Microsoft’s Visual Studio Online code editor is now Visual Studio Codespaces and gets a price drop

Image Credits: Drew Angerer / Getty Images

About a year ago, Microsoft  launched Visual Studio Online, its online code editor based on the popular Visual Studio Code project. It’s basically a full code editor and hosted environment that lives in your browser.

Today, the company announced that it is changing the name of this service to Visual Studio Codespaces. It’s also dropping the price of the service by more than 50% and it’s giving developers the option to run it on relatively low-performance virtual machines that will start at $0.08 per hour.

In today’s announcement, Microsoft’s Scott Hanselman points out that the company learned that most developers who used Visual Studio Online thought of it as being much more than simply an editor in the browser.

“To better align with that sentiment, and the true value of the service, we’re renaming Visual Studio Online to Visual Studio Codespaces. (It’s true what they say, naming is hard!) Do you want a great experience working on your long-term project? Do it in a Codespace. Need to quickly prototype a new feature or perform some short-term tasks (like reviewing pull requests)? Create a Codespace! Your Codespaces are simply the most productive place to code.”

The new pricing will go into effect on May 19, the first day of Microsoft’s (virtual) Build developer conference. These are pretty significant price drops, down from $0.45 per hour to $0.17 for a machine with 4 cores and 8 GB of memory, for example (you also incur some relatively minor storage costs of $0.0088 for using a 64 GB SDD, too).

Hanselman also points out that a lot of developers don’t need quite that much power, so the company is now introducing a Basic plan with a 2-core machine and 4 GB of RAM for $0.08 per hour. Best I can tell, these will go live for around $0.24 per hour today and then see a price cut on May 19, too. Why not launch it at the reduced price? Only Microsoft knows, so we asked and will update this post once they tell us.

Typically, this is the kind of announcement Microsoft would make at its annual Build developer conference. And while some other companies have decided to fully scrap their events and aren’t even hosting a virtual conference, Microsoft is moving full steam ahead with its Build conference in the middle of May. I expect we’ll hear more about how that event will play out in the near future.

You can now try Microsoft’s web-based version of Visual Studio

Earlier this year, at its Build developers conference, Microsoft announced that it was working on a web-based version of its Visual Studio IDE. At the time, Visual Studio Online went into a private preview, open to a select number of developers. Now, at its Ignite conference, the company has opened the service to all developers who want to give it a spin.

With Visual Studio Online, developers will be able to quickly spin up a fully configured development environment for their repositories. From there, they can use the web-based editor to work on their code.

“Visual Studio Online brings together Visual Studio, cloud-hosted developer environments and a web-based editor that’s accessible from anywhere to help developers be more productive than ever,” Microsoft notes in its press materials. “As development becomes more collaborative and open source workflows, like pull requests, become more pervasive, developers need to be able to switch between codebases and projects quickly without losing productivity.”

In its current form, the service is deeply integrated with Microsoft’s GitHub (no surprise there), but the company notes that developers can also attach their own physical and virtual machines to their Visual Studio-based environments. Developers also can create these online environments right from Visual Studio Code, the company’s increasingly popular free code editor for Windows, Mac and Linux.

The cloud-based environments, as well as extension support for Visual Studio Code, are now in preview.