives you inline metadata about code references, unit test status and other similar things. It’s particularly powerful for large codebases and team environments.

2. Architecture Tools

Visual Studio Enterprise includes tools for visualizing and analyzing code architecture including dependency graphs and layer diagrams.

3. Live Unit Testing

Available in the Enterprise edition this feature automatically runs unit tests in real time as you code which is one of the greatest things about the platform since it provides you with immediate feedback about what you’re writing. No wonder Microsoft only puts it behind their expensive Enterprise edition. But if you’re a large scale developer you 100% need this feature.

4. T4 Text Templates

A powerful but usually ignored feature for generating code or other text files based on custom templates and runtime data.

5. XAML Hot Reload

While Hot Reload is known for .NET MAUI and WPF fewer developers are aware it also works for UWP and WinUI 3 apps.

Nuanced Comparisons

1. Performance Tuning

VS Code: Can be significantly sped up by managing extensions properly. Some extensions particularly for Python and Java can slow it down considerably.

Visual Studio: Recent versions have improved startup time but it can be optimized more by customizing which components load at startup.

2. Language Support

VS Code: While known for web technologies, it has robust support for C++ and Python that rivals dedicated IDEs when properly configured.

Visual Studio: It is not usually used for web development but recent versions have significantly improved JavaScript and TypeScript support.

3. AI Integration

VS Code: GitHub Copilot integration is fantastic and it works across many languages.

Visual Studio: It offers AI assisted development through IntelliCode, which goes beyond autocomplete to provide whole line and whole function suggestions.

4. Debugging

VS Code: The built in debugger is more powerful than many realize because it supports complex configurations and remote debugging.

Visual Studio: It comes with advanced memory and performance profiling tools that are particularly useful for systems programming and game development.

5. Extensibility Model

VS Code: Extensions are usually lightweight and focus on specific functionalities.

Visual Studio: Extensions (called packages) can be more deeply integrated, sometimes blurring the line between certain features and add-ons.

6. Update Cadence

VS Code: Monthly releases with continuous updates.

Visual Studio: Major versions every 1-2 years with minor updates more frequently. This impacts how quickly new language features are supported.

Many developers actually use both tools: VS Code for quick edits, web development and cross platform projects and Visual Studio for serious Windows and .NET development.

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