Having now spent the last couple of weeks building my first applications with Visual Studio 2013 I’m comfortable giving a brief overview of my conclusions.
Firstly it is clear that 2013 has tried to completely re-create the user experience for Visual Studio developers. It has done this by enabling a high contrast type theme by default which among many other things makes the icons used in solution explorer much clearer to read.
While this was possible in previous VS versions making this theme the default pushes you as a developer to try it and once you’ve gotten used to it, its hard to go back to the burning white VS themes of the past.
The second most strikingly noticeable feature is the reference counter at the top of each method.
Personally I love this feature but if you don’t you can turn it off as described in this stackoverflow question.
Thirdly it’s clear that the VS team has made significant improvements with speed and built a clear mechanism where one ongoing process doesn’t slow the remaining IDE experience. Just when you think VS is as fast and responsive as it can get they make it increasingly responsive and fluent.
HOWEVER! and there is a big however. VS 2013 is both still lacking features that appear to be documented online AND is largely unstable and probably not ready for full scale production use.
Basically the IDE will randomly decide to shutdown and restart at various times during use and it appears certain compilation operations will still cause hickups where the IDE will become completely unresponsive for minutes and occasionally never recover. Further there appears to be issues with the browserlink functionality described in this article (causing me to have to disable it) and push notification auto code generation for Windows Phone 8 while documented online in this article (which has since changed), does not appear to exist.
In conclusion, VS2013 will unquestionably be a huge improvement both from VS2010 and VS2012 but still has at least one service pack to go before it is ready for prime time, so transition projects to it with that in mind!