Microsoft Enlists AI to Improve Visual Studio Coding

Microsoft has enlisted artificial intelligence to improve the "smartness" of its Visual Studio IDE, which can now infer what style conventions should be used in a programmer's code.

This capability comes in a preview tool called IntelliCode, which is basically AI-assisted IntelliSense. Visual Studio's IntelliSense has long provided functionality such as guessing what a programmer is intending to type and suggesting the correct term to be completed automatically.

IntelliCode comes in a Visual Studio Marketplace extension and leverages machine learning to provide several benefits, including contextual IntelliSense, inference and enforcement for code styles and focused reviews for pull requests.

To boost the capabilities of IntelliSense, Microsoft says: "IntelliCode saves time by putting what you’re most likely to use at the top of your completion list -- based on your code context and its training. IntelliCode trains across 2,000 open source projects on GitHub -- each with over 100 stars -- to generate these recommendations."

Another capability is to infer code style and formatting conventions, and on this front, Microsoft just updated the extension with more intelligence, providing coding convention inference for C# code.

"With this update, the IntelliCode extension can now generate an .editorconfig file on-demand that best matches the coding conventions used in your codebase; no more long discussions with your team about the best convention to use!" Microsoft said in a post this week.

IntelliCode can flag violations of the coding style conventions being used as a programmer types in code, which can then be addressed by the programmer in multiple ways to conform to correct style.

While the tool works only with C# code now, support for more programming languages is on tap. Mark Wilson-Thomas, senior program manager, Visual Studio IDE Team, said as that support and more scenarios are added to the tool, Microsoft will announce a limited preview of IntelliCode.

As of this writing, the preview extension has been installed more than 52,000 times, earning a 4.7 (0-5 scale) from 20 developers who provided reviews.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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