Improve Your Dev UX: Disable Visual Studio Toolbars

I recently stumbled on to a fantastic usability tip for Visual Studio that’s trivial to implement. So trivial, in fact, that I’m almost reluctant to mention it because I’m sure some readers will balk at how insignificant and even pointless this tip will be for them. But, I’m willing to take the flak because I’m sure that other readers will enjoy this tip as much as I do.

Visual Studio’s “Bouncing” Toolbars

I’ve mentioned twice within the past few weeks that I dislike Visual Studio’s “bouncing” Toolbars. In the first case, I mentioned it as part of my wish list for the next version of Visual Studio, see InstantDoc ID 125435.Then, more recently, I touched upon the subject again when I mentioned that WebMatrix uses Ribbon Toolbars, see InstantDoc ID 125745, to get around this problem.

And, for those of you too lazy to click those links, the gist of the issue at hand is that if you have different kinds of files open in Visual Studio (such as C#, Visual Basic, .config, .xml, .aspx, .css, and so on), then as you toggle back and forth between these files, different toolbars will activate and the top bar of the document panel will appear to bounce up and down as various toolbars activate and deactivate.

The Easiest Fix Ever

I realize that this bouncing toolbars issue doesn’t even register as a concern with many developers. But I also know that it bugs many developers as well. It’s a minor irritation, but it’s still an irritation. I find it to be most problematic when I’m trying to close three or four files that I no longer need while the Close-button bobbles up and down on the screen.

At any rate, given that this is something that does annoy me, it’s not too surprising that I seized upon a tweet from @codereflection (Jeff Schumacher) where he mentioned that he really enjoyed running Visual Studio without all of the “toolbar noise.”

In fact, what I found so appealing about his tweet was that it instantly made sense becasue I don’t really EVER use any of the buttons on any of those toolbars that I’m constantly noticing are getting in the way. In fact, the ONLY button I think I’ve ever used is the one in the Standard Toolbar that lets me stop debugging. That’s it.

Try It–You’ll Like It

Turning off toolbars is as easy as falling off of a log. Just go to View, Toolbars in Visual Studio and uncheck any toolbars you don’t want turned on. The trick, of course, is that you have to keep telling Visual Studio to turn off certain toolbars as you cycle through different file types while you’re developing.

I found that within just a few minutes I was able to tame all of the toolbar noise to my satisfaction. In fact, I decided to leave the Standard toolbar on, but I trimmed it down by more than half by removing a whole gob of buttons that I would never use or care about.

So I was left with a single Standard toolbar with very few buttons and no noise or bouncing whatsoever. More importantly, there was no trade-off involved becauseI didn’t get rid of anything that I ever use. While I was removing the toolbars and buttons, I made a note of the keyboard shortcut to stop debugging.

Improving Your Own User Experience

This is a very simple tip, but if you’re like me and don’t use the buttons on the toolbars, then turning off toolbars will result in a tiny bit more development space and improve your user experience. The simple things matter. You work hard at giving your customers a good UX, why not take an easy step to enhance your own user e yourself. It could even be argued that getting rid of toolbars might be a way to force some developers into learning more keyboard shortcuts as well.

Personally, I’m sold. Even if I do scratch my head and wonder why I never thought of just turning off all those surplus toolbars before.

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