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A team of students from the Imperial College London developed a new Visual Studio extension called neuron. It is aimed to be an all-inclusive add-on for data science tasks in Visual Studio.

Using neuron is pretty simple. You begin with regular Python or R code file in a window. Beside the code is neuron’s windows as shown in the following screenshot. It takes up half of the screen but is a blank page at the start. When you run your code snippets, the output starts showing up as interactive cards. Neuron can display outputs that are plain text, tables, images, graphs, or maps.

Source: Microsoft Blog

You can find neuron at the Visual Studio Marketplace. On installation, a button will be visible when you have a supported file open. Neuron uses the Jupyter Notebook in the background. Jupyter Notebook would already be installed in your computer considering it popularity, if not you will be prompted. Neron supports more output types than Jupyter Notebook. You can also generate 3D graphs, maps, LaTeX formulas, markdown, HTML, and static images with neuron.

The output is displayed in a card on the right-hand side, it can be resized moved around or expanded into a separate window. Neuron also keeps a track of code snippets associated with each card.

Why was neuron created?

Data scientists come from various backgrounds and use a set of standard tools like Python, libraries, and the Jupyter Notebook. Microsoft approached the students from the Imperial College London to integrate the various set of tools into one single workspace. A single workspace being a Visual Studio extension that could enable users to run data analysis operations without breaking the current workflow.

Neuron gets the advantage of an intelligent IDE, Visual Studio along with rapid execution and visualization of Jupyter Notebook all in a single window.

It is not a new idea

Although neuron is not a new idea.

Comments on Reddit also suggest there are existing such tools in other IDEs.

Reddit user kazi1 stated: “Seems more or less the same as Microsoft’s current Jupyter extension (which is pretty meh). This seems like it’s trying to reproduce the work already done by Atom’s Hydrogen extension, why not contribute there instead.

Another Redditor named procedural_ape said: “This looks like an awesome extension but shame on Microsoft for acting like this is their own fresh, new idea. Spyder has had this functionality for a while.

For more details, visit the Microsoft Blog and a demo is available on GitHub.

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