Visual Studio Add-Ins: SlickEdit Gadgets

We’ve spent a while talking about tools you can use outside Visual Studio to help you with your application development. It’s time now to look at some tools we can use inside Visual Studio.

First up is a brand new set of VS Add-Ins from SlickEdit (, called SlickEdit Gadgets. This free add-in comes with five tools: Editor Gadgets, Command Spy, File Explorer, Data Object Analyzer, and the SLOC Report.

The first tool, Editor Gadgets, contains four useful items. First, there is an Indentation Guide that draws a line down the screen at the current indent level for your cursor. Next is a Line Ruler, that highlights the current line and displays the tab settings. Both of these are illustrated in the following graphic:

[Indent and current line bar tools.]

Third is a very useful feature called Auto-Copy. When text is selected with the mouse, it’s automatically copied to the clipboard. To paste, click with the middle button (or scroll wheel, if you have a clickable scroll wheel).

The final option is the ability to place a graphic over the editor window. In the example on their website they have a green bar paper image behind the editor text. These various features can be enabled and disabled via the options window inside Visual Studio. For example, I thought the blue background and black border on the Ruler Line to be distracting, so I reset to a white background and light gray border.

[Muted bar.]

As you can see, much less distracting. I also opted to turn off the indentation line.

Next up is the Command Spy. If you are a VS Macro writer, you’ll find this tool indespensible. Command Spy is a small window (you can dock it with the Output and other windows). As you activate various commands in VS, Command Spy shows you the command in the window. Again, very useful if you want to write macros.

The third is what I consider to be the most useful tool, right behind Auto Copy: File Explorer. It’s just what it sounds like, it puts a File Explorer tab into your VS environment.

[File Explorer Tool]

You can then drag any of these items into your project solution window. I can see where this handy tool will get used a lot.

Next up is the Data Object Analyzer. This tool lets you examine what you put on the clipboard, see it’s properties, and generate code to handle it. How useful this will be remains to be seen, if you find creative uses for it feel free to post a comment.

The final tool in this free kit is the SLOC report. SLOC stands for Source Lines of Code, it creates a Pie Chart style report that shows you the ratio of comments, white space, and actual lines of code. You can run the report for individual files or entire projects.

This can be handy if you need some quick statistics, perhaps you are doing a code review and want to be sure the ratio of code to comments is respectable. Most times though you won’t find this tool all that useful.

One thing to note, it only works with VS 2005, if you are still in the 2003 environment you’re out of luck.

There you go, a new tool from Slick Edit that’s free and adds several useful features to Visual Studio. Please leave a comment, I’m curious what your favorite features are and how you are using the tool.