Renesas MCUs/MPUs Can Now Be Programmed With Visual Studio Code

August 07, 2023 by Aaron Carman

By adding support for a familiar text editor, Renesas hopes to reach a new market of firmware designers.

Renesas has added support for select MCU/MPU units to use Microsoft's Visual Studio Code (VS Code), giving designers more options when developing firmware for microcontrollers. This third-party support extends Renesas’ own IDE to allow engineers to leverage the more familiar productivity tools of VS Code when programming Renesas devices.


Key Renesas devices are now supported through a VS Code extension

Key Renesas devices are now supported through a VS Code extension, tapping into a new market of designers and giving older customers a new option when developing. Image used courtesy of Renesas

The discussion over which text editor is superior can be spirited since many software-focused designers have their preferred environments. Firmware developers, on the other hand, must often resort to using the tools provided by the manufacturer that may not always work cohesively with their setups.

As such, VS Code support gives firmware engineers a welcome new option that can boost productivity and add new features to the Renesas design process. This article reviews some of these features and discusses the benefits of VS Code support in the larger Renesas ecosystem.


The Merits of VS Code

While VS Code doesn’t come with the features of a full-fledged IDE, it is one of the most well-known and well-liked text editors for engineering due to its easy-to-learn nature. And while numerous simple text editors like Notepad exist, VS Code packs plenty of features that make it of great use to software writers.

In the productivity realm, VS Code offers a wide array of productivity tools to make the development process easier and faster. Numerous features, like block select, automatic find and replace for variables, and the ability to search function or variable declarations, make it a useful tool when debugging or troubleshooting code.


VS Code comes equipped with several features

VS Code comes equipped with several features such as autocomplete, block text editing, refactoring, and many others that make the design process much more streamlined across multiple platforms. Image used courtesy of Visual Studio

In addition, the open-source nature of VS Code allows users to access an entire ecosystem of extensions that can be integrated with the text editor. While the Renesas extension is the subject of this article, other key extensions include Python or Git support, depending on the specific needs of the designer. The editor can be easily customized to accomplish specific tasks, making it a valuable tool to learn for code-focused designers with constantly-changing requirements.


Faster Firmware Development for Renesas

The current version of the VS Code extension supports the RX, RZ, RA, RL78, RH850, and R-Car families of Renesas microcontrollers. Renesas has not disclosed whether earlier generations of microcontrollers will be supported; however, new Renesas MCUs will likely be released with VS Code support.

The included VS Code support is intended to complement and support Renesas' IDE e2 Studio—not replace it. For designers who may need to write firmware and evaluation software for a Windows or Linux machine, VS Code offers a way to perform both tasks in the same editor.


An early example video shows how designers can write and debug code in the VS environment

An early example video shows how designers can write and debug code in the VS environment using familiar debugging tools in conjunction with e2 Studio. Screenshot from Renesas

If, for example, designers are writing firmware for a wireless sensor, they may need to develop both the firmware and the accompanying software to open a port and receive data. If using a dedicated firmware IDE, designers would then need to juggle both the firmware IDE and the development environment for software. Using VS Code, however, designers can simplify the test setup and even develop their own unique productivity flows to suit their needs.

Additionally, the VS Code support allows Renesas to tap into a new sector of designers who may have shied away from e2 Studio, thinking that the investment in learning a new IDE would offset any benefits of using a Renesas device. In this way, designers who love VS Code can now access the benefits of Renesas MCUs and MPUs.


New Options for Editors

The addition of VS Code to Renesas’ design support is not the first instance of Renesas adding other IDE or text editor support. In fact, the Arduino IDE supports Renesas devices, demonstrating just how wide of an audience Renesas is attempting to reach.

Renesas' move to add more IDE options for designers beginning (or continuing) the development journey may ultimately influence their choice of microcontrollers among those who value their text editors above all.