Visual Studio Toolbox

Code Reviews and Presentations with Visual Studio

Whether you're giving a presentation at a conference or working with peers on a code review, these Visual Studio tools help make you look great.

Being able to present your code in a clear, readable manner is important for many reasons, all of which I recommend. You may be involved in team code reviews, making architecture or design recommendations to your team, or training new team members on the inner workings of your production systems. Maybe you want to share your enthusiasm and expertise by presenting at a conference or by teaching STEM classes to students or at a local tech meetup.

All of these are great things to do. In my experience, the key elements of giving any presentation are considering your topic and how best to share it with your audience, preparing concise, easy-to-read presentation materials, and a bit of practice to work out the kinks ahead of time.

In this first of two columns, I'm going to show you some tools and resources for preparing your presentation and sharing your code with a group, mostly with Visual Studio.

I'll finish up by briefly touching on some personal experiences giving presentations that went very well and one that went not well at all that I hope will help you do the best job possible.

Presenting with Code
There are two basic technical aspects of presenting that, in my experience, define what tools you should use for presenting. The first is the audio/video system provided for your presentation space. The second is the software you use to prepare and present.

Generally, you have no control over the AV system, particularly if you're speaking at a school or conference. Even on home turf at your office, getting your laptop hooked up to the conference room display on the first try is never a sure thing.

With that in mind, my recommendation is to always use the most obvious, default software: PowerPoint, Visual Studio and your terminal of choice. If you're working on a Mac, I still recommend PowerPoint, but Keynote is great, too. I've seen a few people try using HTML-based presentations in a browser and it almost always ends up in an unexpected glitch. No matter how prepared you might be, or how well you know the material, technical glitches reflect poorly on the speaker.

Be safe and sane: Use the standard presentation tools. If there’s a glitch or you need to borrow a machine to present, there's no special setup required and always someone around who can help troubleshoot.

For some more detailed tips on presenting code, start out by reading Susan Ibach's "Visual Studio Time Saver -- Presenting Code in PowerPoint," from Canadian Developer Connection. Ibach has some excellent quick tips, as well as video demonstrating them in action.

Cory House's "6 Quick Tips for Presenting Code in Visual Studio" and Manuel Meyer's ".NET Power Tip 6: Presenting in Visual Studio (Presentation Mode & ToolBox Snippets)" both dig down into specific techniques for setting up Visual Studio for code presentations. These are really basic, useful tips that should be used by anyone presenting code in front of an audience.

For more general presentation strategy tips still focused on code discussion, definitely read Scott Hanselman's "11 Top Tips for a Successful Technical Presentation." Hanselman knows a thing or two about code-centric presentations and his article covers everything from choosing your subject to displaying code and even how to advance your slides effectively -- really excellent information here.

And if you really, really must create your presentation using HTML5, take a look at Jacob Gable's "HTML5 Slideshow Presentation." It's an ASP.NET MVC 3 Razor site template with a default HTML5 slideshow JavaScript library. The one nice thing I can say about these kinds of templates is that they translate into Web sites ... with a lot of additional work.

Presentation Tools for Visual Studio
The articles linked earlier all touch on this, so it's worth digging down specifically into Visual Studio's Presentation Mode. Start by reading Brian Sherwin's "Presenter Tips #1: Visual Studio Built in Presenter Mode," which gives a short-and-sweet tutorial on using this valuable tool.

Once you understand how Presentation Mode works, you might want to install Sam Harwell's Presentation Mode extension, which provides commands to increase or decrease the size of code text, tooltips and IntelliSense menus on the fly.

Presentation Zoom, by Chris Granger, lets you set a default zoom level that’s used for all editor windows in Visual Studio, so you don't have to set them individually.

Another interesting tool is Presentation Mouse Tracker. If the Korean-language translation is correct, the tool inserts a larger arrow to indicate what you're pointing at in Visual Studio.

I've found that the editor color scheme and code highlighting make a big difference when presenting. Black code on a white background ends up being hard to read on a big screen. I encourage you to experiment with other color schemes, but personally recommend Ethan Schoonover's Solarized theme. There are versions available for most code editors and even for some terminal emulators. For Visual Studio you can grab the Solarized-Dark Theme from Visual Studio Marketplace (although I find this one a bit too blue) or David Thibault's Visual Studio Color Schemes Based on Solarized.

Next week, we continue with tools for code review, and then what can be learned from my experiences with presentations.  

About the Author

Terrence Dorsey is a technical writer, editor and content strategist specializing in technology and software development. Over the last 25-plus years he has worked on developer-focused projects at ESPN, The Code Project, and Microsoft. Read his blog at or follow @tpdorsey on Twitter.

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