What's the difference between visual studio and vs code?

sloan profile image Sloan ・1 min read

This is an anonymous post sent in by a member who does not want their name disclosed. Please be thoughtful with your responses, as these are usually tough posts to write. Email sloan@dev.to if you'd like to leave an anonymous comment.

  • What can I do on visual studio that I can't do on vs code? That's presumably what I'd be paying for, right?
  • Is visual studio cross-platform?


Editor guide

Visual Studio is a full IDE (integrated development environment) primarily used for .NET development. Debugger, refactor-er, compile, create packages, and more. The full version that supports .NET and .NET Core is not cross-platform. It is only on Windows. It also is used for other languages, but primarily for .NET C#/F#/etc development for and on Windows machines/servers. Working with .NET 4.x, WCF, WebAPI, building DLLs? Use Visual Studio probably. I do not use Visual Studio, but I am not a Windows/.NET dev.

Visual Studio Code is a text editor with lots of optional plugins -- it is more akin to Atom, SublimeText, and BBEdit. It has some features of Visual Studio, like syntax highlighting, some code sense, and other neat features. It is cross-platform and can be used for writing pretty any language. I use it on Mac and Linux for PHP, Python, HTML5, JavaScript, NodeJS, and more.


For all intents and purposes, they can be thought of as completely separate products which share a name more for branding and historical reasons more than anything, right?


Pretty much.

Even more confusing is MS announcing that "Visual Studio is now on Mac!" but it isn't the same product, only works with .NET Core, and more or less is a skin of Xamarin apparently.

So three products, similar names, some shared features, but not really the same.

I'm trying to picture whether it would be confusing if Apple's xcode had these different flavors.

Yes it would. But Apple would never allow an XCode for Windows because Microsoft's dog got into their garden once and dug up the petunias. Since then, Apple is pretty adamant that every other member of the Home Owner's Association should go somewhere else. They don't even invite their neighbors to their cookouts anymore. Very sad...😋😋😋


No, Visual Studio is not cross-platform. It includes a compiler, a linker, several SDKs and an Android emulator. You don't have to pay for it though, the free community edition is more than good enough.

Visual Studio Code is a glorified text editor.


In my brief experience with Visual Studio I can tell you its a versatile IDE which supports a vast extent of programming languages with the ability to create large applications, from web applications to game development. Vs Code is mainly utilized for debugging and experimenting with code and supports many programming languages. Vs Code is similar to other text editors such as Sublime Text 1, 2, and 3. Also be aware using Visual Studio on mac requires installing X-Code.


Like Anthony said they are different products, solve different problems built by different teams. Only time you can compare them is when you work in .net and front end web dev.

To see the difference, especially for the VS pay edition most likely you will have to work in .net, in a big project, for a few years.

I'm sure Visual Studio will still have a few aces in its sleave, to worth buying it, at least for a few more years.


So I'm using a Mac for game development and I'm in the process of learning to use Unity. Would VSCode or Visual Studio (IDE) be best for using C# with Unity?


Woah I thought both names referred to the same thing. Woah.