Monday, February 20, 2012

What Tools Do I Use? (Part 02–Visual Studio Plug-ins)

You  used to have to really hunt around to find useful anything useful to use as an add-in. About the two best that I could find in the past were a “Clean Solution” add-in, and a tool to display your solution, collapse the folders, and filter on what folders would be displayed. I don’t even remember their names. Everything has changed with VS 2010, NuGet, and the Extensions Manager. Most of the afore-mentioned utilities are now subsumed into goodies you download through the Extension Manager, or some NuGet package. Everything here can be found using the “Tools\Extension Manager” menu item. Search the online gallery. Here’s my list:
  • NuGet: ( This is a package manager. When you install a NuGet package (of something else such as AutoMapper, or NLog), NuGet downloads the package (DLL’s etc) to a folder at the same level as your solution file. A manager allows you to check off which projects require the package, and NuGet adds the references automagically to your selected projects. Make a mistake? No problem, uncheck the project in the Package Manager, and bingo-bango! It removes the references for you. Just remember to check in your package folder as well.
  • Productivity Power Tools: This is the real work horse. Install this next.
  • Editor Guidelines: This draws lines of various types (your choice) in your editor to help you see where statement begin/end (“{“ / “}” pairs should be lining up.
  • Italic Comments: Uses an italic font for your comments
  • JScript Brace Matching Extension: Highlight a brace in your JScript, and see where the matching brace is (highlighted)
  • JScript Outlining Extension: Nice to tool to add collapse/expand capability to JScript editing
  • Solution Explorer Tools: Adds new collapsing/expanding capabilities to your Solution Explorer view. Very useful if you have a solution with many projects.
  • Visual Studio Color Theme Editor: A fun little toy …
  • WoVS Default Browser Switcher: For web development, this is the bomb! Puts a toolbar in VS that let’s you switch to whichever default browser you want without having to go through the “Tools” menu. Also adds a context menu item that allows you to launch a particular web-site project or just a page with any browser. It extends your “View in browser” menu item.
  • SlowCheetah - XML Transforms: Provides an online ability to preview your XML transforms of web.config files; but more importantly, provides the same same transform capabilities for App.Config files - something that MS doesn't provide. If you work in an environment that does both web and windows applications, this tool can save you a lot of headache.
One of the nice things about the Extension Manager is that it notifies you of updates to your installed extensions, and allows you to update them. Normally it works fine. However, I’ve never been able to get NuGet to update this way. It always throws an error. So I always have to uninstall, and then re-install NuGet. However, since your package configurations are stored in your solution folders (or nearby), nothing is overwritten during the re-install.
Install these! Let me know if you find them as useful as I do.