Microsoft has announced that Visual Studio for Mac is to be retired, and support dropped from 31 August 2024.
While the company did not share exact figures, it blamed usage patterns and user feedback for the decision. After 31 August next year, Visual Studio for Mac will gain the ‘legacy’ label. It will remain available as a download for Visual Studio subscribers, but won’t receive any further support.
Recommended alternatives include Visual Studio Code, a cross-platform code editor, which, according to the 2023 Stack Overflow developer survey, was by far the most popular integrated development environment (IDE). Out of more than 86,000 responses to the survey, almost three-quarters (73.71%) preferred the platform.
The same survey put Visual Studio a distant second, coming up in nearly 30% (28.43%) of responses.
Visual Studio for Mac gave developers the ability to code Mac applications using C#, a fact acknowledged by Microsoft as it directed developers to the C# Dev Kit for Visual Studio Code. However, unlike Visual Studio for Mac, the C# Dev Kit remains in preview and is unsuitable for production use.
Another alternative suggested by Microsoft is a switch to Visual Studio for Windows, either in a virtual machine (VM) or via the cloud-hosted Microsoft Dev Box - effectively a VM in Microsoft’s cloud.
Why has Microsoft done this?
Visual Studio for Mac has always been somewhat of a niche product for the company but has been the subject of active development. Visual Studio 2022 for Mac, for example, featured native support for the Apple M1 chip and embraced the full macOS experience.
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However, by the time Microsoft added more capabilities to Visual Studio for Mac, developers had already moved elsewhere. Visual Studio Code is a hugely popular option, and .NET developers on macOS have alternatives, such as JetBrains Rider.
The reaction from users of the platform has been relatively negative. While some found solace in Visual Studio Code, others were disappointed and confused by the sudden move, coming as soon as it did after the release of Visual Studio 2022 for Mac.
Anthony Cangialosi, principal group project manager for VS Core and Dev Box at Microsoft, gave no further insight into the decision-making process other than referencing usage patterns.
“We’re redirecting our resources and focus to enhance Visual Studio and VS Code, optimizing them for cross-platform development,” he said.
What about Visual Studio for Windows?
Visual Studio for Mac is a relative newcomer compared to its Windows sibling, which first appeared in 1997. The Mac incarnation turned up in 2016.
While Microsoft is keen to direct Visual Studio for Mac users to Visual Studio Code, Visual Studio for Windows is highly unlikely to meet the same fate as its Mac counterpart. However, users accustomed to macOS are unlikely to switch to Windows in order to use the application.
However, the decision to shutter Visual Studio for Mac is also another nail in the coffin of Xamarin, for which support also ends in 2024.
Microsoft rebranded Xamarin Studio as Visual Studio for Mac after acquiring the company in 2016 with an avowed goal to “empower more developers”.
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Richard Speed is an expert in databases, DevOps and IT regulations and governance. He was previously a Staff Writer for ITPro, CloudPro and ChannelPro, before going freelance. He first joined Future in 2023 having worked as a reporter for The Register. He has also attended numerous domestic and international events, including Microsoft's Build and Ignite conferences and both US and EU KubeCons.
Prior to joining The Register, he spent a number of years working in IT in the pharmaceutical and financial sectors.