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Product: Visual Studio .NET Integrated Developer Environment (IDE)
Company: Microsoft
Estimated Street Price: See Pricing
Review By: Roy J. Salisbury

Customizable Interface

Table Of Contents
1: Introduction
2: Setup & Installation
3: Pricing & System Requirements
4: Customizable Interface

5: Code Editor & Designer
6: Help System & Debugging
7: Additional Tools
8: Conclusion

Ok, so the installation is over, and everything seems to be running just fine. When we start the IDE for the first time, we are presented with a start page that shows you your current profile. You can set the initial keyboard scheme, window layout, and help options that your want from here. This allows you to start with an IDE configured to the way you may be accustomed to. You will also note that the interface is not cluttered with options and windows, and has things laid out in somewhat of an organized flow. This however is just the default view.  You can fully customize the appearance of the IDE, the keyboard shortcuts, and with it’s built in macro capabilities, can almost make it sing a song if you want.

I won’t get into how to customize the interface, but will point out that the layout can be customize to suit even the pickiest of developers who have to have things just right. The windows can be docked or un-docked, can be visible at all times, or can “slide” out of view when they don’t have focus. The menu’s and toolbars can be customized to add or remove items that you need (or don’t use), and default templates are even provided with the most common toolbar items appearing depending on the activity you are performing.

Besides the appearance of the IDE, you can also customize the behavior of the code editor depending on the type of file you are editing. I’ll touch on some of these options later in the review.

One thing that catches the eye is the “Dynamic Help” window. This should not be dismissed as simply clutter. It is a very nice feature that will get lots of use once you realize what it’s doing. I’ll talk about that in the online help portion of the review.


Auto Hide And Docking Windows

Most of the latest commercial integrated development environments have docking window support. Some do it well, and some do it just to fill out their features list. However, the docking window support in the Visual Studio .NET IDE make the others pale in comparison. First off, almost every window can be docked in one manner or another. You can place windows within other windows, giving you a “tabbed” view of them, stack two or more windows on top of each other, or have them side by side, allowing you to view each window separately. Depending on the resolution of your screen, this can free up tremendous amounts of space to do the actual “writing” of code that you should be.

But that’s not the end of it. Once a window is docked either on the left or right hand edges of the IDE, you can also make them “slide” out of view (Microsoft calls this Auto Hiding) when they don’t have focus. Once they slide to the side of the screen, a small tab will appear in the borders showing the name of the window. Just move your mouse over it, and it slides back into view, overlapping any window. Sometimes this feature can get annoying when you accidentally move your mouse over the tab, and out pops a window, but the benefits far outweigh that annoyance. And once popped out, you can simple click on an icon in the window title to make it permanent.

Another nice feature about the docking window support in Visual Studio .NET is the ability to have most of the windows “undocked” from the entire IDE. It’s like having both an SDI (single document interface) and an MDI (multiple document interface) application at the same time. And if you’re like me, and have a system that has dual monitors, you can group certain windows on certain monitors. I do this with the help system because there is nothing I hate worse than having the integrated help system covering the code editor (I’m just picky that way).


 « Pricing & System Requirements Code Editor & Designer »


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