Fun with the Visual Studio Find Combo Box

It's interesting to note all the power of the find combo box in the Visual Studio command bar.  It's easily one of the more useful controls I've ever used, yet it just sits there all quiet and unassuming.  I've run into a lot of people who know one of two tricks that can be done in this box, so I thought I'd summarize them here.

Of course there's the basic find functionality:

  • Find a string -- type the string and press Enter
  • Find the next occurance of the string -- press Enter again

But then things get a little more interesting:

  • Goto a line -- type the line number and press Ctrl + G
  • Goto a file (either in your project or on the INCLUDE path) -- type the name of the file and press Ctrl + Shift + G
  • Set a breakpoint on a function -- type the name of the function and press F9
  • Get help -- type the keyword you want help on and press F1

And my personal favorite:

  • Mini command window -- If you type > as the first character in the combo box, it will turn into a mini command window, complete with Intellisense!   For instance, you could use the > kb command while debugging to get a stack trace.  Or you could use the > nav command to go to MSDN.

Updated: To clear up confusion, I'm not talking about the combo box in the find dialog, but rather the combo box on the toolbar of VS itself.  As one of the comments on this post points out, the keyboard shortcut to get there is Ctrl + D.

Comments (6)
  1. Anonymous Coward says:

    It took me a while to realize what you were talking about. This is the combo box that lives next to the toolbar buttons (and is part of the Standard toolbar). It’s the 2nd combo box.

    At first I thought you were referring to the Combo Box in the find dialog, but it obviously doesn’t have these behaviors you described.

    With the information you pointed out I only had one remaining question – how do you select the combo box via the keyboard? So I looked it up. For others who are wondering the answer is Ctrl-D. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Shawn says:

    Right you are — the one on the toolbar. I’ll update the original post to avoid more confusion — Thanks!


  3. Johan Feeler says:

    Is there a list of the commands available in intellisense mode i.e kb etc

  4. Shawn says:

    Hi Johan,

    You can always get a list of the commands that currently work in your Visual Studio session by issuing an "> alias" command. For a list of predefined commands, check out "Pre-defined Visual Studio Command Aliases" on MSDN:


  5. Mark says:

    You may call this fun, I call it "Easter eggs".  Why would they build this capability into a widget and not explain it in the documentation?  Why wouldn’t they give some indication in the displayed dialog box that further capabilities exist?

    No wonder these programs are so obscenely bloated  and slow to run.  They are doing a zillion extra little things that nobody knows about or cares about rather than doing their main job well.

    Imagine where the world of computing would be if it hadn’t been for Microsoft!  Computers would actually save time, like they were intended to.

  6. vedala says:

    The shortcut Ctrl+D takes you there in find mode. Shortcut Ctrl+/ takes you there in command mode (‘>’ prepended)

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