If you’ve been a .NET developer for any reasonable amount of time, then you’re surely aware of what Visual Studio extensions are. If you haven’t, well, they’re pretty much what it says in the name: pieces of software (plugins, if you will) that you can add to your Visual Studio IDE to extend its capabilities.
Today’s post features a list of eight extensions that we believe are worth your time. By the end of the article, you’ll have a good grasp of the available extensions out there, and will potentially adopt some of them to make your life easier. Let’s get started.
We open our list with AxoCover, which is a free code coverage extension for Visual Studio. AxoCover allows you to efficiently run and debug your tests, as well as organizing them hierarchically. And of course, it analyzes and displays the coverage for your code at the solution, project, class, and member level, as you can see in the following image:
With AxoCover, you can export the coverage results to HTML. The tool also shows coverage information in the code editor, displaying detailed information about partially covered lines.
AxoCover works with Visual Studio from version 2012 up to 2017 (support for VS 2019 seems to be in the works.) It supports the NUnit, xUnit.net, and MSTest test frameworks. You can download it for free from the Visual Studio Marketplace. If you want to see AxoCover’s source code—and maybe contribute to it—go to its repository on GitHub.
2. Review Assistant
The second item in our list is Review Assistant, a code review tool. If you’re a regular reader of the SubMain blog, you know that code review is a topic we cover very often, so failing to mention a code review tool would be unthinkable. Review Assistant is a plugin that enables its users to both submit and respond to code review requests without needing to leave Visual Studio. The tool supports the following version control systems: Git, TFS, Subversion, Mercurial, and even Perforce, which means it’s highly likely that Review Assistant’s got you covered when it comes to your choice of VCS tool.
Review Assistant is built to support multiple iteration reviews since that’s that way most code review sessions tend to happen in practice. The tool also allows granular e-mail notifications settings, so each user can choose what events they should be notified about, and also the frequency of the emails.
When it comes to the review process itself, Review Assistant is designed to promote rich discussions about code. It enables the reviewer to leave comments per each review, and for specific lines in the code file, plus it allows you to flag defects for correction. The reviewee, on the other hand, can see comments displayed in the code editor. The tool also allows the developers to quickly switch between review comments and the code. That makes it easy and convenient to perform the corrections as requested, and then update the review adding a new revision to it.
Review Assistant supports Visual Studio 2010 up to 2019. You can use the tool for free in one project with up to three members. Go to the Visual Studio Marketplace and learn how to get started with it.
3. File Icons
File Icons is a free extension that works in Visual Studio, from the 2015 version onward. It does something quite simple yet amazingly useful. It assigns file icons—in Solution Explorer—for file types that don’t have one natively. One might dismiss the functionality this extension provides. After all, it’s something you can perfectly live without. However, it can really come in handy when you have to navigate a solution that contains lots of files from a wide variety of types. When you find yourself in such a scenario, the ability to quickly identify—just by glancing at them—the types of files, can give your productivity a non-negligible boost.
The following image features an example solution. You can see the changes that File Icons made to it. As you can see, only three extensions had their icons changed: the PowerPoint file, the .pdf file, and the .gitignore file. That happened because, since the initial version of the extension, Visual Studio has been adding new icons. However, keep in mind that the complete list of supported filetypes currently features 668 items, so the example in the image is but a tiny fraction of the file extensions that “File Icons” supports.
If you’re still not convinced, go to the marketplace, download File Icons, and give it a try. Since it’s free, you’re not losing anything. And if you’re so inclined, you can go one step further and contribute to the project on GitHub.
The fourth item on our list is called ResXManager. This is a free, open-source Visual Studio extension that enables its users to manage all the localization resources in their applications easily. This extension gives you centralized access to the ResX-based resources that exist in your solution. ResX manager makes it easy to navigate through the resources by displaying them and their contents using a data grid.
That way, it becomes easier to find strings that lack translations, as well as orphaned entries. You can quickly edit the strings in place, as well as create new entries. Finally, the tool allows you to import and export translations using Excel, so you can use your translation elsewhere, as well as reusing translations from other sources.
ResXManager can be downloaded from the marketplace, and it works from Visual Studio 2015 onward. Go to the project’s repository on GitHub to see (and maybe contribute to) its source code.
This extension sort of belongs to the same category as the “File Icons” one, in that what it does is simple but can give a real boost to your productivity. It was even created by the same person! So, what does it do?
It allows you to create new files, quicker and easier than the usual way. After installing the extension, the context menu in Solution Explorer gains a “New Empty File” button:
To create the desired file, you can either click the new button or use the Shift + F2 shortcut. No matter which option you use, you’ll be prompted by a file name:
You can then enter a file name, and the file would be created in the currently selected folder. You can create files with any extension. It’s possible to create files starting with a dot (.), like as .gitignore or .gitattributes. And even though the extension’s name is “AddNewFile,” you can easily create folders using it. If you provide a name ending with a slash (/), a folder with that name will be created. Additionally, you can create complete folder structures just by entering a complete path, e.g. path/to/my/new/file.txt.
The Visual Studio extension we’re covering next has to do with the app.config file even though it can deal with XML, JSON, or pretty much any type of file. So, besides having an awesome name, what is SlowCheetah all about?
This extension allows you to transform your app.config (or any other file), automatically, when pressing F5. SlowCheetah enables you to have a number of different transformations based on your app’s build configuration. That way, you can have different database connection strings or application settings, among other things, for Debug versus Release. That is just an example, though. With this extension and some creativity, the sky is the limit when it comes to the transformations you might come up with.
Microsoft itself publishes SlowCheetah. It supports Visual Studio 2015, 2017, and 2019. It’s free and open-source. Go to the Visual Studio Marketplace to download it and install it.
7. GhostDoc by SubMain
Last but not least, another offering by SubMain. GhostDoc is a tool that helps you to automate software documentation. It allows developers to generate XML comments from their code via customizable templates, maintain clean software documentation, and perform code spellcheck in Visual Studio, among other features.
Additionally, GhostDoc outputs help documentation to a number of different formats, and more. So, GhostDoc is a complete tool, helping you on all fronts regarding code documentation. It helps you create the documentation, maintain it and also make it available for everyone who needs to access it.
What Are Your Favorite Visual Studio Extensions?
Lists are always controversial things. Go to some of the “top 20 guitar players of all time” videos on Youtube, take a look at the comments section and you’ll see what I’m talking about. You can bet that most comments will be about some omission (“How can a list of top guitarists not include Randy Rhoads? Blasphemy!!!”)
With the list featured in this post, I did my best to present a short yet diverse list of useful extensions that I honestly believe are worth checking out. I’m sure there are awesome extensions I didn’t mention, so I now pose the question to you, reader. What are your favorite Visual Studio extensions? Feel free to add them in the comment section, and we’ll continue to talk.
Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.
Learn how GhostDoc can help to simplify your XML Comments, produce and maintain quality help documentation.