Visual Studio 11 IDE Improvements

This is second post of the Dev11 series. If you have not installed preview bits, you may like to read my previous post on “Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview”. In this post, I am going to share some of the improvements in Visual Studio 11 IDE.

//Disclaimer #1: This post is written for Developer Preview version, and features may change in later releases.
//Disclaimer #2: The views expressed in this post are mine alone neither of my employer nor of Microsoft.
//Disclaimer #3: This is a long post

The Visual Studio 11 IDE contains bunch of improvements/enhancements and some of them are modified/enhanced version of Productivity Power Tools extension available for Visual Studio 2010 which you might be familiar with. The reason I am really excited about this release is because, for the last two years, I have been involved in providing feedback to Visual Studio team as part of technical community and so one of the thing we discussed during MVP Summit was that Visual studio has lots of options, commands, windows etc. that are not known to developers and therefore it is important for developers productivity and experience to consolidate features and make them discoverable. I really think the VS team have done well in considering community feedback. So let’s discuss some of the improvements:

Solution Explorer

If you compare Solution Explorer of Visual Studio 2010 with Visual Studio 11, it has really improved a lot.

Solution Explorer in VS 2010 and VS 11

Solution Explorer - Browsing CodeNow you can utilize solution explorer for browsing types, type members, search symbols and find relationships among them. Thank God they have provided collapse button in Solution explorer… at times it was quite irritating to collapse projects etc.

You can now Browse Code within solution explorer, by expanding down types and type members. This helps in quickly jumping to a particular type member such as property or method. It further gives option to view call hierarchy (Calls, Is Called By, Is Used By) of a method via context menu.

  • Calls – display list of methods called by the selected method
  • Is Called By – display list of methods that calls selected method
  • Is Used by – display list of methods using selected method in line, similar to Find All References option

A great thing I have observed is when I have a large solution and I try to browse to type members level, the visual studio lazy loads the type members and populate the items which I believe must be adding value in terms of performance.

Solution Explorer - (Method) [Calls]Solution Explorer - (Method) [Is Called By]Solution Explorer - (Method) [Is Used By]

Searching symbols in solution explorer made it easy to find any class, methods, properties, in fact any symbol in code. For example, following image depicts the search result of ‘Mock’. You can also use (Ctrl+;) as shortcut to search using solution explorer. This is small but very beneficial feature for developers to quickly search for what they are looking for in code.


Finally the search results in Solution explorer can be viewed with single click on any item of the result list instead of double clicking class etc. which really allow developers to quickly jump between search results.

Quick Launch

Quick launch is one of the great features of this version. How many of you actually feel that it’s difficult to find options, commands etc. in Visual Studio? How many of you felt like forgetting a menu option? How many of you felt like it takes time to navigate through menus like Tools –> Options –> Debugging etc.? How many of you felt its annoying to remember shortcuts?

The Visual Studio 11 has answer for you in the form of “Quick Launch”. Quick Launch option is available on top right corner of Visual Studio or using shortcut key (Ctrl+`).


For example, I want to look for the option of formatting code or document or any other option related to format. Quick Launch allows me to simply search for ‘Format’ and it will show me all the commands and options related to that as shown below:

Quick Launch - Result

So this really gives me a quick way to search all the options related to Formatting instead of going through menus, especially if you don’t remember the shortcut.

Simplified Toolbars

You probably have notice that toolbar is single row with fewer, yet frequently used, options.

Visual Studio 11 - Toolbar 

This is because it has been observed that most of the developers tend to utilize only some of the commands in toolbar. For example, developers don’t use commands like Cut, Copy, Paste, Save and some other options from toolbar… they usually do it using shortcuts or don’t use them. So based on feedback and research, it has been simplified to most frequently used commands only. With toolbar consuming less space, now you have more SPACE for editor!

Concluding Remarks

That is all for this post, hope you enjoyed reading about the IDE improvements in Dev11. The Visual Studio 11 IDE contains bunch of other enhancements as well which I would love you share, hopefully in coming post.

Until next time, Happy Coding!

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