Microsoft introduces Remote Development extensions to make remote development easier on VS Code

3 min read

Yesterday, Microsoft announced the preview of Remote Development extension pack for VS Code to enable developers to use a container, remote machine, or the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) as a full-featured development environment.

Currently, developers will need to use the Insiders build for remote development until the stable version is available. The Insiders builds are the versions that are shipped daily with latest features and bug fixes.

Why these VS Code extensions are needed?

Developers often choose containers or remote virtual machines configured with specific development and runtime stacks as their development environment. This is an optimal choice because configuring such development environments locally could be too difficult or sometimes even impossible. Data scientists also require remote environments to do their work efficiently. They build and train data models and to do that they need to analyze large datasets. This demands massive storage and compute service, which a local machine can hardly provide.

One option to solve this problem is using Remote Desktop but it can be sometimes laggy. Developers often use Vim and SSH or local tools with file synchronization, but these can also be slow and error-prone. There are browser-based tools that can be used in some scenarios, but they lack the richness and familiarity that desktop tools provide.

VS Code Remote Development extensions pack

Looking at these challenges, the VS Code team came up with a solution that suggested that VS Code should run in two places at once. One instance will run the developer tools locally and the other will connect to a set of development services running remotely in the context of a physical or virtual machine.

Following are three extensions for working with remote workspaces:


Remote – WSL allows you to use WSL as a full development environment directly from VS Code. It runs commands and extensions directly in WSL so developers don’t have to think about pathing issues, binary compatibility, or other cross-OS challenges. With this extension, developers will be able to edit files located in WSL or the mounted Windows filesystem and also run and debug Linux-based applications on Windows.


Remote – SSH allows you to open folders or workspaces hosted on any remote machine, VM, or container with a running SSH server. It directly runs commands and other extensions on the remote machine so you don’t need to have the source code on your local machine. It enables you to use larger, faster, or more specialized hardware than your local machine. You can also quickly switch between different remote development environments and safely make updates.


Remote – Containers allows you to use a Docker container as your development container. It starts or attaches to a development container, which is running a well-defined tool and runtime stack. All your workspace files are copied or cloned into the container, or mounted from the local file system. To configure the development container you can use a ‘devcontainer.json’ file.

To read more in detail, visit Microsoft’s official website.

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