Apostol Apostolov

Practical thoughts about software

Visual Studio: Navigation Bar “Methods And Properties” should be a first class citizen

Lately as I’ve been developing a lot and trying to remember the key combinations of Visual Studio that I use the most, so I’d make my life easier and I’d be able to increase my productivity. I try to observe – when am I reaching for the mouse? Then I try to find the key combinations which would help me use the mouse less often. In the end – every reach for the mouse wastes time and focus.

I found that a lot of times when I use the mouse I try to reach for this menu:

navigation-bar

And naturally I tried to find the key combination to open and use it. Here comes my little disappointment. All the other key combinations I needed to find - I could find on the internet. That’s because I knew what I was looking for – the name of the window/control/functionality to open. I didn’t find the name of that component, although there are no tooltips on the dropdowns.  So I thought – let’s look around the keyboard and keyboard shortcuts options in Visual studio -  I should be able to find it there. And then I found that:

shortcuts-menu

So much for the user-friendliness.

Anyway after a couple of minutes of googgling I found the name of the dropdown with the class names and names of methods – it’s called a Navigation Bar. Naturally.

The thing that made me sad about it was that the shortcut for it is Ctrl+F2 and shortcut goes to the classes dropdown, so if I want to go to the methods dropdown I need to click also TAB. So the whole combination that I need is Ctrl+F2(which I find a little hard to reach) plus TAB. And clicking the combination resets the ‘methods and properties’ dropdown so it goes to the first element and changes the place of my cursor on the page. It’s not a great experience and not a friendly one at all.

I did this in Visual Studio 2010 some days ago and the day before yesterday I saw Visual studio 2012 with all the shiny new things. Now don’t get me wrong I really like Visual studio – 2010 and even more 2012. I really think that the teams that made them are one of the best developers in the world and I believe Visual studio is the best development environment in the world at the moment. But I was a little disappointed that the shortcuts and the options window for keyboard shortcuts are the same between Visual Studio 2010 and Visual Studio 2012.  I really think that that part of Visual Studio could be made batter.

So to be constructive I’m giving several propositions regarding keyboard shortcuts in Visual Studio:

  1. Create more user-friendly options menu for Keyboard shortcuts. Have links or pictures or at least descriptions with a nice search for each shortcut. I think that it’s going to make more users want to use shortcuts. Which will make users more happy and more productive.
  2. Make the navigation bar’s “methods and properties” dropdown a ‘first class citizen’ of Visual Studio with an own shortcut. As of now - I cannot target this dropdown directly so I should use Ctrl+F2 plus TAB to get to it.
  3. The more annoying problem -  do not reset the dropdown to the first element when I ‘TAB’ to it. The dropdown should be able to figure out in which method in the page I’m in and not reset my cursor but navigate the dropdown to the method that I’m in.

If I think of something else I’ll update the list.

I don’t think the ideas I’m proposing here are a major change. I hope the guys behind usability in the Visual Studio team would read this post and would love to think and improve on the things I’m proposing.

Or at least that’s what I would expect from a team that’s created such a great product as Visual Studio 2012.

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