Visual Studio Hacks
O Reilly has hit on an beruser demographic with their Hack series of titles, and the discovery has been lucrative enough to spawn over 25 other Hack books. Prominent titles from this collection include Google Hacks, PDF Hacks, and Windows Hacks. Given the enormous flexibility Microsoft programmed into the Visual Studio.NET IDE, key individuals in the VS.NET developer community have made it their mission to plumb the depths of the environment in an effort to reveal the many ways it can be molded. Visual Studio Hacks author James Avery and his posse of 12 VS.NET enthusiasts have captured 100 tips and tricks designed to optimize, bemuse, and inspire fellow VS.NET users. Some of the tips are eyebrow raising, others are golden needles in a haystack, and some are yawners but most simply elicit shrugs.
The book breaks down its hacks into 13 chapters, covering topics from understanding the contents of project files, tweaking the editor, and customizing the environment to speed hacks (code writing macros and command line execution) and enhancing/extending the VS.NET IDE. Most hacks are well written; others are unnaturally verbose. Granted, the book must cater to a range of proficiency, but some of the tips spend an inordinate amount of time on mundane tasks. For example, tip #69 on how to Create Comments Faster spends nearly five pages on a tip that could have been summarized into just a few steps:
- download GhostDoc from http://www.roland-weigelt.de/ghostdoc
- install and configure
- open a C# file in the VS.NET editor
- move to a method body
- right click and select Document This from the context-sensitive menu
I would much rather have this book filled with 500 of these types of terse explanations. Give me a reason why it s cool, how to do it, where I can download it if it s a software extension/utility, and any anomalies or FYIs I should know about when using it. In fact, some of the most valuable hacks are simply pointers to tools that others have written to tweak the environment, such as the VSTweak power toy (available at http://workspaces.gotdotnet.com/vstweak) used in several of the hacks.
Visual Studio Hacks is a mild disappointment. When this book arrived I was anticipating a good resource for some things I never knew about that were going to make me vastly more productive, or at the very least, have me frequently say, That s cool! Unfortunately, based on the total number of hacks unveiled in the book, the cool to apathetic response ratio was roughly 1 in 20. Perhaps those developers who have never spent much time spelunking the depths of what comprises VS.NET will find this book more appealing, but for those of us who live inside it every day, Visual Studio Hacks is simply a hidden spots travel guide for VS.NET tourists.
Title: Visual Studio Hacks
Author: James Avery
Publisher: O Reilly
Page Count: 478 pages