I work in a .NET shop which means Visual Studio is the editor of choice. I’ve been on the platform for several years now and have come to know it relatively well. I wouldn’t declare myself to be anywhere near expert level but I know my way around enough to feel like I’m running in to some rough edges.

First the obligatory compliments before I start trashing Visual Studio. As far as hitting the ground running being productive in a new language it’s really hard to beat Visual Studio. The “intellisense” auto completion is generally excellent and works really well even with the more dynamic pieces of the supported languages. At the beginner stage it lends itself well to figuring out what you’re doing. Throw in the code analysis and the environment does a pretty good job WTF proofing an even moderately skilled programmer moving in to the Microsoft Platform.

With the niceties out of the way, the more I work on the .Net platform, the more I feel like all the “helpful” features in visual studio are getting in my way. Particularly a lot of pretty common tasks , such as opening new files, or moving a tab into another vertical window, essentially force the use of the mouse. Granted, some of these tasks can be accomplished with the visual studio command line, but often doing a simple tasks have awkward syntax. I’m usually relegated to grabbing plugins to patch the most egregious of these holes.  Other tasks, like starting debugging on the most recently run project cannot be accomplished at all from the command line, short of writing unstable macros.

It feels like there is a pretty start choice in editors out there. IDE’s like Visual Studio and Eclipse,  for example, which make it easy to explore a platform and to discover new features and editors like emacs and vim which are infinitely flexible but have a steep, steep learning curve and don’t support all the platform specific niceties that you get in a more language specific IDE.  I’d love to see the Visual Studio Team at Microsoft put some serious thought into making it easier to control the IDE from the command line and/or via shortcuts.  Ideally one could slowly make the transition from using everything via that mouse to running everything via the command line.  Short of this, I’d love to see the intellisense features of visual studio, and maybe a formal spec for the project formats so these features could be used in another editor, an Emacs.Net if you will.

Given how good the tool-chain is in most modern programming languages, this is a pretty minor gripe, but as a programmer and keyboard junky, it drives me absolutely crazy to have an IDE force me to use the mouse for things like “run the most recently run project”.

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