Working with the Properties Window in Visual Studio's Categories View
If you prefer to keep your Properties Window in Categories View, then here's some shortcuts you might find valuable.
Personally, I keep the list of properties in the Properties Window in alphabetical order. I hear, though, that there are people who prefer to organize the list by categories (I prefer the alphabetical order because there's no way I could ever remember what category any property is in).
If you do work in Category View, you may not be aware that, once you're on a category header, you can collapse it with the left arrow (or the minus sign). Because you probably only use properties in a few categories, you can keep your Property Window short (giving more room to whatever's above it) by collapsing the categories you don't use (you'll also save yourself some scroll up/scroll down time).
In fact, if you keep all your categories collapsed, the Property Window takes up very little space. With the categories collapsed, you can quickly move from one category to another just by pressing the up or down arrows. Once you've got the category you want, pressing the right arrow (or the plus sign) will expand the category. If a category is expanded, your up and down arrows will move you through the properties in the category.
The only reason I know this is because I was watching another programmer who kept all her categories closed all the time. She would press F4 to move to the Properties Window, arrow up or down to the category she wanted, press the right arrow to open the category, and then arrow down to the property she wanted. I was still dragging my mouse over to the window while she was changing the property value. I won't say she made me feel old but I'm told I was grouchy the rest of the day.
Her life would be complete, she said, if there was a keyboard shortcut that would move her back to the category header from any property in the category. As it is, she had to arrow up to the header to use the left arrow to close it.
By the way, if you can't fit all your open categories on the screen, the Page Up and Page Down keys can be useful: On your first press, they move you to the first or last visible item in the window; On subsequent presses, they page through the list of properties. The Home and End keys, as you might expect, move you to the headers for the first and last categories.
Peter Vogel is a system architect and principal in PH&V Information Services. PH&V provides full-stack consulting from UX design through object modeling to database design. Peter tweets about his VSM columns with the hashtag #vogelarticles. His blog posts on user experience design can be found at http://blog.learningtree.com/tag/ui/.