Novell has released a Mono-based plugin for Visual Studio that gives developers a debugger to help them use Windows to design applications that will run on Linux.

In addition, Novell is integrating its Suse Studio Online, which lets users build custom distributions of Linux so they can package their applications on an appliance loaded with a Linux operating system.

Mono Tools for Visual Studio is a plugin for Microsoft's integrated development environment (IDE). The plug-in lets developers use Visual Studio to write and maintain applications that can run on Windows, Linux, Mac and Unix platforms.

Mono Tools for Visual Studio runs with Mono 2.4, which is available now, and 2.6, which is slated for release in December or January. Mono Tools for Visual Studio does not support Mono on the iPhone because it requires a Macintosh.

Novell's Mono is a .Net-compatible set of tools that includes a Common Language Runtime environment that enables the cross platform capabilities. Mono can be run on Linux, BSD, Unix, Mac OS X, Solaris and Windows.

Novell officials said the most important part of the plugin is a debugger that will make it easier for Visual Studio users to tap Linux as a deployment platform.

"We did not have a debugger story," says Miguel de Icaza, vice president of the developer platform at Novell and the creator of Mono. "People had to fly by instruments when developing their applications with .Net and wanting to deploy them on a Linux server. Now we have a full debugger that people can use from the comfort of their Windows machines with Visual Studio and deploy their applications on remote Linux machines."

Mono Tools adds a pull-down menu within Visual Studio that gives access to the debugging capabilities and other coding and testing functionality contained in Mono. The software also includes an integrated porting analysis tools that directs users onto non-Windows platforms without needing to know any of the development nuances for those platforms.