Posts Tagged ‘Visual Studio’

The problem with MSDN gallery Q and A

As many of you know I have written a few extensions for Visual Studio. The most popular by far are “Solution Explorer Tools” and “Code alignment”. Each only a few downloads short of reaching 6500 downloads.

I get a few queries and comments about these extensions, but the MSDN’s Q and A section has a major problem in it.

For some reason it has decided that you don’t need new lines. and just replaces them with a single space. Now on some forums, this might be understandable. You want comments kept short, and you don’t want them to take up screens so why not? But this is a Q and A for developers. Developers asking and answering questions about an extension to visual studio. It’s quite often they want to enter code.

So what does that mean? Well let’s say in my comment I wrote…

var foo = "Hello World";
for (int i = 0; i < 10; i++)
    Console.WriteLine(foo + i);

when I submit it, it would become

var foo = "Hello World"; for (int i = 0; i < 10; i++) Console.WriteLine(foo + i);

And that’s just for a simple case, many of the times I’ve seen this happen the result itself wraps over 10 lines. It’s ugly and unreadable.

MSDN didn’t use to act this way, it respected new lines but then they changed it for some unknown reason. On a side note it has also never respected multiple spaces and I’ve had to replace spaces with ` to make the formatting appear correct – pretty crummy for a developer Q and A.

It’s especially annoying for my code alignment extension. The extension aligns characters across lines, so when people post suggestions they post multiple lines – which gets swallowed up by this bug.

It’s ironic that for my extension that encourages good formatting of code, it has a the Q and A section which doesn’t allow any formatting.

I hope Microsoft fixes this problem soon. I can’t be the only person who is annoyed by this.

The ribbon

This is a bit of a follow up to my last post on windows 8. If there’s one thing Microsoft has been criticised more than anything else in Windows 8 it’s the decision to include the ribbon in explorer.

“Look how big and ugly it is!”

“Clean design means providing us only the functionality we want, not shoving every command in sight”

The think there is a fundamental misunderstanding in what the ribbon is. People see it as a toolbar replacement. This is incorrect.

The ribbon is a menu replacement that might render toolbars redundant.

So when comparing UIs, you shouldn’t compare a ribbon to a toolbar, but to a menu. Compare Windows 8’s ribbon to OSX’s menu and you’ll come to the conclusion OSX’s menu is far more complex.

“But OSX’s menu is hidden; it’s out of the way, the ribbon is in your face”, you say? Well again, I think you’re missing an important thing the ribbon can be minimised so it looks just like a menu. I will admit I hope in the final release Windows 8 has the menu minimise by default.

This behaviour of being able to minimise or stay open is very powerful, what if you wanted to do multiple things in your menu? As soon as you select one the menu disappears and you have to start again to select the next. On the other hand with a ribbon if it is minimised you can double click it to keep it open select all the options you want – selecting one doesn’t hide the ribbon, the double click the ribbon again to minimise it – That’s much nicer.

One more note about Windows 8. They really need to work on the icons. There is no consistency between them. “Hue variance should justify itself”

Visual Studio

I’m actually going to go to the territory that no developer has gone to – I want the ribbon inside Visual Studio. I may have just lost you but listen to my reasons.

  • In all the hundreds of menu items, I go into the menu to use a grand total of 3 of them.
  • The ribbon is a menu replacement, not a toolbar replacement. Toolbars can stay how they are (or preferably back to what they were in VS2008, there’s so many problems with them in VS2010)
  • The most important way select commands in Visual Studio is shortcuts. The ribbon does an excellent job at exposing shortcuts.
  • The menus are cluttered from years of addition of commands and never removing commands. The ribbon forces the organisation to be rethought.

I think these are quite compelling reasons. At the moment, I have kept my toolbars to an absolute minimum (10 commands). Some of these I wouldn’t mind to be more hidden inside the ribbon – Target Deployment Device, Solution Configurations & Solution Platforms.

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The occasionally interesting thoughts & insights of a software developer