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Howdy folks,

The Visual Studio Team recently released a set of installable extensions that help to improve the productivity while working with the new Visual Studio 2010. This set of extensions is called Visual Studio Productivity Power Tools, and it really keeps its promises.

1. Editor Improvements

There is a set of features that directly integrate into the Code Editor. At the first glance after installing the VSPPT you can see the current editing line is entirely highlighted (see figure 1) This is good for immediately recognizing which line we are working in. Personally, I think it can be of great use, since it often happens to me not to immediately see where I was editing after e.g. an ALT+TAB switch between windows.

 

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Figure 1: Highlighting of the current line (current caret position)

  • Automatic Brace Closing (ABC)
    This works with all types of braces, as well as with quotes.
  • Triple-Click to select entire line
  • Go-to-Definition:
    Simply by holding the CTRL-Button and clicking on the variable/function/class etc. Just like in Word when you are following links!
  • Automatic Statement Completion: SHIFT+ENTER will insert a semicolon and end the current editing line
  • Move line up/down: Press ALT+UP/DOWN to swap the current editing line with the line above or below, respectively.

2. The Quick Access Tool Window

A very handy tool when it comes to remembering menu item’s locations. Do you waste time searching through the menu for command or tool window you would like to access? This problem’s solved now. Simply type CTRL+3 in order to bring up the QA Tool Window. As you type, the window will show you:

  • Menu commands
  • VS options
  • Project templates

(a personal remark: it would have been nice if the team would have also included the option to search for item templates over the QA).

You can cycle through the search results by pressing CTRL+3 more often. Figure 2 shows the Quick Access Tool Window.

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Figure 2: The Quick Access Tool Window listing results by category.

3. Searchable “Add Reference” Dialog

A great improvement – it’ll gonna save us a lot of time looking for assemblies we need.

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Figure 3: The new “Add Reference” dialog

4. Assignment Alignment (oh, what a rhyme!)

Very nice feature for keeping the overview when having a lot of assignments – in such a case it might be hard to read the assignment value of a variable that has been assigned to somewhere in the middle of the block.

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Figure 4: Unaligned assignments

Hitting CTRL+ALT+] (English keyboard layout, with the German one it didn’t work but only produced a square bracket). It’ll transform the code from Figure 4 into something that looks like the code in Figure 5:

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Figure 5: Aligned assignments.

There are many more extensions that come with the Visual Studio Productivity Power Tools, and I pointed out only the ones who caught my eye at the first glance. However, for a full feature list, you should go to Productivity Power Tools Page.

Below you can find a download link for getting the Microsoft Productivity Power Tools:

http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/d0d33361-18e2-46c0-8ff2-4adea1e34fef/file/29666/2/ProPowerTools.vsix

 

5. Only Get What You Need

By the way, in case you shouldn’t want to use each feature of the Power Tools, you can simply enable/disable them one by one using the Tools-Options-Productivity Power Tools dialog window, as shown in Figure 6:

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Figure 6: The PPT options dialog.

Note: A restart of VS 2010 is needed for the changes to take effect.

Conclusion

These extensions are very handy when it comes to speeding up development and saving time for trivial tasks like closing braces, ending statements, searching for templates and references etc. I think I’m going to try them for the daily productive use in order to be able to confront the coding with/without the VSPPT. But if my first impression persists, then it’s gonna be a great time-saver and productivity-improver.

Best regards and stay tuned!

Martin

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Hi all,

Patrick and I are going to attend this year’s SharePoint & Office Conference 2010 in Milan. A look at the possible streams turned out there will be a lot of interesting talks about SP2010’s new features and in-depth look on how to use or program them.

If possible, I’ll try to give you live blogging  information from there (probably w/ focus on programming SP).

SharePoint & Office Conference 2010 Milan

Best regards,

Martin

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Howdy folks,

Here we are back again with an introduction of the new features of the upcoming Visual Studio 2010. Its release has been postponed to the 12th of April, so in the meantime we’ll have to stick to the Beta 2, which is pretty stable already. There are so many improvements that we’ll have to divide it into multiple parts. Let’s dive right in!

1. UI: WPF-Based

The UI is now WPF based, which means a better usability and more extensibility options for us developers. Clearly, introducing VS2010 as a WPF-based application is a big push in the direction of visualization and diagramming. We’ll see later how this can be performed using the new IDE.

The editor, for example, is now WPF-based. Cool, but what does that mean for us? Here are the advantages:

Change font size w/ mouse only, or better: No more Options->Change font size during presentations!

Extension Manager allows easy-to-install-and-use add-ins: Also from online galleries – Single click install and enabling!

Highlighting of related variable/method names (Figure 1)

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Figure 1: Highlighting related variable. Note that the highlighter correctly references only the name variable passed as a parameter

You can navigate between the highlighted elements using CTRL + SHIFT and the ARROW keys!

2. Intellisense – Improvements:

Method Matching: When VS2010 brings up the list of available methods (after you typed something), it performs not a simple .StartsWith name comparison, but a .Contains. This leads to the results shown on the next screenshots:

Filtered list is gone: When typing letters, the auto completion list that pops up won’t give you all objects/methods/variables that start with the same letter, but only those who are truly related. Consider Figure 3: We typed IF. In the old version, VS would have brought up not only the items shown in the completion list, but possibly many many more, all starting with I (but not containing or continuing with F). Now the IntelliSense search is narrowed, which makes it a lot easier for the developer to select the correct entry.

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Figure 2: Highlighting the related object/variable/method.

Case sensitivity: Another nice feature highlighted in figure 2 is the Pascal-Case typing of the capital letters IF, which brings correctly up our method, since its signature contains both I and F as of the method name. Try typing If (f is lowercase), and you won’t find the IsFasterThan method in the auto completion list anymore.

3. References dialog improvements

Remember the Add References dialog in figure 3?

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Figure 3: Add references underwent some perception changes.

First of all, Microsoft realized that most people are using it to reference other projects, so they brought up the Projects tab by default. But that’s not all: We all LOVED to wait 30 seconds for the list of .NET or COM objects to appear, right? Because of that, while we are browsing by default the projects, VS2010 is asynchronously loading the available assemblies already. Saves time and nerves.

4. Search and Navigation

Let’s press CTRL + , anywhere in the editor. The window Navigate To will appear, providing us a very powerful search across the entire solution. The search results are updated as we type. From here, we can navigate directly to the found item. Figure 4 shows the dialog.

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Figure 4: The Navigate To dialog is a powerful search and navigation mechanism, providing also essential information about the found items. Big improvement over the VS2008 style’s CTRL+SHIFT+F (and subsequent find results crawling without navigation to the desired item)!

5. Call Hierarchy

Remember the Find All References option in the editor’s context menu? It provided us information about where a method/variable has been used. Tell you what. We have a much more powerful way of doing this now: The Call Hierarchy option (Figure 5).

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Figure 5: Context menu for the IsFasterThan method, highlighting the new View Call Hierarchy option.

This is the result: A list of all callers (“Calls To”) and callees (“Calls From”) of IsFasterThan (Figure 6). Every caller/callee can be expanded into its own callers/callees. As of figure 6, e.g. Main. This is a really expressive feature which outperforms Find All References by far. However, a possible drawback might be that you could expand the list to infinity by alternating the caller/callee relationship. Figure 6 shows the resulting

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Figure 6: The View Call Hierarchy window, showing callers/callees of IsFasterThan.

6. Project dialog with search and .NET version selection

Figure 7 shows the improved New Project dialog.

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Figure 7: The NewProject dialog. Please note the search field in the right upper corner and the .NET framework dropdown list (center), where now also version 4 of the .NET framework is available.

7. Code Snippets

The code snippets are accessible via the Tools menu, or by pressing the shortcut CTRL + K, CTRL + B

Additional snippets are now available also for HTML, JavaScript and SQL. In sub-categories you can find the different snippets already provided by VS2010. Moreover, you can add your own snippets (as we already know from previous VS versions), as well as remove and import snippets. Figure 8 shows the Code Snippets dialog.

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Figure 8: The Code Snippets dialog, showing the newly available languages, as well as subcategories in the Code Snippets Manager.

8. Environment settings: Code Optimized

One more newly available feature is a new default environment setting (remember you had to choose which default settings you wanted to use when starting VS2010 for the first time?). There is one newly available feature which will simply allow you to reduce your viewport to only the code when developing (hence removing the designer). If you have already chosen your first-time-startup environment settings: Don’t worry! The next screenshot explain how you can access the new Web Development (Code Optimized) default environment setting. First, choose Tools –> Import and Export Settings.

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Figure 9: Import and Export Settings wizard. Choose Reset all settings here. Then you will be prompted whether or not you want to save your current settings. Choose as you wish there. Then proceed.

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Figure 10: Default environment settings. Note the Web Development (Code Optimized) option, which is new to VS2010. Choose it and VS will immediately switch to those settings, removing e.g. the designer buttons and providing you with a much more lightweight code editor window. Very handy for developers who want to only focus on the code.

9. Conclusion

So I’d say this is about it for this time. Of course there are a lot more features which need to be covered.

The next lessons will deal with creating customized startup pages for VS2010, and introduce the new language features and tools of Visual Studio 2010.

In the meantime, enjoy exploring VS’ new capabilities and features, and hang on till the next time!

Best regards,

Martin

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