Know your IDE
Your IDE (Integrated Development Environment) is your tool for creating great applications. Without it, you don’t mean much, unless you are a hardcore .NET developer that can write a whole application in Notepad and compile it with a command line compiler. The bottom line is, you need your IDE.
What is really astounding to me is how little the average programmer knows about their IDE. (I will be specifically referring to Visual Studio Team System 2008 throughout this post.) They know just enough in order to do the most basic of tasks (and I don’t mean writing code). Your Visual Studio IDE is a very powerful tool, and your utilization of that tool impacts directly on your productivity.
For example, do you ever take a look at the Visual Studio Headlines on the Start Page? It is packed with really good articles and is a good resource for keeping up to date with latest developments. As a programmer, you never stop learning. The moment that you do that, you will soon become obsolete (unless you know Cobol :-)). Also, take a gander at Tools -> Options, expand Text Editor and click on All Languages. Under Display, you can enable Line Numbers in the editor.
Did you know that you can change the font’s and colors? Does the white background of the code window get too much for you? How about if you work on a 26 inch LCD Monitor? It is a sea of white, and believe me, it can get too much. Well you can change the color to an off white. Under Environment -> Fonts and Colors while Show Settings for is set to Text Editor, change the Item background color. There are so many settings and changes you can make to your IDE to make your life easier and more comfortable. For more on this, head over to Studio Styles and browse the Visual Studio styles available.
While this post touched on the text editor mostly, you can do so much more in Visual Studio. Find out if there are any good books on your IDE of choice, and learn the tricks and tips available to make your life easier. For the .NET developers using Visual Studio (as opposed to Sharp Develop) here is an excellent video by Sara Ford: Sara Ford’s 101 Visual Studio Tips in 55 Minutes Challenge. Believe me, you need to watch this. The bottom line is that knowing your IDE makes you a better programmer.