Saturday, October 1, 2016

Cool Visual Studio Immediate Window trick

By Steve Endow

I'm a big fan of the Immediate Window in Visual Studio.  When you are debugging code and trying to figure out a problem, the immediate window is a simple and quick way to check variable values, test operations at a breakpoint, and take a look at what is going on.

But there is one small issue.  If you are outputting lots of text, such as an eConnect XML document or eConnect exception message, the Immediate Window will output the entire XML document as a single line of text.  A really, really long line.  Worse, newlines will be displayed in the text as \n\r.  

This makes outputting XML to the Immediate Window a bit of a hassle--I have been copying the text, pasting it into UltraEdit, replacing the newline characters with actual CRLF line breaks, and then formatting the XML.  It's a hassle.

So, once again, my laziness to repeat that process finally overcame my laziness to actually do some research and see if there was a better solution.  Of course, there is a better way.  I just didn't know it for the last TEN YEARS.  I'm apparently a slow learner.

Big surprise, the answer was on Stack Overflow.

The trick is to type ",nq" after your Immediate Window command to request "no quotes".  Apparently this is a "format specifier".

Holy cow, what a huge improvement.  It might seem trivial, but it makes a huge difference.  Here's an example of before and after.

Notice the standard "? response" command outputs that variable text (an eConnect exception) as a single line that's a pain to read.  Once I typed "? response,nq", like magic, it output the text in a very nicely formatted manner.  Brilliant.  Soooo much more readable and it saves me a half dozen useless steps in a text editor.

There are at least 1 billion shortcuts and hidden gems in Visual Studio that I still don't know, but I'm finding them one at a time...  Pacing myself.

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