My Favorite Visual Studio Shortcuts and Tips

Hey everyone – I’ve been maintaining a list of little shortcuts to save me time and ease my development efforts and figured they would be worth sharing here. If you have any you would like to share here, please email me and I’ll include them as well.

Visual Studio Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Ctrl+. opens up the ‘Smart Tag’. Use it when you see the red squiggle line to add a missing reference, or implement an interface.
  • Ctrl+K,C will comment either the current line, or any block of code you have highlighted.
  • Ctrl+K,U will uncomment either the current line, or any block of code you have highlighted.
  • Ctrl+, opens smart search to quickly find and jump to a class or method name.
  • Ctrl+I allows you to do an inline search (basically search quickly without dialog box)
  • Shift+Alt+Enter for enter and leave full screen mode.
  • Ctrl+- moves cursor to last known position (helpful to navigate back, Ctrl+Shift+- is forward)

Visual Studio Features

  • Snippets, like ‘prop‘ will inject a property into your code, or ‘foreach‘
  • Custom snippets, click here for a starter list and how-to.
  • Right-click file in Solution Explorer, select Source Control > Annotate. This shows all history of the file and who checked in what line of code.
  • Use ‘Package Manager Console’ to install Nuget packages (Alt+T,N,O). (ex: PM> Install-Package Newtonsoft.Json)
  • Tell debugger to ‘break’ when an exception is thrown even if no breakpoint exists (Ctrl+Alt+E, then check Thrown on CLR).
  • From Visual Studio Command prompt, use this command to get a list of all checked out files (and to who): tf status /collection:http://my-tfs-server:8080/tfs/MyCollection $/pathto/mytfsproject /user:* /recursive
 

Product Review: Spotify

If you haven’t already heard by now, you will likely hear about this product in the near future. Similar to how Netflix has become a household name, so to do I believe that Spotify will reach this level.

Spotify is a streaming music service that uses a subscription model. Similar companies have tried this in the past (Rhapsody, Napster, MOG, Rdio, Zune Music Pass), but none of them have executed as well as Spotify. The service uses a desktop interface and is nearly identical to iTunes in that you can create playlists, search, and view album art. I typically describe the service as iTunes but instead of clicking a “buy now” button, you just press play.

Fees for the service run from ad-supported free for 6 months (and 10 hrs./mo capped after that), unlimited for desktop only at $5/mo, and high quality streaming/mobile access/offline access for $10/mo.

Time is a limited resource for all of us, especially fathers. My general thought on Spotify is that it will be successful and that it is well worth the money if only for the reason I don’t spent time managing music, downloading from different locations, and trying to keep everything organized. I use the $5/mo. plan and it is a no-brainer since I had been spending more on music than that per month.   I listen all day at work and at home, so having ease of access to any piece of music I wish to listen to is well worth the cost for me.

If I had to highlight a negative, it would be that there are a select few albums and artists (Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Beatles) that you won’t find here, but the lion’s share of the music content is readily available.

Added features that make Spotify enjoyable are Facebook integration (I can share and view playlists my friend’s have made public), use sites like sharemyplaylists.com which feature playlists shared by other users and artists,  and a nice ‘Radio’ feature where I can select the music types I like (alternative, electronic) and it will play random selections from those lists similar to Pandora.

Spotify is also making their way into the living room with integrations with Boxee and WD Live that make the interface seemless on your living room television.   For any home that leverages music to keep the atmosphere enjoyable on a weekend, this is a big plus.   You’ll find you will need the full premium $10/mo service to enjoy Spotify on these devices though.

You can try the service for free to see if you like it yourself, so you really don’t have anything to lose. I’m not a spokesperson for this product any more than another person who simply enjoys sharing details about their favorite products.

 

Mind Blowing Facebook Fact

Every business day Facebook’s Pineville, Oregon data center receives 4 truck shipments, with 13 racks of new servers each truck. Each single rack holds 90 servers. Each server has 72GB of RAM and/or a dual 6-core processor. This happens all year to keep up with demand. (source: Maximum PC, Nov. 2011).

That’s 4,680 servers installed every business day.  Wow.

 

Using Modern Technology to Manage Family Finances

There are a lot of great tools out there online, all of which carry the magic price of free, to help you properly manage your family finances. I haven’t always been the best at managing my personal finances growing up, but with the wealth of information and tools available in today’s age, it makes this task much less daunting. There really is no better time to get a handle on your finances, which is especially useful given our current economic climate.

These tools should go a long way to help you feel like you are in control.

Mint.com
The starting point for anyone looking to organize their finances. Mint offers a safe/secure way to pull all your bank accounts, investments, etc. together and track them as well as set retirement goals. Mint will also send you reminders if it believes you can refinance, lower your interest payments on your credit cards, etc. As an added bonus, there is also an Android and iPhone app for Mint.

 

CNN Money Retirement Calculator

Know how much you need to retire?  Most people have no idea.    I won’t waste words describing the importance of a retirement calculator, but this is good recommendation as a starting point if you would like to use one.

 

Lifehappens.org

Beyond your retirement calculator, it’s also important to know how much life insurance, disability insurance, or otherwise you will need to keep your family safe and comfortable should something happen to you.    This site is very well done, easily understood, and is organized/managed by a non-profit organization.

 

Khan Academy Finance

If you haven’t heard about Khan Academy yet, you are missing out on an amazing resource. You can see this TED video here, or any number of web articles would do a great job to show you how it is revolutionizing education. Sal (Khan) does a great job at showing you how IRAs, tax deductions, bonds vs. stock, and a load of other information all via video format targeting to someone who has no starting knowledge of those topics.

 

Smarty Pig

This is a product I can not personally vouch for, but am highlighting it here should someone else be interested in the concept. Smarty Pig allows you to create as many virtual savings accounts as you you would like, at no cost to you. Money can be moved to and from your checking account to help you save for various targets like vacation, gadgets, etc.

 

Lending Club

One final product I also cannot personally vouch for, but plan to use in the future, is Lending Club. Lending Club works for both lenders and borrowers. If you wish to lend your money out (similar to how a bank would) you can do so and obtain interest in the process. If you are a lender, you could get money loaned to you for a car, home, or other project. This appears to be a great way to make money and make a decent return on that money as well.

 

Great Sites To Help You Save Money While Shopping Online

Nobody likes dealing with crowds at Christmas, wondering if they paid too much, or standing behind that lady with the lone $2.00 item arguing with the manager about her expired coupon that isn’t even for the right store.  We’ve all been there.

Here are a handful of sites my wife and I use when we shop online.

Amazon Mom

If you are a parent (or caretaker), you can sign up for Amazon mom and receive free 2-day shipping for 3 months.  Just enter the information about your son (or daughter).   Nothing personal, just name and birth date and what products you are interested in.   Beyond the 3 free months of free 2-day shipping, you’ll receive 1 additional month for every $25 you spend in the baby store.   Makes it easy if you “subscribe & save” for diapers, wipes, etc.

Slickdeals.net

SlickDeals is a great community site whose participants actively post deals from around the web. If a certain retailer is looking to closeout inventory, or there is just a deeply discounted product, you are likely to find it here. You can sign-up for email alerts, subscribe to an RSS feed, or just search for a particular deal.

YipIt

It seems like every day there is another GroupOn clone that tries to make it on the web. With all the daily deal sites, it can be hard to keep track of all the offerings. YipIt presents a consolidated, filter-able view of all the deal sites on the web. Just being able to check 1 site instead of 20 will save you time and still allow you to not feel ripped off every time you pay full price at a restaurant.

Plastic Jungle

Got that $100 gift card to Radio Shack (who shops there?) or that restaurant you never liked? Plastic Jungle will buy your old gift card and give give you cash in return. They make their money by re-selling your card to someone who wanted it and taking a small margin between their purchase and sale. It’s also a great way to buy a gift card if you want one. Never pay full price for a gift card to Target, Home Depot, or any other number of common stores.

Retail Me Not

When you’re shopping online, and you see that “Promotion code” box during the checkout, do you ever feel confident you are getting the lowest price when you leave it blank? 7 or 8 times out of 10, I’ll open a new tab and go searching for a code for the site. RetailMeNot.com offers a consolidated approach to online coupons. This is the first place I check now.

 

Synchronize Your Chrome Browser Settings To Any Location

If you’re like me, your computer usage (work, personal, other) spans several locations.   It could easily cover locations such as: a home desktop, a work desktop, a laptop, and so on.   Often times, I find a neat plug-in or bookmark and I save it to that particular machine.    It would be really nice if I was able to have a ‘universal’ browser that acted, looked, and was maintained the same way no matter where I was at and kept itself updated without any intervention from me.

Enter Google Sync.   This feature is available on the latest Chrome version and will allow you to synchronize all your personalizations that you have made to your browser.

Step #1)  Select the ‘wrench’ icon in the top right corner of your Chrome browser, and select “Options”.

Step #2)  Once on options, select “Personal Stuff” in the left hand menu.   You will see the Sync options at the top.   Follow the directions here to select which features you would like to synchronize.

Step #3)  Repeat steps #1 and #2 on any other location that you wish to have synchronized.   You may need to close and re-open your browser at the second location to see your changes reflected.

This feature will allow you to maintain a constant profile across each of your computers for the features that are most important to you without having to constantly try to keep all your machines updated and configured manually the way you feel most comfortable.

 

Have two or more Google/Gmail accounts? Switch between them easily.

Do you have multiple people in your household who each have their own Google account?   If you share the same computer and/or laptop, it can be frustrating to have to keep switching between the two accounts.  Also, you may find this trick useful if you manage an account for personal use and another for business use.

Google offers a feature called “Multiple sign-on”.   If you direct your browser to http://www.google.com/accounts and select the “Multiple Sign-on” feature you will be presented with a screen like this:

After enabling your account(s) to use multiple sign-on, you’ll notice that when you select your user information on the black “google bar” that appears on most Google sites, you’ll be presented with the option to switch you accounts.

Once your account has been switched, your email and other Google services will be based on whatever account you have active at that time.

 

Busy? Dislike reading on an LCD screen? Send web articles to your Kindle with Instapaper

As of this article, the cost of a Kindle has reached $114.   Not bad for a device that changed the concept of reading.   One way to take full advantage of your new reading device, is to use it to read not just books, but also articles you may find on the web.   If you have an Instapaper account, you can do just that.

Instapaper is a service that lets you save articles you find on the web for later reading.   It works great, and comes with a handy “Read Later” browser bookmark that you can click whenever you are on a page that you want to read at a later time.   The service will remove the advertisements and other non-essential website elements for each of the articles you save, so you get just the meat of what you were looking for.

The service also permits you to use a @free.kindle.com (only on the Kindle 3) or @kindle.com email address to send your saved articles to your device.   Here are the steps you’ll need to set yours up.

Step 1.   Locate the email address for your Kindle device.   You can find this by going to the ‘Manage my Kindle‘ page, and then clicking on ‘Manage your devices’.   Once here, you will see each of your Kindle devices, and a corresponding email address.

Step 2.  Equipped with the value in the “Kindle E-mail Address” field, you’ll want to enter your Kindle email address into the Instapaper Kindle Management page.   Set whatever settings work best for you, and be sure to use the @free.kindle.com email address if you have a Kindle 3, as the earlier versions do not support this, and require a nominal charge to use the @kindle.com email address.

Step 3.  Next, you will need to add the email address which appears in green letters below the Kindle setup to your ‘Manage my Kindle‘ page.   It should be something like kindle.wwkas@instapaper.com.  Once inside your Kindle management screen, click on ‘Personal Document Settings’.   Select the ‘add new approved email address’ option on this page, and enter the value from Instapaper.

You’re all set!   Based on the settings you selected, Instapaper will deliver you a nicely formatted, newspaper style document with it’s own table of contents from all the articles you saved.   This makes for easy, painless reading when you have time available.

There are many other ways to leverage Instapaper as well.   You can download iPhone/iPad apps, integrate into Google Reader, submit Instapaper articles from applications like Flipboard/Reeder, and more.

 

How to always know your password (to anything, from anywhere).

If you’re like me, you probably have accounts on hundreds of different websites.   Everything ranging from online banking, email, social networking, and even your wifi router has it’s own password.    You may use the same password for everything (which apparently 61% of people do), although this is far from secure.   If someone were to compromise just one of your accounts, well it wouldn’t be hard for them to find the others by first checking your email, then your social networking, and so on.   Alternatively, you can use a series of very simple passwords, like dictionary words, although this is not very secure either as this is the first set of attempts a hacker will make.

So, you ask, what do you propose as a solution?   Well, Microsoft has published a nice guide to what makes a secure password.   I have used this approach for a while, picking a sentence and then using the first letter of each word to form my password, sprinkling in some numbers as I replace “to” to “2” and “I” with 1.   It works pretty well, but even then, I still forget from time to time.

Enter, Dropbox and Keepass.   This solution works great, and will give you virtually universal access to any password, any time you need it.   Even things like pin numbers for your ATM, and door codes for your home garage door could be plugged in for those of us who are especially forgetful.

Dropbox is a cloud storage service.   When you install it, it will create a folder on your desktop called “My Dropbox”.  Then, as you add this software to other computers (with the same account), that folder will appear on those workstations as well.   Should you place a file (word document, mp3, etc) in your dropbox folder, this will automatically then be available on all your other dropbox-enabled computers as well.   Neat, huh?

Dropbox screenshot

Keepass is a password database application.   It has a great user interface, and is very simple to use.   Some of you may be hestitant at the thought of storing all your passwords in one location, but rest assured, using Keepass is likely much more secure than your current approach if you are not.   Keepass will auto-generate strong passwords for you to use (if you wish) and will keep these stored for you safely.    The encryption used by this application is the strongest available, and meets even the standards of the NSA.

Keepass screenshot

Once you have both Keepass and Dropbox setup, you can create a new database file in Keepass, and the trick is to save that Keepass database in your Dropbox account.   Then, any machine you install Keepass on, you’ll be able to access all your passwords and update your password list from any machine.   Awesome, right?   Just remember to pick a strong password for Keepass, as this is the only one you should need to remember.

Taking it a step further, you can also download KeepassDroid (Android) and MyKeePass (iPhone) to take your passwords on the go with you as well.   Just be sure to also download Dropbox for android or iPhone and point your mobile Keepass app to use the database in the dropbox folder on your phone.