How the Software Tools Work Together

This page gives you an insight on how the different software tools work together.

The Development Environment without Visual Micro

This is what a development environment looks like without Visual Studio/Atmel Studio and Visual Micro, as Arduino or your hardware vendor provides it:

Original Software Toolset

 IDE  (Integrated Development Environment) is the user interface you interact with. Most likely, this will be the original Arduino IDE.
The  gcc toolchain  consists of all tools that run in the background if you select "build" or "upload" commands.
These are mainly the gcc compiler and linker and the upload tool (normally avrdude.exe)

Since you are working with the IDE, you don't have to work with the toolchain programs directly, your IDE controls them in the background. However, the gcc toolchain is a set of independent command line programs (.exe's) that could be used without an IDE.

The  USB VCP (Virtual Com Port) driver  is also provided by Arduino or your board manufacturer and is responsible for communication between your board and the PC.

The Development Environment with Visual Micro

This is how a development environment looks after you have installed Visual Studio/Atmel Studio and Visual Micro:

VM/VS/AS Software Toolset

 Visual Studio  or  Atmel Studio  are your new IDE (Integrated Development Environment). They will replace your original IDE, although you can still use it, it won't be uninstalled.
 Visual Micro  is an so called Extension that "lives" inside Visual Studio/Atmel Studio and adds functions to them that enable you to do Arduino programming. The  gcc toolchain  remains unchanged, but is now controlled by Visual Micro and not by your original IDE anymore.

The  USB VCP (Virtual Com Port) driver  also remains the same.

Adding new platforms

Visual Micro lets you install additional development platforms from Arduino and other manufacturers, that support additional boards with different CPU architectures.

You can install platforms with Visual Micro's Board Manager. Platforms will be installed side-by-side and chosen by Visual Micro depending on the board type you select:

VM/VS/AS Software Toolset

The drawing shows two platforms installed side by side, a  3rd party Board Platform  and the original  gcc toolchain  beneath it.