Visual Studio vs Visual Studio Code: Main Differences
Tech Insights

Visual Studio vs Visual Studio Code: What’s the Key Difference? 

Lucia Quoy
- - 3 min. to read

The choice between Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code (VSCode) is a common topic of discussion among developers and for a good reason. Both are popular tools developed by Microsoft for code development, but they serve different purposes.

Visual Studio, often referred to as an Integrated Development Environment (IDE), leverages Microsoft’s software development platform to create and manage native code. It’s an all-encompassing solution favored by C++ and .NET developers working on the Windows platform.

On the other hand, Visual Studio Code is a powerful source code editor that supports multiple programming languages and is compatible with Windows, macOS, and Linux devices. It’s gained immense popularity recently, leaving some to wonder if it’s replacing Visual Studio Community altogether.

So, which one should you choose? Is VS Code merely a substitute for those unable to access Visual Studio? Or does it offer advantages over its counterpart? If you’re learning to code, which tool is better suited to your needs?

In this blog, we’ll delve into Microsoft Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code, learn more about their differences, and help you choose the one that suits your needs. Read on to know more.

What is a Visual Studio?

Visual Studio is a robust integrated development environment (IDE) that caters to all needs of developers looking to build different types of applications. It comes with various tools, including project templates and debugging capabilities. Recent data on top IDE index reveals Visual Studio as the most searched with a 27.6% share.

Visual Studio suits any professional developer working on desktop, Windows, mobile, or web app development. It’s also suitable for developers working on complex projects demanding deep code analysis and debugging finesse.

Pros of Visual Studio

  • Comprehensive Development Environment: Visual Studio comes pre-packaged with extensive development tools, eliminating the need for separate installations.
  • IDE Capabilities: It functions as a powerful Integrated Development Environment (IDE), encompassing project building, interactive debugging, and code profiling.
  • Intellisense: Offers intelligent code suggestions, particularly beneficial for languages like C++, which enhances coding efficiency.
  • Advanced Code Profiling: Enables deep code analysis and fine-tuning for optimal performance.
  • Customized Language Support: Adapts to the specific programming language you’re working with, providing tailored features and support.
  • Team Collaboration: Facilitates collaborative development with built-in features designed for teamwork, making it ideal for larger projects.

Robust testing tools with unit testing and performance profiling contribute to Visual Studio’s comprehensive development experience. Furthermore, the integration with Azure propels Visual Studio into cloud development and deployment, opening up new horizons for developers.

Visual Studio Cons

  • Heavier and More Complex: Visual Studio is a more comprehensive tool, which can make it heavier and more complex than some of you might need.
  • Less Flexibility: It’s not as lightweight or flexible as some alternatives, which can be a drawback for those of you looking for a simpler or more streamlined tool.

Visual Studio comes in subscription packages. As an individual, you can access Visual Studio on the Visual Studio Community freely. Small businesses will need to subscribe for $45 per person on a professional subscription and $250 per person on an enterprise subscription.

What is Visual Studio Code (VS) 

Visual Studio Code, or VS Code, is a flexible text editor designed for developers. It has a limited feature set like Visual Code. However, it provides developers with a set of customizable features through extensions.

Tailored for web developers and those engaged in smaller-scale projects, VS Code has garnered popularity for its user-friendly interface and impressive functionality. The tool embraces a minimalistic user interface, promoting a seamless coding experience.

example of visual stuio code interface

Its strength lies in its adaptability, supporting various programming languages through extensions. You’ll enjoy native support for Java, TypeScript, and Node.js when using the tool for your programming. 

 VS Code Pros

  • Flexibility and Customizability: VS Code is highly customizable through plugins. You can add only the features you need.
  • Lightweight Editor: It starts as a basic text editor, making it faster and more responsive. Multi-
  • Language Support: Easy to set up for a variety of languages like C, C++, and Python, with simple plugin configurations.
  • Versatility: This can be used for a wide range of tasks like editing and viewing markdown files and composing and building LaTeX documents. 

VS Cons

  • Setup Required: Unlike Visual Studio, VS Code requires manual setup for compilers, debuggers, and language-specific features.
  • Reliance on Plugins: You need to install plugins for basic functionalities like IntelliSense, syntax highlighting, and debugging.
  • Less Ideal for C#: Setting up VS Code for C# to match the capabilities of Visual Studio can be challenging.

Differences between Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code 

The main difference between Visual Studio vs Visual Studio Code is that the first one is a comprehensive Integrated Development Environment (IDE) tool for software development, while the second one is an Extension-based Code Editor.

This sets them apart, allowing each to serve different purposes. Other distinct features that differentiate the two include:

Visual Studio VSCode
Download and Disk SpaceHeavy and requires 2.3 GB to 60 GBLightweight and may work with less than 200 MB
RAM At least 16 GB recommendedIt only needs a little space to run. It can run on a 300 MB RAM machine.
PerformanceResource-intensive, making it slower on most operating systemsLightweight, which makes it relatively quicker
User InterfaceMultiple panels and windows can appear clutteredSimplified, focuses on core coding and debugging tasks
Testing toolComprehensive set in paid versionsUnit testing supported through extensions
Collaboration and TeamworkConnects with Azure DevOps and TFSLive share extension for real-time collaborative coding, integrates with GitHub
Web ApplicationsASP.NET Core and Blazor developmentFront-end web development supports modern web technologies
Desktop ApplicationsTemplates and designers for WPF, Winforms, etc.Use Visual Studio Community edition for desktop app development
Cloud ApplicationsStrong support for Azure, AWS, Google CloudSimilar support for Desktop and Mobile applications
DebuggerRich and seamless debuggingLightweight and modular, it works with various languages through extensions
Startup TimeRelatively long startup timeQuick startup time
Operating SystemWindowsWindows, Mac, and Linux
Language SupportBuilt-in support for programming languages like C++, C#, JavaScript, TypeScript, Python, .NET, etc.JavaScript, Typescript, and Node JS. Can support other programming languages if extension(s) exist for that

The choice between Visual Studio and VSCode depends on various factors. Below are some technical aspects you should consider before settling on one.

1. Development Language Considerations

  • Visual Studio: Optimal for projects requiring robust Microsoft support, especially those involving languages like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, C++, Python, and JSON. It excels when developing comprehensive full-stack applications.
  • VSCode: Ideal for those embarking on cross-stack development ventures. Its versatility extends to a broad spectrum of languages, and it accommodates others seamlessly with the availability of suitable plug-ins.

2. Project Complexity Assessment

  • Visual Studio: Tailored for projects characterized by rich graphical user interfaces (GUI), substantial memory demands, extensive lines of code (LOC), and intricate project management requirements. Conversely, it might be perceived as a more elaborate tool for everyday programming tasks.
  • VSCode: Suited for less complex projects, scripting, and web development. Its efficiency shines when dealing with the routine demands of everyday programming. 

3. Extension Requirement Evaluation

  • Visual Studio: Offers a range of extensions, though not as extensive as the diverse collection found in VSCode. It caters to various actions but may have a more focused set of functionalities.
  • VSCode: Boasts a comprehensive list of extensions and plug-ins, covering a wide array of functionalities. Its versatility in this regard makes it an attractive option for those requiring a diverse set of tools. 

4. Development Speed Analysis

  • Visual Studio: Presents a feature-rich environment but tends to have longer start times due to inherent complexities. This results in heavier application overhead, with lengthier compilation and launch times.
  • VSCode: Enjoys quick startup with minimal overhead, facilitating nearly instantaneous commencement of work. This attribute enhances its appeal for those valuing swift initiation in their development workflow.

Final thoughts 

The choice between Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code depends on your specific project requirements and preferences. Visual Studio might be the way to go if you prioritize Microsoft support and robust features for complex projects. On the other hand, if you seek versatility and a lightweight environment, Visual Studio Code could be your preferred choice.

Lucia Quoy

Lucia is a Marketing and communications graduate currently pursuing a Masters degree in the same field. She is a lover of books, which has driven her passion in writing. Lucia is an experienced and Impact driven copywriter with more than five years of experience in content marketing and advertising. She has been successful in crafting and delivering exceptional and creative types of content, including advertisements, publications, sales copy, and web content.

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