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Visual Studio 2008's Multi-Targeting Support

When people talk about new features in Visual Studio 2008 and .NET 3.5, you'll usually hear them talk about improved Javascript Intellisense and debugging, amazing advances in CSS support, huge gains in the IDE's responsiveness, and the fact that Microsoft has given us mere mortals access to the actual source code of the .NET Framework libraries. But for the working developer, all those pale in comparison to a simple little feature called multi-targeting.

For years, my primary development machine had Visual Studio 2005 (for .NET 2.0), Visual Studio 2003 (for .NET 1.1), and Visual Interdev 6.0 (for classic ASP) all running simultaneously. Starting with Visual Studio 2008, that type of insanity is starting to come to an end. For the first time, you're able to use the same version of Visual Studio to build applications that target different versions of the .NET runtime. Simply tell Visual Studio if the project you're working on should target version 2.0, 3.0, or 3.5 and start coding. The compilation settings, project references, and web.config settings are all automatically configured to match.

The only real downside is that this support doesn't go back one step further to support .NET 1.1. But, to be honest, I don't hear from too many people still targeting .NET 1.x these days. The shiny new features in .NET 2.0+ have caused most developers to push to get older apps converted. So, even if we don't have .NET 1.1 support to manage those older apps today, at least we're on the path towards a single IDE tomorrow.

For more information on Visual Studio 2008's multi-targeting support, you'll want to check out Scott Guthrie's blog post on the topic: VS 2008 Multi-Targeting Support. It's a little old and the screen caps are from the betas, but it covers the topic well.

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