Visual Studio.NET 200x Debugger Feature

Last week I've presented "What's new in Visual Studio 2005 Debugger". One of the cool feature is that you can customize the instance value. For example, consider this simple class:

 public class Tubo
   private string Name;
   private string Surname;

In debugger you would see something like:

Variable | Value      | Type
tubo | namespace.Tubo | namespace.Tubo

One way of changing the Value display (the other way is applying DisplayValueAttribute either to class or assembly) is to override ToString() method:

public override string ToString()
   return Name + ", " + Surname;


This time you'll see something like this:

Variable | Value      | Type
tubo | "Tom, Arraya" | namespace.Tubo

This way the display is quite a bit more informative than before.

Interesting fact is, that Visual Studio.NET 2003 already has this feature. It wasn't as easy as overriding ToString() or applying an attribute though. So, how could one customize it in actual Visual Studio.NET?

There are three files located in C:\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003\Common7\Packages\Debugger folder:

  • mcee_cs.dat
  • mcee_mc.dat
  • vjsee.dat

I am not sure why they are three similar files. Perhaps each of them is linked to certain language (C#, MC++, J#). Anyway, I experimented with mcee_cs.dat since I mainly program with C#. If we go back to Tubo example, I would add this line to mcee_cs.dat file:


and Visual Studio.NET 2003 will display the same value as in our 2005 beta 2 example. I guess the example is simple enough to understand the above line structure. Its get even better. There is a VSTweak PowerToy project going on at GotDotNet web site. I've donated an editor for mcee_cs.dat file to the project. It features Intellisense like technology and few automation tricks that helps you create all those nice lines that will help you out inspecting variables.

So, if you want to enhance Visual Studio.NET 2002/2003 debugger display don't hesitate. The feature is there.

CodeSmith 3.0 is released

Eric did it again. New CodeSmith version is out. I have to say that this tool is one of the programmer's best friends. In other words, it is a must have for a serious programmer.
Excerpt from CodeSmith home page:

CodeSmith 3.0 enables software developers to efficiently:

  • Reduce repetitive coding
  • Generate your code in less time with fewer bugs
  • Produce consistent code that adheres to your standards
  • Create your own custom templates for any language

Go check it out.

Where is Object Test Bench in Visual Studio.NET 2005 Beta x?

Object Test Bench is a feature of Visual Studio.NET 2005 Beta X which allows you to test your code at design time. One can create classes, invoke their methods and stuff like that. Seems very useful for testing code without running entire application. You find Object Test Bench menu item in View/Other Windows menu. Ok, that is a short description of Object Test Bench.

So, where is the problem? The problem is, that the feature wasn't available (no menu entry or any sign of it) on my copy of VS.NET 2005 Beta 2. I have never tried the feature before so I wasn't sure if this was a version problem or something else. So, I tried to check out older CTP versions (in the following order):

  • March CTP (it is Enterprise Architect version so I assumed Object Test Bench was there): VS.NET installed but wouldn't run: beta period expired. Argh.
  • Feb CTP: I had an older install: no sign of Object Test Bench whatsoever. ??
  • Beta 1 (I knew that Object Test Bench was should have been there for sure): no sign of Object Test Bench whatsoever. ?????

This was weird. The feature was in documentation but not in my IDE. So, after spending many many valuable hours installing and reinstalling I took a look at Product Feedback Center for Visual Studio.NET 2005. Pretty soon I found this entry:

Object Test Bench Not available

Even better, the workaround is included. Install everything. Aaargh. I've installed everything. Ok, everything minus J#. I can't believe this was the problem which took half of my Sunday.

Ah, the joys of beta versions.