Programming Tutorials

Debug and Release Versions in .NET

By: Steven Holzner in Tutorials on 2008-11-25  

When starting programs from the Debug menu's Start item,  Visual Basic launches the program while staying in the background; if there's a problem, Visual Basic will reappear to let you debug the program's code. That's useful for development, of course, but when your program is ready to go and to be used by others, you hardly want them to have to launch your program from Visual Basic.

That's where the difference between debug and release versions of your program comes in. In a debug version of your program, Visual Basic stores a great deal of data needed to interface with the debugger in your program when it runs, and this not only makes the corresponding assembly larger, but also slower. In the release version of your program, the program doesn't have all that added data, and can run as a stand-alone program, without needing to be launched from Visual Basic (although it still needs the .NET Framework, of course).

When you create a new solution, Visual Basic creates it in debug mode, meaning that you launch it from the Debug menu as we've been doing. However, you can switch to release mode in several ways (like many things in VB .NET, there's more than one way to do it):

  • Select the Configuration Manager item in the Build menu, then select Release in the Active Solution Configuration list box and click OK.

  • Select the solution you want to set the mode for by clicking it in the Solution Explorer, and find its Active Config property in the properties window. When you click the right-hand column in the properties window next to this property, a drop-down list box will appear; select Release in that list box.

  • Select the solution you want to set the mode for by clicking it in the Solution Explorer, and select the Properties item in the Project menu, opening the solution's property pages. Select the Configuration Properties folder in the box at left, and the Configuration item in that folder. Then select Release from the drop-down list box in the configuration column of the table that appears, and click OK.

  • Probably the easiest way to set the solution mode to release or debug is simply to use the drop-down list box that appears in the Visual Basic .NET standard toolbar, at the top of the IDE. When you create a new solution or project, this list box displays the word Debug, and all you need to do to switch to release mode is to select Release instead.

When you've set the mode for a solution to Release, you build it using the Build menu's Build item (the Build menu item causes Visual Basic to compile only items it thinks have been newly changed; to force it to compile all items in the solution, choose the Rebuild All item instead of Build). This builds the solution in a way that others can use it, and you can deploy your program this way (usually with the help of a deployment project that you build in Visual Basic).

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