Over the past 15 years I’ve worked with a number of text editors and IDEs. The bulk of that time, and where I planted my roots as a developer, was in Visual Studio. However, for the last few years I’ve had the pleasure of working in various other tools. RubyMine was my initial deviation. It fit me well primarily because I had been using ReSharper for years, so there wasn’t a lot of muscle memory to overcome while switching to a Ruby stack.
Then I transitioned to Sublime Text, and really stopped taking advantage of an IDE altogether. Sublime Text is my personal favorite at this point simply because there is zero cruft slowing you down. Get in. Get done. Get out.
Recently I took on a .Net gig here in Iowa. I’ll admit that being back in the .Net world is not my ideal, however, after two months of being back in it, I really don’t have many complaints. Yes, compiles and application spin-up times suck (very large project, many developers). Opening the IDE gives me time to get coffee. And some developer sitting in some far off corner of the building has deemed it necessary for the entire organization to follow some ridiculous “framework” that was “cool” 5 years ago.
But, that’s besides the point. Being back in Visual Studio 8+ hours a day has forced me to re-configure the tools I used in the past, and has allowed me to compare them to the new tools I’ve found since last using Visual Studio.
#1 – ReSharper
ReSharper is something I cannot live without. I don’t care what salary you’re making, or what excuses you have, go buy ReSharper. For the sub $100 price, it’s well worth the investment. Even if you just shave 1 second off of a commonly used menu click via a short cut, it will pay for itself. Then when you factor in things like the scroll bar syntax highlights, file navigation, etc, it’s a no brainier.
A ReSharper specific tip would be to use the IntelliJ shortcuts. This way if you go on to use any other JetBrains tools, you will already have a baseline for their default shortcuts.
#2 – Colors / Fonts
Staring at a bright white screen for hours upon hours, especially in the evening, has proven to be very stressful on your eyes. IMO, over time, it also makes it hard to concentrate.
This may not be specific to Visual Studio, but I’ll give you the steps to alter your colors here:
Tools -> Options -> Environment -> General
By default there are 3 options, and “Dark” seems to work pretty well for me.
As for fonts, Consolas has been around for a number of years and is a great mono-spaced font.
#3 – Ctrl+PgUp / Ctrl+PgDn To Change Tabs
This is the tip that caused me to write this article. I have a feeling that older versions of Visual Studio had this by default, primarily because I found myself trying to use it without thinking.
Being able to use Ctrl+PgUp (left) / PgDn (right) allows for a quick and easy way to change tabs in the order that they appear in your tab bar. I find this most useful when I have a bunch of files open, and I don’t want to go to the last file I was in, but to one that I see in my tab bar. Using Ctrl+Tab, I have to break my concentration, look at the dialog box, find the file, arrow to it, press enter. Blarg.
You can change the shortcuts here:
Tools -> Options -> Environment -> Keyboard
Do make sure that you change it for window type shown in the “Shortcuts currently used by” drop down.
#4 – Dual Vertical Monitors
This is also probably not a Visual Studio specific tip, however, Visual Studio does a great job of split window management. Each window is treated as it’s own collection of files, so when you open new files, they open in your active window. I tend to use this to organize files by type, especially when I plan to be in them for a while. Markup on the left, code on the right.
The vertical idea could probably be it’s own tip, but the general idea is, you are working in large text files. The less scrolling you have to do, the better. Now, this does assume you have a pair of good resolution monitors, and ideally, a pair that are identical. With your screens rotated, you want enough width to hold a standard 80 – 120 characters per line.
#5 – Uninstall Visual Studio
Ok, ok… This tip is partially in jest, but I will defend it. Having been a developer for 15+ years now, and spending the first 10+ with my comfy little Visual Studio fuzzy blanket, doing anything outside of the Microsoft world caused me a lot of fear and anxiety. What is this OSX you speak of? Command line? WhyTF is there no GUI? I can’t run an exe on Ubuntu? SSH into a server?
If you’ve read The Pragmatic Programmer, or any number of blogs over the last few years, you’ll have heard this before:
“Learn a new programming language every year”
The reasons are vast, but the main point I want to make here is, programming jobs are plentiful at the current time. If you aren’t loving going to work every day, go find / build something new. To make finding something new easier, expand your knowledge bank. Show you are open to new things. Do something different!
And that’s what I have. I’m sure there are many many more, but these 5 seemed to be a good start. If you have additional tips you’d like to share, feel free to leave a comment below.