Electronic Design
Visual Studio-based IDE Target AVR Microcontrollers

Visual Studio-based IDE Target AVR Microcontrollers

Many companies have switched to the open source Eclipse platform instead of pushing their own proprietary IDE. Atmel decided to take a different approach for its 8- and 32-bit AVR microcontrollers. It customized Microsoft's Visual Studio to provide a dynamic development environment. AVR Studio 5 is not a Visual Studio plug-in but its own IDE specifically designed to for embedded developers. Atmel decided that Microsoft's platform offered the best combination of responsive IDE and third party support.

AVR Studio 5 is a new start for Atmel. It supports the platforms that AVR Studio 4 and the Eclipse-based AVR32 Studio but discontinues the development of these tools. Compiler, linker and debugger support for Linux continues and it is possible to utilize these with Eclipse but it is not up to the developer to handle these chores. Atmel decided that Eclipse was too complex for most embedded chores. Likewise Visual Studio has been trimmed so 8- and 32-bit C and C++ development will not be troubled with the massive .NET support.

Atmel has slimmed down Visual Studio but it has also improved upon the standard editor with Atmel's intelligent editor (Fig. 1). Actually, this is a plug-in that will cost Visual Studio developers an extra $200 but AVR Studio 5 developers get for free. The smart completion support not only provides function names but also comments and code associated with the function. This can save considerable time writing code.

Atmel has also included its own debugger that handles all of its processor platforms. Simulation support is also part of the package.

Another piece to the IDE is integration with Atmel's AVR Software Framework. These are drivers, app notes and libraries. These are cross referenced into categories that can be easily browsed and files can be downloaded from the Internet.

A new hardware addition is ATJTAGICE3 (Fig. 2). The JTAG IDE module is priced at $199. The USB powered system is twice as fast and smaller than Atmel's older offering. AVR Studio 5 is the only IDE that supports ATJTAGICE3. It will not be supported by AVR Studio 4 or AVR32 Studio.

AVR Studio 5 runs on Windows including Windows 7. As noted, the Linux command line toolchain is still available.

Atmel's move to AVR Studio 5 will be interesting. In theory, third party tools for Microsoft Visual Studio should be moveable to AVR Studio 5. AVR Studio 5 already supports many source code management tools that may be sufficient for many developers.

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