VS 2010 Productivity Improvements, Part IV

My previous posts on the productivity improvements in Visual Studio 2010 highlighted features of Visual Studio that you can use right out of the box.  Today, I'm going to focus on extensions to Visual Studio that enhance the coding experience for Visual Studio 2010 Professional, Premium, and Ultimate users.

As I wrote about several months ago, one of the areas of vast improvement in VS 2010 is in extensibility.  New extensibility APIs enable third parties to customize and add functionality to the IDE, and the new Extension Manager and Visual Studio Gallery make it easy to publish and find extensions.  This week, the Visual Studio Gallery reached more than a thousand extensions created for Visual Studio 2010, and more than 750,000 extensions have now been downloaded by Visual Studio users!  Here are a few of my favorite extensions.

Color Theme Editor

Is the default color scheme of Visual Studio not quite your style?  The Visual Studio Color Theme Editor lets you customize the color palette for VS.  You can choose from the built-in themes that ship with the extension, download and install someone else's theme, modify an existing theme, or create your own from scratch, then export and share your theme.

One of my favorites is this Blend-like theme, designed by Roland Auer.  To complete the look, I imported the Shades of Grey editor style.  You can find editor styles to match your every mood here.  Below is the result:

Productivity Power Tools

Visual Studio 2010 Productivity Power Tools are a set of tools from the Visual Studio team that offer a collection of nice features for the editor and the IDE.  There are more features in the pack than I can highlight in one section, but here are a few of my favorite:

  • Improvements to the document well

The document well- that space above the editor that contains tabs for each document you have open- gets some welcome updates.  Tabs are now colored to indicate the project that contains the file.  Below, you can see that the open files come from three different projects.  About.aspx and Index.aspx come from the same project, and About.aspx's lighter hue tells you it's the active document.  You can also now close a document from the tab directly, much like Internet Explorer tabs. 

Tabs can also be pinned in place.  This is useful to prevent files you work with commonly from scrolling out of view.  Speaking of scrolling, unpinned tabs can now be scrolled.  Below, I've pinned AssemblyInfo.cs in place, and you can see the left/right arrows for scrolling through the unpinned files.  I've scrolled to the right, hiding the BlueYonderAirlinesEntities.cs file.

  • Triple-click

What's the fastest way to select your current line of code?  It's a small thing, but being able to triple-click on a line in the editor to highlight the current line of code is one of those things you quickly won't be able to live without.

  • Assignment variable alignment

Change your code from this:

to this:

with a quick Ctrl+Alt+]!

Assignment variable alignment may conflict with your code formatting settings.  For instance, in C#, you will need to disable Tools->Options->Text Editor->C#->Formatting->Spacing->"Ignore spaces in declaration statements".  VB users need to turn off pretty listing to use assignment variable alignment.

  • Fixing tabs

Whether you're working within a team where multiple developers touch the same file, or your settings have been inconsistent, sometimes you get files with mixed tab/space formatting.  When you open a code file like this, you'll now get a notice asking if you'd like to fix the problem:

  • Add Reference dialog

The Add Reference dialog gets significant performance improvements through caching.  It's also now searchable so you can find your referenced assemblies more quickly.

Team Foundation Server Power Tools

If you use TFS to host your source code or track work items, TFS Power Tools can make interacting with TFS a smoother, more customized experience.  Written by the TFS development team, the tools let you access TFS from the Windows shell, through a powerful command line tool, alerts, and a collaborative tool.  Here are a few of the best features:

  • Team Members

Stay connected to your development team members with tools for instant messaging and email.  If you use Microsoft Communicator to communicate with your team, you can use the Team Members add-in to launch Communicator directly.

  • Best Practices Analyzer

Use the Best Practices Analyzer to ensure your Team Foundation Server deployment is configured optimally and find problems that might be causing performance issues.  You can also take a snapshot of a deployment configuration for archival and see usage data that will help you optimize TFS.

  • Windows Shell Extensions

Windows Shell Extensions let you perform many TFS source code tasks directly from Windows Explorer without opening VS or using the Team Foundation command-line tool.  These extensions make interacting with the server simpler when working within the common Windows file dialogs as well.


Find Your Favorites

There are many more imaginative, innovative, and practical extensions available on the Visual Studio Gallery, and many of them are available at no cost.  You can find the most popular extensions here. Give them a try and tell me your favorites.


Comments (7)

  1. tcmaster says:

    Are these really productivity boost features? I don't see in which way it helps you writing codes.

  2. Jelena says:

    Nice features but not so much productivity related


  3. Sam says:

    Besides the first one (theme), these are subtle productivity features. I like these enhancements to VS.NET. Thanks!

  4. Ray Akkanson says:

    Excellent changes. Great Article.

    Ray Akkanson

  5. Marcelo says:

    My favorites are ReSharper, CodeRush, the T4 Editor and the Theme Editor.

  6. michael_kiss says:

    Hey Soma, nice extensions indeed, but I really think 'VS10x Code Map' tops them all:


    It's currently no.1 third party tool in terms of popularity and I think that's for a  very good reason 🙂

  7. Smestaj says:

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