Empower Your Visual Studio{2}

by Cole O’C
One of the reasons that Visual Studio 2010 is such a powerful tool is because of its ability to use custom extensions. There is a plethora of extensions already in existence. Some are ready and free to be downloaded, while others can be purchased on a per-user basis. You can even design your own extensions with the help of explanations and tutorials direct from Microsoft (get started here http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/vstudio/ff718165). I found an article by Scott Hanselman, a former computer science professor and Chief Architect, in which he discusses some of the most useful Visual Studio 2010 extensions out there. He starts off with a basic extension that allows the user to edit the visual theme of the program, such as making the program look like the 2008 version. Next up is PowerCommands, which adds a collection of 25 convenient improvements to the program’s menus. Being able to copy/paste whole classes or references between projects can certainly help any developer. Pro Power Tools is the next extension he mentions, which changes the UI in big ways. It offers a lot of options to change the way your tabs are displayed and managed and, perhaps most importantly, adds a new Searchable Add Reference Dialog feature. Hanselman then talks about CodeCompare, a free tool for (surprise) comparing code that runs inside Visual Studio and integrates with many of the features already in the program. The last extension he mentions is the Tangible T4 (Text Template Transformation Toolkip) Editor, which allows the user to see and color-code Visual Studio’s built in T4. Finding the right extensions for your personal needs may greatly increase your productivity, so it’s worth having a look around.

I am huge on customizing anything and everything I possibly can, so Visual Studio’s extensions are something I am quite pleased with. I am very acquainted with Eclipse for Java editing, as are most students I would assume, which is a very impressive program with so many features that improve the programmer’s experience that it’s incredible. One extension that I feel may help programmers use Visual Studio, especially novices, is ReSharper. http://www.jetbrains.com/resharper/ This extension provides on-the-fly code quality analysis for the majority of web design languages and can help fix incorrect code and improve sloppy code.

One of the most humorous extensions I’ve seen for Visual Studio adds Achievements to the program, which are similar to Microsoft’s version of Achievements on their Xbox 360. I think this extension could be rather entertaining for someone that spends a lot of time using Visual Studio, and may even be able to provide novice coders some tips and tricks that they would not have thought of otherwise. Visual Studio Achievements can be found here: http://channel9.msdn.com/achievements/visualstudio

Hanselman, Scott. (2010, June 9). Computer Zen. Retrieved from http://www.hanselman.com/blog/TheBestVisualStudio2010ProductivityPowerToolsPowerCommandsAndExtensions.aspx. February 25, 2012.