ailon's DevBlog: Development related stuff in my life

VisualStudio.NET vNext Feature Request: Multi-target IntelliSense

4/8/2010 6:44:04 PM

Visual Studio is great. IntelliSense is great. But here’s one thing that has been slowing me down ever since I started developing for several .NET based platforms.

The Problem

WPF, Silverlight and now Silverlight for Windows Phone 7 are very similar frameworks, but they are far from being identical. Lots of code written for one can be re-used in another, but quite often it requires small modifications and it’s frustrating. It’s especially frustrating when you realize that those modifications wouldn’t be necessary if you’ve used another overload of some method or used another method altogether in the first place.

Take a look at screenshots of the IntelliSense dropdown for the same class in different environments:

Here’s one for WPF 3.5:

wpf_dropdown

And this is on for Silverlight 3:

silverlight_dropdown

Notice that there are lots of methods, properties and events that are not in Silverlight and I guess you can find some that are not in WPF (but that is not the point here). Sometimes you want to use WPF-only stuff for better performance or other very valid reasons but quite often you just use it unconsciously because finding out if something is supported in Silverlight or vice versa takes too much time and effort.

Now I wanted to add a LineSegment to the PathFigure and it has 3 constructor overloads in WPF

wpf_overloads

but only only the default constructor in Silverlight

silverlight_overloads

If I haven’t checked for the difference manually (or knew it by heart) I would end up rewriting this code once I’ve switched to a Silverlight project. So, you get the picture. The fact that I constantly have to recompile for all the platforms and/or manually check for differences takes a significant amount of my development time. I would like this to be addressed somehow and if some third party tool does something good in this area, please, let me know in the comments, but for now I have this idea/feature request for future version of Visual Studio .NET

Multi-target IntelliSense

There are numerous ways how this could be implemented and I’m not the best expert in things like this, but I’ll try to explain my vision of this anyway.

I think a project could have a set of secondary Target Framework settings. When these are set, IntelliSense would somehow highlight members or overloads that are in main target framework but not in the secondary. For example WPF methods that aren’t in Silverlight could be grayed out in the dropdown above. Same goes for method overloads. Plus some text explanation in the tooltip wouldn’t hurt too.

Something like this would be a huge time saver for me and I guess for other developers too. Especially with all the extra framework partitioning related to release of Silverlight for Windows Phone 7 which will be another very close yet not completely identical addition to the current mix of WPF & Silverlight.

I’ve ran this idea by Jesse Liberty at MIX10 and he thought it wasn’t a bad idea at all, so I decided I need to submit it to Microsoft via MS Connect. So if you like this and would like something along these lines implemented in the future version of Visual Studio, please, go there and vote it up.

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