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Want a full-blown IDE for Node.js? You'll need a Windows machine...

New tools for Visual Studio tackle server-side JavaScript

Microsoft has doubled down on its support for the Node.js server-side JavaScript framework with a new set of tools that turn Visual Studio into a full-fledged Node.js IDE.

The Node.js Tools for Visual Studio (NTVS) have been in development as an open source project for around a year, but Wednesday's 1.0 release marks them ready for production use.

The add-ons enable all the usual features developers expect from an IDE, including syntax highlighting, automatic formatting, brace matching, and so on.

They even offer code completions, despite JavaScript being a loosely typed language. Microsoft's IntelliSense tech analyzes existing code to infer the correct types for variables before inserting the completions.

And of course, an IDE wouldn't be much without rich debugging capabilities – something Redmond engineer Sara Itani has been notably lacking in the Node.js community.

"We're always shocked to hear how many people are relying on print-line statements to debug their Node.js code," Itani said in a blog post announcing the NTVS release.

With NTVS, Node.js developers can step through their code and apply breakpoints and tracepoints, just like that can with other languages. They can also profile their code and set up unit tests using Visual Studio's test explorer. Remote debugging to Windows, Linux, and OS X is also supported.

The tools work with Visual Studio 2012 or later, including the free Visual Studio Express for Web and the free Visual Studio Community 2013 edition that Microsoft launched in November.

Microsoft has grown increasingly vocal about its support for Node.js and other open source technologies ever since CEO Satya Nadella announced the company's "love" for Linux at an event in San Francisco in October.

It makes a certain amount of sense, given that most customers of the software giant's Azure public cloud are using open source, sometimes exclusively – and, naturally, NTVS is fully integrated with Azure.

In the case of Node.js, which has been growing in popularity among developers working in a wide variety of fields, Microsoft went as far as to join Joyent's newly created Node.js Foundation in February, along with Fidelity, IBM, the Linux Foundation, and PayPal.

"Microsoft has been a long-time participant within the Node.js community," Redmond's Gianugo Rabellino blogged at the time, "and we take pride in the fact that our contributions have influenced successful advancements that are now being leveraged across established and emerging development platforms to support innovations in mobility, robotics, IoT and other areas."

The NTVS are available for download from Microsoft's CodePlex code hosting site, here. ®

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