Essential .NET Development Tools & More

Here is (mostly) comprehensive list of tools for development.  It’s like Scott Hanselman’s, but focused almost purely on development, with a couple of extras.  While you’re at it, go check his out.  All opinions are my own and are not bought or sold.

The Main Stuff

Visual Studio – king of IDEs and the essential tool for .NET devs everywhere. Not much else to say except that it has a great starting toolset for any developer and amazing plugin support.  The Community edition, new as of a couple of months ago, gives the masses the power of VS Professional, for free.  Simply amazing and getting better with every release.

SQL Server Management Studio – it ranges from a useful IDE for SQL to a huge time saver for things like table creation and script generation.  The DROP and CREATE tools are awesome for generating scripts for tables, stored procs and more, and the Execution Plan viewer can be very helpful when trying to optimize expensive queries.  The Express edition has most of the tools required to manage a day-to-day SQL Server installation just fine.  One of the best database management tools available.

SQL Server Profiler – for when I’m having a hard time figuring out exactly how well a SQL query is running or when the SQL that’s being emitted from Entity Framework is not immediately known to me, I always turn to Profiler.  Used it to find a show-stopping SQL query on more than one occasion.

LINQPad – write LINQ queries using the best .NET code scratchpad on the market.  It’s not a complete replacement for SQL Management Studio, but for complex queries with lots of data, it’s my first choice.  The Premium edition is a steal and makes this essential tool 5 times more useful with C# autocomplete, NuGet, and cross-database query support.  Plus, it’s great for those one-off tests for code behaviors that you might need a quick refresher on. LINQPad’s author, Joe Albihari, is always adding new features – most recently an integrated debugger.

NimbleText – thanks to Scott Hanselman, I have found this program – and my new favorite way to write repetitive code or handle small or large data transformation tasks.  I’ve used it from everything from writing HTML to generating SQL insert scripts.  Its time-saving power cannot be understated.  And, it’s FREE!

Notepad++ – my text editor of choice.  Decent plugin support, syntax highlighting, and instant right-click, edit for any file in Windows Explorer.  (Yeah, I know dev-favorite Sublime Text has these things too, but Notepad++ was my first and it fits my needs nicely.)

SourceTree – an essential tool for Git users on Windows.  I just started using Git (yeah, I know I’m late to the party) and SourceTree has made the transition from TFS to Git that much more smooth.  Not perfect, but very helpful.

dotPeek – my favorite way to decompile .NET code, free from JetBrains.  It even has the ability to break a .NET DLL/EXE down into a fully-structured Visual Studio project!  (I actually have a client whose previous developer wouldn’t hand over the source code for their main application, and dotPeek made the decompile way more convenient.)

Postman (Chrome extension) – my second-favorite way to test HTTP services is Postman.  Postman has an easy-to-use interface and provides a straightforward way to make HTTP requests.

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Best Visual Studio Extensions

The Visual Studio Gallery is the best place to find tools, controls, and templates to help make your life as a developer easier and more productive. Every so often, I publish my personal list of favorite extensions. This is something I started back when Visual Studio 2010 was first released. A lot has changed since then. I have already published my favorites list for Visual Studio 2013 several times. As new extensions are released, old ones updated or removed, the list does change a bit from time to time. This time, I’m going to separate the list into two sections, those extensions I feel are “must haves” and those I feel are “really nice to have”.

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Add images to your code in Visual Studio with the ImageComments extension

Making Visual Studio perfect

ImageComments extension by Luke McQuade lets you show images among code in Visual Studio 2010/2012:

Images in code (Visual Studio 2012 with ImageComments) Images in code (Visual Studio 2012 with ImageComments)

To add an image you add the specially formatted image comment to your code, like /// <image url=”X:PathToImage.ext” scale=”Y” />. After that the image is displayed by ImageComments right after the comment. You can easily share images with your team by committing them to the repository with the code file and using $(ProjectDir) or $(SolutionDir) macros in the image url to specify relative path for the image. The scale parameter lets you easily change original image size.

While there are some known issues (plus I’d add that images are visible even after the corresponding block is collapsed), the extension adds very useful functionality in a very easy to use manner.

The free ImageComments extension currently supports Visual Studio 2010 and Visual Studio 2012. You can download it…

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Productivity Power Tools 2013 released

Making Visual Studio perfect

Microsoft has updated their popular extensions pack Productivity Power Tools for Visual Studio 2013. One interesting new feature they have added is Solution Explorer Errors. It shows error, warning, and message squiggles in the Solution Explorer window and hovering over a squiggle displays a popup filtered to the selected file or project with the ability to go to the corresponding problematic file line:

Solution Explorer Errors in Visual Studio 2013 Solution Explorer Errors in Visual Studio 2013

See 10 minutes video describing all 11 new features. Read detailed breakdown for all features and download the tools.

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Visual Commander v1.5 adds navigation to relevant code from compiler errors

Making Visual Studio perfect

Visual Commander is a freemium extension for Visual Studio 2010+ allowing you to automate repetitive tasks in the IDE.

Visual Commander Professional v1.5 adds the ability to double-click on a compiler error in the Compilation status box and navigate directly to the relevant code (line and column of the error):

Navigation to relevant code from a compiler error Navigation to relevant code from a compiler error

Visual Commander v1.5 also adds recording for the Edit.FormatSelection and Edit.FormatDocument commands, improves alignment for displayed command bindings in the main VCmd menu.

Download the installer.

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See more lines of code with syntactic line compression

Making Visual Studio perfect

The recent May 2014 update of Productivity Power Tools for Visual Studio 2013 adds the syntactic line compression feature. “It shrinks lines that contain neither letters nor numbers by 25% vertically, allowing more lines to be displayed in the editor.” In the following sample compressed code takes about 10% less vertical screen space:
Syntactic line compression before and after Syntactic line compression before and after
In practice most frequently compressed lines are blank ones and lines with braces. If you place opening braces on the same line with code, compressed closing braces will look somewhat odd:
Compressed closing braces Compressed closing braces
In this case you may want to compress only blank lines. This setting is available in syntactic line compression options:
Syntactic line compression options Syntactic line compression options
I think it’s a nice enhancement that just works.

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Macros for Visual Studio 2013

Making Visual Studio perfect

Visual Studio Platform Team has released the Macros for Visual Studio 2013 extension for VS 2013 to record, edit and execute text editing commands and window operations. You can open the new Macro Explorer tool window from the Tools – Macros menu:

Macros menu

Macro Explorer lists your own macros and preinstalled samples:

Macro Explorer

Each macro consists of JavaScript code and stored in a .js file that you can edit in Visual Studio as usual. Access to Visual Studio automation model is provided using the familiar dte object:

Macro code

You can run a macro double-clicking the name in Macro Explorer or assign a keyboard shortcut (for up to 9 macros).

(To react on Visual Studio events like document saving or reuse older VB macros you still need to use the Visual Commander extension. Visual Commander additionally allows you to write command code in C# and provides access to .NET framework.)

You can download Macros…

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Robocopy

Robocopy, or “Robust File Copy”, is a command-line directory and/or file replication command. Robocopy functionally replaces Xcopy, with more options. It has been available as part of the Windows Resource Kit starting with Windows NT 4.0, and was first introduced as a standard feature in Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008. The command is robocopy

This is one of the utilities I cannot live without. It makes sure that the contents of <Source> folder are the same as the contents of the <Destination> folder. So it’s a tool to synchronise 2 folders. There are of course options to copy files incrementally and make destination folder have all the files that were in the source folder.

It’s one of the best tools out there for backing up data. It has trillion number of commands – http://www.computerhope.com/robocopy.htm

There are also a plethory of forks, https://betterrobocopygui.codeplex.com/ being one.

I personally use it it for backing up user profile data to dropbox: robocopy C:\Users F:\Dropbox\Profiles /MIR /v /R:0 /W:0

This command is scripted in a file and scheduled to execute periodically.

I say it’s a must have tool for everyone and you can get a copy of it from http://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/download/details.aspx?id=17657

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