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Visual Studio Tip: Printing Code to Support Code Review

I don't often print my code out when I'm working at home (too cheap to pay for the ink), but it's something that my clients ask for more often than I expect. The usual reason I'm asked to print my code is to support a code review. By default, the printing process uses the same settings your code editor does, which isn't always appropriate. When you print out your code, you should set up your pages to support the code review process.

There are two obvious options to pick when printing your code, because they appear right in the Print dialog. In the lower left-hand corner of the dialog, you can check off the option to hide collapsed regions, a good way to focus the reader's attention on the code that's being reviewed by collapsing the irrelevant parts of your code before printing (and save some ink!). You can also check off an option to include line numbers, which makes it much easier to refer to specific lines of code.

In the Page Setup dialog, there's another option that's worth checking (it's set by default in some versions of Visual Studio): Page Header. That will print the full path name for the code file at the top of each page, making it easier to refer to code files (and collate your pages if you drop them).

But there's more you can do: Go to Tools/Options/Environment/Fonts and Colors and set the dropdown box at the top of the dialog to Printer. Now you can set up your print options to support your code review. For instance, several studies have shown that serif fonts (like Courier New) are easier to read on paper than san-serif fonts (like Visual Studio's default Consolas): change the font to a monospaced serif font (the monospaced fonts are in boldface). There's not much point in highlighting breakpoints in the printed code, so you might also want to set breakpoints to plain old black on white.

That's just a start on what you might want to change, but you've already focused the reviewer's attention, made it easier to find what you're talking about, made it easier to read, and got rid of an annoying distraction. Not bad for five minutes' work.

Posted by Peter Vogel on 03/14/2013

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