VisualMicro: An Arduino IDE that doesn’t suck

Occasionally I get asked to build or modify boxes or prototyping platforms using open-source or off-the-shelf components.

There are multiple reasons to do this:

Sometimes a client wants to get more hands-on, so I get them started with a platform that works, then they take over from there.

  • Access to documentation
  • Speed of implementation
  • Ease of change and development
  • Education for the client

IDEs that suck

Some integrated development environments are better than others. Some are very heavyweight with steep learning curves (looking at you, Eclipse) others at the other end, are too simple and to be frank, a bit annoying to use (yeah, Arduino IDE – you know I’m talking about you!)

Then there are, err, ‘unique’ environments from the larger companies that are stuck in middle; not fully-featured enough to hack around, too simple to do everything I want, along with a vast number of annoying bugs and just plain weird design.

These IDEs are sometimes essential, as they are the only game in town, and you’re stuck with them.

IDEs that don’t suck

I was always a fan of Microsoft Visual Studio. Its not too crazy, and its extensible enough that plugin or extensions are available to suit most tastes. VisualMicro is one such extension.

The idea is straightforward – install Arduino UI to get the backend infrastructure in place (compilers, libraries, board support etc.) then use Visual Studio as the front end.

The installation is pretty straightforward; install a version of Visual Studio – Community edition will work. Next, if not already installed, throw on Arduino UI (not the silly web version)

Finally, install the VisualMicro extension from the Visual Studio Extension (VSIX) manager and restart.

For those that want a walk-through, hear it from the man himself:

The extension is not free; only a 45-day trial, but for hobby use it is only $12 per year. My commercial use is $45/year per machine.

This is money well spent in my opinion.

Due diligence: I have no affiliation with VisualMicro. I’m writing this simply to raise awareness of an excellent time-saving tool I discovered recently.