I’m a long time avid user of Whole Tomato’s Visual Assist software at work, and can’t imagine life without it. Saying that, I’m probably not using it to it’s full potential, as the only features I seem to use from it are the ‘Open corresponding file’ button (jumps to the header file for a class or vis versa) and the automatic spell checking (it underlines comments and text I have mis-spelt).
I love the way it modifies the default text colouring that Visual Studio provides to make it easier to spot members, methods and the like, and I even occasionally make use of its ‘Refactor’ menu; it provides a quickly accessible (on the right-click menu) way to generate a method stub for anything you’ve just written, or to extract a block of code into a method. This week I’m going to try out a (competing?) product from Telerik, their Just Code add-in for Visual Studio.
A quick glance at the feature sheet on Telerik’s website shows a lot of features familiar to a user of any Visual Studio productivity add-in; Code navigation, symbol highlighting, refactoring options, automatic formatting and method stub generation. Look further however, and you’ll start to see some more advanced features not normally found in lesser add-ins; code-analysis, on-the-fly error checking, code-cleaning and….cloud sync?! Awesome!
After downloading the Just Code free trial from the Telerik Website, I closed my Visual Studio window and started the installation. Installation took about 2 mins to download and install and I was ready to go. As a side note, I was even impressed by thier installer; it gives you a number of options to additionally install some other Telerik products:
After installing and launching Visual Studio again, you are presented with a well designed welcome screen that gives you a brief overview of the features now at your disposal. Again, everything seems to have an amazing level of polish and professionalism from what i’ve seen, and if the spashscreen alone is anything to go on, we’re in for some quality stuff here. I may even have to look into the WPF controls Telerik offers based just on this screen and the installer!
Anyway, enough boring stuff, how is it in use? The answer – awesome. Firstly, Just Code is FAST. I can’t impress enough how annoying it is to wait for Visual Studio to load slow add-ins, or to wait after navigating files while an add-in catches up. Just Code appears snappy and responive in use. The next thing I did was display the Just Code ‘Errors’ window. This window is designed to show real-time errors/warnings in your code, so lets see what it says about my little dummy program I wrote for the purposes of this review:
Oh. Well here’s the first negative thing I have to say about Just Code; it shows you just how bad you are at coding! Just to give you a comparison to the above screen, here’s what the built in Visual Studio ‘warnings’ window currently looks like alongside the Just Code one above:
No contest really! As an aside, I couldn’t find an equivilent feature (real-time errors/warnings) in Visual Assist, although it does provide the same underlining in the code editor window for warnings and errors. I find the Just Code window much more useful though, it’s nice to see all your warnings/errors in one place, rather than searching through the code for them.
One other cool thing I discoved whilst playing around thismorning was the ‘Format Code’ feature hidden away in the Just Code menu. It allows you to highlight a chunk of code and hit Ctrl+Alt+F, at which point Just Code will ‘Format’ the selected code (read: make my sloppy code look pretty). For example, look at his horrible snippit of code; inconsistant spacing, inconsistant indentation, un-matching bracket spacing, just a mess:
I agree, it won’t be a often-used feature if you write clean code to begin with, but it’s little features like this I love!
When it comes to customization options, I was plesently surprised at what Just Code had to offer. The add-in offers a single pane for configuration with an expandable tree list in the left hand side for navigating the various components available (should be familiar to those of you used to Visual Assist!). One of the more important ones for me is the ability to control exactly what the Code Analysis reports:
For example, I think I may choose to display unused variables as an error instead of a warning; no reason something like that should ever be checked into a production source control environment.
The Just Code user options also provides a wealth of control over the individual colour highlighting, code snippits and navigation options.
Unfortunatly, it doesn’t look like Just Code offers any support for C++ developers. Understandably they would not be able to offer the full suite of features that they can provide for C# projects, but it would have been nice to see at least minimal support for C++. Hopefully it’s something they’re working on!
I should point out that I did not get round to testing the built-in unit test runner feature of Just Code, but is something I will look to do in the future.
Just Code offers a much larger and polished feature set than Visual Assist, whilst being sold for the same price point ($249 for the individual product at time of writing) The Cloud Sync option will be indispensable to developers working on Visual Studio installations both at home and at work, and the built in feature-set should satisfy most developers, although the lack of C++ support is sorely missed.
- Highly polished
- Huge Array of features
- Competative pricing
- Coding assistance on typing!
- Cloud sync!
- No C++ support 🙁
- Will take some time to unlearn key-bindings/shortcuts from other add-ins!