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Getting Started - Common Windows of the IDE

There are many panels in the Visual Studio IDE that allow for editing, navigating, debugging and, testing code. These panels are called "windows." There are many feature-rich windows that can be used for multiple aspects of writing quality software.

This post will focus on the common ones that you will use when writing basic applications.

1 - Code Editor, 2 - Solution Explorer, 3 - Error List, 4 - Task List

Code Editor

Most of your time developing software will be spent in the code editor. It is the window that displays the content of the file you have selected in the Solution Explorer and allows you to edit that file.

This window contains many features that aid you in writing and managing your code.

Syntax Coloring

When you created your first console application, some general code was written for you.

Visual Studio will color text differently to distinguish one element from another. Keywords (static, void, string) are one color but, other colors are used for types (Console) and method names (Main, WriteLine). Do not worry if you don't know the meaning of these words; they will be covered in future posts. The main point for this section is to show you the syntax coloring feature.

Error Marks

If you make a mistake when writing your code, or try to do something that Visual Studio will not work, you will see a red wavy underline. This is known as a "squiggle," it is there to tell you that the line of code you have written has a problem. If you place your mouse pointer over the squiggle, Visual Studio will give you information on the issue.

Line Numbers

Line numbers can be found in the left margin of the code editor. Line numbers are helpful when working on code with a peer or within a team.

They provide a simple way to refer to a code segment. "Look at line 9" is an easy way to quickly direct someone's attention to the code you want them to examine.

The code editor has many more features, but these are the basic ones. You can research more features here: features of the code editor

Solution Explorer

The Solution Explorer window is where you manage the files needed for your application. You will use the Solution Explorer to group the files of your application into projects and solutions. More information on the Solution Explorer, as well as the difference between solutions and projects, will be covered in the Application Breakdown post.

Error List

The Error List window will display errors and warnings that occur as you write your application. When a squiggle appears in your code, information on that issue will show in the Error List window.

If you click on the error code (CS0117) your web browser will open and perform a search on that code. If you double-click the error in the Error List window, Visual Studio will navigate to the exact line with the issue.

In addition to Errors, Visual Studio will provide you with Warnings if you have written code that will technically run, but could potentially cause problems. As a best practice, you should treat warnings as errors and fix anything that shows up in the window.

Task List

Visual Studio provides you with the ability to use "tokens" in your code comments to create shortcuts to any location in your code. By using the words "TODO" or "HACK" in the beginning of the comment, a shortcut will be created in the Task List window, allowing you to click the entry to jump directly to the comment.

Generally, the TODO token is used to mark a location where something needs to be done. The HACK token is used when the application code is a workaround to an issue, but needs to be revisited and potentially reworked.

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