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Introducing Visual Studio 2005 IntelliSense Code Snippets

  • October 20, 2005
  • By Patrick Gallucci
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Dynamic code generation has existed for quite a while. In fact, you'll find tools that can help developers generate tens of thousands of lines of code with just a click of a button. Some of these are even flexible enough to allow you to modify the tokens in the template—or even the templates themselves—for added control over the output of the code. (The Code Generation Network Web site has an extensive list of these tools, quite a few of which I have used in the past—some with great success.)

I have always wanted to have the ability to create code inline without loading an external tool, or loading a Visual Studio add-in. That is where code snippets come to the rescue. They are not as powerful as some of the generators, but they perform more work in the day-to-day coding that experienced developers do.

Visual Studio 2005 IntelliSense code snippets enable you to create your own IntelliSense snippets without leaving the Visual Studio IDE. This ability boosts productivity by allowing you to create and insert samples of code that you use regularly. It also allows custom code developers to provide snippet examples of their own libraries and APIs.

Table 1 shows the current list of included snippets as of this writing.

Table 1: List of Current Visual Studio 2005 IntelliSense Code Snippets

Name Description Valid Locations to Insert Snippet
#if Creates a #if directive and a #endif directive Anywhere
#region Creates a #region directive and a #endregion directive Anywhere
~ Creates a destructor for the containing class Inside a class
attribute Creates a declaration for a class that derives from Attribute Inside a namespace (including the global namespace), a class, or a struct
checked Creates a checked block Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
class Creates a class declaration Inside a namespace (including the global namespace), a class, or a struct
ctor Creates a constructor for the containing class Inside a class
cw Creates a call to WriteLine Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
do Creates a do while loop Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
else Creates an else block Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
enum Creates an enum declaration Inside a namespace (including the global namespace), a class, or a struct
equals Creates a method declaration that overrides the Equals method defined in the Object class Inside a class or a struct
exception Creates a declaration for a class that derives from an exception (Exception by default) Inside a namespace (including the global namespace), a class, or a struct
for Creates a for loop Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
foreach Creates a foreach loop Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
forr Creates a for loop that decrements the loop variable after each iteration Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
if Creates an if block Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
indexer Creates an indexer declaration Inside a class or a struct
interface Creates an interface declaration Inside a namespace (including the global namespace), a class, or a struct
invoke Creates a block that safely invokes an event Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
iterator Creates an iterator Inside a class or a struct
iterindex Creates a "named" iterator and indexer pair by using a nested class Inside a class or a struct
lock Creates a lock block Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
mbox Creates a call to System.Windows.Forms.MessageBox.Show (You may need to add a reference to System.Windows.Forms.dll.) Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
namespace Creates a namespace declaration Inside a namespace (including the global namespace)
prop Creates a property declaration and a backing field Inside a class or a struct
propg Creates a property declaration with only a "get" accessor and a backing field Inside a class or a struct
sim Creates a static int Main method declaration Inside a class or a struct
struct Creates a struct declaration Inside a namespace (including the global namespace), a class, or a struct
svm Creates a static void Main method declaration Inside a class or a struct
switch Creates a switch block Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
try Creates a try-catch block Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
tryf Creates a try-finally block Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
unchecked Creates an unchecked block Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
unsafe Creates an unsafe block Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor
using Creates a using directive Inside a namespace (including the global namespace)
while Creates a while loop Inside a method, an indexer, a property accessor, or an event accessor

Take a Shallow Dive

To access code snippets, simply right-click in a code window and click on 'Insert Snippet', as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Access Code Snippets

Depending on the type of file, you then will see the types of snippets that are available to you. This example presents a C# class file, so you see two options: Office Development and Visual C#, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Available Types of Snippets

The category you select displays a list of its available snippets. These snippets will vary; you add to them or modify the existing ones. The list in Figure 3 is from the Visual C# category.

Figure 3: Available Snippets in Visual C#

The snippet name that you select dictates the code that is injected into the code window and at which location. For this C# example, choose ctor, which is the snippet to create a default constructor for your class (see Figure 4).

Figure 4: The ctor Code Snippet Creates a Default Constructor for Your Class

Clicking on the label injects the code into the spot where your cursor was when you first right-clicked in the code window. Figure 5 shows the code.

Figure 5: The Injected ctor Code

Now you can explore the ctor.snippet file that is located in the folder C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 8\VC#\Snippets\1033\Visual C#. Figure 6 shows this snippet file.



Click here for a larger image.

Figure 6: The ctor.snippet File

The file has only one code snippet defined, but it can have as many as defined in the schema. The title element will be displayed in the IntelliSense picker as well as in the Code Snippets Manager (see Figure 7). The manager also shows the other header elements; the Code Snippets Manager window displays the description, shortcut, snippet type, and the author.

Figure 7: Title and Header Elements in the Code Snippets Manager





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