Visual Studio 2005 IDE: Top Ten Feature List (by LisaFeig)

Lisa Feigenbaum

For our first VB IDE post on the VB team blog, I’d like to give you my list of the top 10 new features in the Visual Studio 2005 IDE.  Now that the product has been released, you can take advantage of these today!

1. Edit and Continue

You are again able to make changes to your code while debugging, back up the code instruction pointer if you want, and re-execute lines of code with the modifications.  This allows you to fix bugs or make changes to code while in break mode and have those modifications take effect without restarting the debugger.

2. IntelliSense Code Snippets

IntelliSense Code Snippets are reusable, task oriented blocks of code.  Visual Basic 2005 includes code snippets covering tasks ranging from creating a custom exception, to sending an e-mail message, to drawing a circle.  Code snippets can also be used for simple expansions of common programming structures. The code snippets are formatted to automatically include the references they require, and contain replacement fields to allow easy customization.  The IntelliSense code snippet library consists of 500 prewritten pieces of code, and is extensible allowing you to create new code snippets that suit your business needs, edit the ones that are already exist, or download from third-party vendors and community sites.  To insert a snippet, right-click in the code editor and select Insert Snippet from the menu, or use the keyboard shortcut (?+Tab).

3. Error Correction and Warnings

Let’s face it we’re all human and we make mistakes when writing code.  The Visual Basic background compiler has always alerted us to these mistakes by placing a blue squiggle under the code associated with the error.  In Visual Basic 2005, in addition to reporting the error, we’ll also offer suggestions for fixing common errors and help you apply the appropriate fix to your code.  This is similar to the way Microsoft Word offers suggestions to spelling or grammar errors.  The functionality is made available to you through a Smart Tag that appears when an error occurs in the code editor. Clicking on the smart tag allows you to open the error correction, read the error description, learn possible ways to fix it, and when appropriate preview the fix. 


4. XML Comments

Documenting your code is a crucial part of an application, and Visual Basic 2005 adds support for creating XML-based comments in your code that can easily be extracted, parsed, and turned into documentation.  These XML-based comments feed directly into the information displayed via IntelliSense so developers consuming your classes and methods will see the summary and descriptions you’ve provided as they write their code.  XML comments can be inserted either by right-clicking on a declaration and selecting Insert Comment from the menu, or typing ‘’’ on the empty line above a declaration.

5. Rename

Rename provides an easy way to rename identifiers for code elements such as fields, variables, methods, namespaces, properties, and types.  In addition to changing the declaration of the element, rename will update all calls and references to the code element with the updated name. This is extremely useful when doing iterative development.  It can be invoked, either by right-clicking on a code element in the code editor, or by clicking on the smart tag which appears when you modify the declaration of a code element.


6. The new Exception Assistant 

The Exception Assistant is a helper window which appears whenever a run-time exception occurs while debugging.  It shows the type of exception, troubleshooting tips, help topic links, as well as potential corrective actions that can be applied directly from the Exception Assistant.  In most cases when the Exception Assistant appears, you will have the opportunity to fix your code and continue program execution.

7. Project Designer

Visual Studio 2005 moves project properties, configuration and a number of other project specific designers into a central location to create a one-stop shop for project-wide settings. It includes a settings designer that supports the declaration of user and application settings, a resource designer that allows you to easily associate string and image resources with your project, and property pages with options for features like ClickOnce deployment, security and VB windows application framework.

8. Visual Basic Development Settings

When you start up Visual Studio 2005 for the first time after installing, and select the Visual Basic Development Settings, a number of customizations are applied to the IDE. By streamlining the set of menus, toolbars, and windows, this provides a focused and productive development environment for business application developers.  Developers gain instant access to the IDE features they use most, without losing access to those used less frequently.

9. IntelliSense Filtering

You can now use IntelliSense filtering to adjust the level of detail supplied by IntelliSense in the code editor. When the IntelliSense window is displayed, you can filter out less commonly used members by clicking the Common tab or see everything that is available by clicking the All tab. By adjusting the level, you can easily filter out uncommon or esoteric members when they are not needed, or include them when they are.  Regardless of the current tab, or filtering level, Intellisense will continue to provide full completion support by dynamically switching filter levels to provide the best match for what has been typed.

IntelliSense in Zone is a Visual Basic IntelliSense feature that displays certain items in the statement completion list in a different color if they do not have enough permission to run in the security zone specified. This design-time support allows you to more easily develop applications that run in partial trust.


10. New VB Form Templates

To help you be more productive in your development tasks, Visual Studio 2005 includes a number of new Form templates in the Add New Item dialog. These templates provide logical starting points to common programming tasks.  Examples include: Dialog, Explorer Form, MDI Parent, About Box, Login Form, and Splash Screen. It’s also easy enough to create your own!


11. Just My Code Debugging

When you create a new project in Visual Basic, the project generally includes a lot of code that you didn’t write.  Just My Code debugging provides the option to always skip over any code that you didn’t write, when you’re single-step debugging through your code.  This also allows you to step through Windows Forms event handlers, much like you could in Visual Basic 6.0.



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