Microsoft boosts programming language Python's popular VS Code extension

Among 59 enhancements and bug fixes, Microsoft brings Jupyter improvements to the Python extension for Visual Studio Code and also has something for Java developers.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

Microsoft has released a host of improvements and fixes for the Python extension for its popular open-source code editor, Visual Studio Code (VS Code), as well as new improvements for Java on VS Code. 

The popular Python for VS Code extension now has almost 15 million installs from Microsoft's VS Code extension marketplace, making it by far the most popular extension distributed on the site.  

This update contains 59 enhancements and bug fixes in the Python extension, most notably kernel selection in Jupyter Notebooks and performance improvements in the Jupyter Notebook editor. 

SEE: How to build a successful developer career (free PDF)

Jupyter Notebooks is a popular tool for data-science pros, allowing them to create and share code, visualizations, and other information useful in notebooks.  

Microsoft-enabled Jupyter notebooks native editing in VS Code in its October release of the Python extension, allowing data scientists to manage source control, open multiple files, and use the auto code-filling feature IntelliSense.

In the January release, VS Code Python extension users can now see the current kernel that the notebook is using as well as the status of the kernel, such as whether it is idle or busy. Users can change to other Python kernels from the VS Code kernel selector. 

Microsoft also promises that this release brings performance improvements for Jupyter in VS Code in both the Notebook editor and the Interactive Window. The improvements are the result of caching previous kernels and optimizing the search for Jupyter, according to Microsoft. 

Microsoft says the initial start of the Jupyter server is faster and that subsequent starts are more than twice as fast. Users should experience a noticeably faster process for creating a new blank Jupyter notebook and when opening Jupyter Notebooks with a large file size. 

Virtual or conda environments can now be automatically activated in an already-open terminal when the Python extension loads. 

Additionally, this release has a fix for the ctags tool, so tags stored in the .vscode folder for a project are rebuilt when the Python extension loads. This can be enabled by setting 'python.workspaceSymbols.rebuildOnStart' to true, or rebuilt on every file save by setting 'python.workspaceSymbols.rebuildOnFileSave' to true.

The Visual Studio Code editor itself received a January 2020 update which Microsoft reckons will "benefit Java developers a lot". 

As with Python, there are several extensions available for Java programming on Microsoft's extension marketplace. 

SEE: Programming language of 2019? Python beaten by trusty old C

Xiaokai He, a senior program manager of Java on VS Code and Azure, has outlined a number of improvements for Java developers. There's a new Call Hierarchy view that shows all calls to or from a function. By clicking Peek and then Peek Call Hierarchy, users can dig up info on callers and calls. 

Microsoft has also added user interface improvements for Java in VS Code through single child folders in a compact form that's compressed into a combined tree element.

VS Code now also supports Data Breakpoint that allows for the debugger to break when a variable's value changes. 

Microsoft has updated its Java Test Runner extension with a new Test Explorer feature that shows the test status and test results directly. 

VS Code Python extension users can now see the current kernel and its status and can change to other Python kernels from the VS Code kernel selector.  

Image: Microsoft

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