First Looks

CodeRush: Code More Efficiently

Developer Express' CodeRush for Visual Studio aids developer productivity.

Productivity is the name of the game in software development, and development tools offer ever cooler ways to help us write code faster. Visual Studio .NET 2003 is one of the most productive development environments available, but even it has plenty of room for improvement. Developer Express' CodeRush for Visual Studio makes those improvements, and then plenty more.

CodeRush is just an add-in for VS. But what it does to the environment is simply mind-blowingly cool, a dizzying array of automatic templates, graphic markers that make it easy to grok the structure of your code, navigation aids that help you jump around projects and code files, and visualization tools that soften and improve the VS IDE (see Figure 1). The list of features is impressive and endless, but the best part is that they all just work.

I found that once I got used to how CodeRush modifies the environment and I learned how the tools worked, I could be far more productive. Moving around code is one example, even with VS' bookmark feature. CodeRush makes this much more efficient, so that I can jump around to get the code written.

Development tools are personal things that have to adapt to fit each developer's personal style, and CodeRush shines in this area. You can disable features that annoy you (and I guarantee that you'll find at least one), modify code templates or create your own, change the colors of various objects, set how long various indicators should appear, and on and on.

One of the more surprising features is not only that CodeRush is highly customizable, but that it is extensible as well—a VS extension that is itself extensible, complete with an object model and support for writing your own custom add-ins. It took evil genius brilliance to develop a package this flexible and powerful.

There are two things that are annoying about the product, but their importance is likely to vary with each developer. The first is that the online user guide, although complete and pretty and animated, is non-standard and doesn't facilitate learning the product. I found it hard to find the information I needed. The other problem is that, at least until you get used to it, CodeRush can get in your way. For example, when a template is expanded, even if you didn't want it to, there is no way to go back to just the text you typed. This sometimes requires typing a space, backspacing, typing the variable name you want but don't want expanded, and hitting the right arrow to continue on.

But these are minor quibbles and the latter is easily customized away. So get CodeRush and be the envy of every developer on your block. Learn it, customize it to work the way you do, and go write some great code, efficiently.

CodeRush 1.1
Developer Express
Phone: 702-262-0609
Price: $249.99
Quick Facts: Innovative and exciting enhancements to the VS.NET IDE.
Pros: Dizzying array of features that are highly customizable and extensible; cool graphics; navigation aids to help move around complex projects.
Cons: Non-standard online help; some "in your face" features.

ReSharper: Optimize Development Time

by Andy Clark

JetBrain's ReSharper provides tools that can make you a more productive C# developer. It integrates cleanly into the VS.NET environment and provides you with additional searching, code-completion, analysis, and template capabilities (see Figure 2).

I find myself especially drawn to ReSharper's search capabilities. You can display a popup window that shows where a variable or other search string is used throughout a module. You can click on this popup menu and move through the module looking at the individual references. This is a great tool for both support and development programmers fine-tuning the use of variables, properties, and methods.

ReSharper builds upon VS.NET's code-completion capabilities by providing a better context list when you enter a "." after an object name. This icon-enhanced list shows you all the object's properties, methods, and collections. Further, as you scroll through the list, it gives a brief description of each item along with a discussion of its parameters and derivation. Finally, it continues to describe the selected item as you complete its parameters.

ReSharper offers several other tools designed to make you a more efficient developer. It has the ability to generate a method definition for you automatically. For example, if you type a line of code such as "int ndx = foo();", ReSharper gives you the option of automatically creating foo's method definition ("private int foo() {}"). ReSharper also provides a number of templates such as "pci" for "public const int" and it lets you add your own templates.

I found JetBrain's support responsive and helpful. The product documentation could be improved to provide a better overview of ReSharper's capabilities, but the reference documentation is more than adequate and the tools are easily understood. I would like to see JetBrains expand ReSharper to support VB.NET as well as C#.

ReSharper 1.0.5
Phone: 650-378-8571
Price: $149
Quick Facts: A variety of tools designed to improve coder efficiency.
Pros: Effective code search tool; support for templates; a variety of useful shortcuts.
Cons: Needs good overview documentation to assure that customers get the full benefit of the product.

About the Author

Don Kiely is a senior technology consultant in Fairbanks, Alaska. When he isn't writing software, he's writing about it, speaking about it at conferences, and training developers in it. Reach him at [email protected].

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