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Product Review: Visual Assist .NET 7.1

  • July 24, 2003
  • By Sonu Kapoor
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Introduction

The Intellisense of Microsoft Visual Studio .NET is very good but not as good as the add-in from Wholetomato. Wholetomato provides a very nice, neat and extended Intellisense add-in for Visual Studio. In this review I cover some of the nice features which are available in Visual Assist .NET 7.1.

Installing Visual Assist

As the name already implies, this version is an add-in for Visual Studio .NET  7.1 2002 and 2003. If you have an earlier IDE than you need to download Visual Assist 6.0. You can download a free trial of 30 days without key requirement. The installation went very smoothly and there weren't any problems.

Installation requires nothing more than running of an installer and pressing Next and OK a few times. If you ar are a power developer using both Visual Studio .NET 2002 and 2003, the program will register itself with both IDEs. You needn't select or install twice.

Using Visual Assist

To see the useful features, I created a simple MFC dialog-based application in Visual Studio. The application is not really important. I created it to show show some of the useful features. The application contains a label, an entry box and a button.

After starting Visual Studio, I immediately saw the new toolbar from Visual Assist. All settings are done through this toolbar.

Features

I was surprised at how nice code can look. The first feature which is actually not a part of Intellisence is the syntax highlighter. This new feature can be very helpful while writing code. While viewing the code with Visual Assist's color scheme, you can easily identify, what is a variable, method, class, etc. For example, the following is code before enabling Visual Assist:

After enabling Visual Assist the code looks like the following:

As you can see, there is a drastic change when you add Visual Assist!

Tooltips and Brackets

Another nice feature is that Visual Assist tries to guess what you are typing and provides a tooltip, by pressing the TAB key the word is completed automatically.

If you write the "MessageBox" on your own you recognize by typing just the first bracket, that the second is inserted automatically. Of course you can disable this option, but I am not sure why you would want to do that. If you insert the second bracket on your own, although the option is enabled you will not get a syntax error. Instead Visual assist recognize that and overwrites it with your bracket. This feature applies to all method, function or class brackets. Actually, it applies to anywhere you need brackets.

While your cursor is in any function, the brackets of that function are bolded. The same is true of methods. This feature can be very helpful when you are working with nested statements that have more than two brackets. The following demonstrates a nested statement in which the cursor is placed in the nested brackets:

Visual Assist also recognizes, if you delete the last bracket of a statement, method, class, or whatever. It will indicate that something is not correct by changing the first bracket to red with bolding:

Saving Build Time

Sometimes it happens that you accidentally misspell a variable or method. In this case Visual Assist underlines the variable with the standard waved-red-line. You'll be familiar with this if you use products such as Microsoft Word. This feature can save your time, because you know directly that the word is wrongly spelled, and you don't need a build to correct your mistake. This happens as well if you use a method that does not belong to a specific class.

Some programmer get confused by using the member operator (.) or the -> operator. If you type foo. and should have typed foo-> Visual Assist recognize the error and changes the . to ->.  This way you again avoid a build to find and correct this type of error.

Templates for Visual Assist

You can write your own templates for Visual Assist. What do I mean by templates? An example will explain and illustrate the simplicity of Visual Assist Templates. Let's say you want to type TRUE. With a template, all you need to do is, type T and press <TAB> . This is a Visual Assist built-in template. You can write your own templates that operate in the same way. This can be very helpful for comments or if you use snippets of specific code often.

You can also easily make usage of variables in your Visual Assist templates. For example, using %DATE% will cause the date to print each time

Header and Cpp

When you have a big project with a lot of files, you may not have the time to search for a specific file (such as a header (.h) or C++ source (.cpp) file. To save time Visual Assist has provided a button in the toolbar that lets you open the corresponding header file. Just press the button and the header file is open.

Multiple Clipboard:

Another very useful feature is the multiple clipboard support. With this option you can save unlimited copies. With the keys Shift+Ctrl+V you will see a list of all copied items. The stored items are even available after you reboot the system.

Conclusion

Visual Assist is a very handy and easy to use tool. In this review I presented just some of the available features. Of course there are many more, but covering all of them would exceed the length of this review. As for me I liked the product and the useful features — especially the syntax highlighter and the possibility to have a multiple clipboard. These and additional features help to save time and the price of $79US is surely affordable for such a great tool.

Software : Visual Assist .NET 7.1
Manufacturer  : wholetomato
Full Release  : 79$
Upgrade : 49$
Supported OS : Windows





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