Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Installing a new version of Visual Studio

Over the years Visual Studio has shipped with better defaults. By better I mean defaults that are less onerous; less in need of correction the minute after you install it. Still there are a few quick changes I make as soon as I'm done installing a new version.

  1. Point every directory that defaults to "my documents\Visual Studio..." to c:\src\Visual Studio.... The main ones to hit are the projects, project templates and item templates (Tools -> Options -> Projects and Solutions -> General). As of 2003 it also includes "Save my settings" directory (Tools -> Options -> Environment -> Import and Export Settings).
  2. Turn off partial matching and topic abstracts for help (Tools -> Options -> Help -> General).
  3. Up the help search results per page to 100 (same location as previous).
  4. Turn off online help ("try local only, not online) (Tools -> Options -> Help -> Online). At least in my experience it dramatically slows down searches. Besides, I use a web browser to find help online.
  5. Change the startup page to "Empty Environment". The default start page tries to load content from the web which slows startup. I wish they'd bring back the "Open Project" page, instead of the Open Project dialog box because sometimes I want to create a new project and don't want to have to dismiss the open dialog.
  6. Setup the symbol path to use the microsoft public symbol server. This helps a ton when debugging crash dumps; without it, it's nearly impossible to get an accurate stack. I have them downloaded to c:\windows\symbols then point all the various debugging programs (I include ProcessExplorer in this list) to use the local cache. BTW, the URL for the symbol server is And for goodness sake make sure that symbols are only loaded when loaded manually (it's a checkbox in Tools -> Options -> Debugging -> Symbols); otherwise it takes the debugger a much longer time to spin up as it repeatedly searches for symbols that are not stored at the microsoft public symbol server. E.g., the symbols for any third party shell extensions, shell hooks, etc.. that you might have installed.

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