The beta of Visual Studio 2011 has been made available on MSDN Developer Downloads
This build is promoted as 'production ready', including round tripping (backward compatibility) without conversion of existing Visual Studio 2010 project files. Note that project files prior to VS 2010 SP1 will require conversion.
My test configuration was: a Dell Precision M4400 x64, Windows 7 Pro, Visual Studio 2010 Pro, SharePoint Server 2010, SQL Server 2008 R2.
After creating an image of my partition, I started the web based install of the VS2011 Beta.
One of my favorite test cases is how setup recovers from failed installs, so I cancelled the web install in the middle, and then deleted the target folders from Program Files and Program Files (x86).
I then re-started the Web based install, which completed but raised various errors at the end, after which 2010 failed to start with no specific error, and 2011 failed to start with an error that its Side by Side configuration was invalid. This showed that the VS2011 Setup is unable to automatically clean-up prior failed installs, which is not surprising but hope springs eternal.
To minimize connectivity issues, I decided to move on to the ISO install. After reapplying my base image, and downloading the ISO from MSDN, I restarted Setup. This time setup completed without error, and in far less time then previous versions of Visual Studio.
During the install, I selected the option to have my VS 2010 settings migrated to 2011. After ignoring the big LAUNCH link, and rebooting, I started VS 2011. The IDE loaded very quickly compared to 2010, and I was presented with the new look and feel.
The first thing I noticed was the almost total lack of color in the UI. While a few controls and menu items are colored, most are back and white. This gives the UI a very consistent and clean look, which I think I’ll continue to appreciate. The conversion of my VS 2010 settings did bring over my external tools menu items, and my custom tool bar, but failed to add the commands to the toolbar. However I was able to easily re-add them via Tools \ Customize.
I then opened, built, and deployed my test SharePoint Web Part solution in VS2010 to confirm that nothing was broken. When everything worked fine in the prior version of VS, I then opened the solution in VS2011. I was very happy to see that project ‘round tripping’ did indeed work, as my VS 2010 project loaded, built, and deployed without conversion. Even more impressive was the fact that after saving the solution in VS 2011, the project continued to load, build and deploy in VS 2010. For the first time, we can test different versions of Visual Studio side by side without compatibility and usability issues. This is a huge win for Microsoft and the Visual Studio team!
Although I’ve obviously only scratched the surface of the product, Visual Studio 2011 Beta will continue to be my default Windows development IDE going forward, with the added security of being able to fall back to VS2010 as needed.