In the past, finding things deep in the IDE has been a challenge. Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview introduces search abilities at almost every level of the product. Perhaps the biggest change is the introduction of Quick Launch which specifically addresses how to dig inside Visual Studio to find features you need. Let’s take a look.

Shortcut: CTRL + ` [back quote]

Versions: Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview

Quick Launch: Basic Use

You can find Quick Launch in the upper right corner of the IDE:

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The most basic scenario for using Quick Launch is finding an item that you have forgotten (or don’t know) the location of. Let’s say you are interested in something deep in the menu system like viewing your white space. You know what it’s called but can’t remember where it is at. Just press CTRL + ` [back quote] and enter the word white:

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All searches are contains operations so the results will show anything that has the word white anywhere in it. The results are grouped into categories and you simply either select the item from the list using your keyboard, mouse or, if there is a keyboard shortcut listed, take advantage of the shortcut. In this case, you could press CTRL+R, CTRL+W to show the white space and then go on with your work.

Categories

There are four categories that your results will fall into when using Quick Launch. Let’s take a look at each of these categories.

Most Recently Used

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Pretty self-explanatory; this category is at the top of the dialog and will show up to the last 5 most recent items that match the current search criteria. Pay attention to the last part of that sentence. Only if it (a) was used by you before from this dialog and (b) matches the current search criteria will an item show up in the MRU list.

You can search just your Most Recently Used items by preceding any search with @MRU (case doesn’t matter):

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Commands

The commands area is a little misleading. It doesn’t actually refer to commands that you might, say, type in the Commands window but instead refers to menu items. So if I type in build for a search the commands that are shown are menu paths:

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You can filter results to show only commands by preceding any search with @CMD (case doesn’t matter):

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Options

The Options category does what you might expect--it shows items that can be found by going to Tools | Options on the Menu Bar:

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As with the other categories, you can filter your search to just options by preceding any search with @OPT:

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The only real limitation to keep in mind is this type of search doesn’t go beyond two levels deep and the description. For example, if I type the word document here is the result in the options category:

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Which corresponds to Tools | Options | Environment | Documents:

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Notice the search went two levels deep (Environment | Documents) but didn’t list out the items to the right that contain our search term in it.

Open Documents

This category is somewhat interesting. It searches file names and paths of open documents for the search criteria but not the text inside the files themselves. There are plenty of tools that can be used to search inside files and the context for Quick Launch is at a higher level. This feature is useful for finding a file when you have several files open:

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As with the other categories it, too, can be filtered to search just show open files by putting @DOC at the front of your search:

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Turning Categories Off

You can selectively turn off categories you don’t want to see by going to Quick Launch in Options:

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Note: For the old school folks this can be found at Tools | Options | Environment | Quick Launch

Then deselect the special search providers you don’t want:

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The next time you run a search it will not show the categories you have turned off in your result set.

 

Large Result Sets

As you may have noticed when playing with this feature it doesn’t show all the items in the initial results but does have a number indicating how many items it found:

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Clearly not all 126 items in the Options are being shown but notice the message at the bottom of the list. If the results are too large to show we can just press CTRL+` [back quote] to show them all. Additionally, if you continue to press CTRL + ` [back quote] it will cycle through showing all items in all categories and filtering by each category:

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Search Results from Previous Search

By default the search term you use is not persisted between search sessions. So if you search on something:

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Then place move the cursor outside the Quick Launch area and go back the search term has been cleared from the area:

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Personally, this is annoying to me and thankfully the VS team has a fix. Just go to the Quick Launch in the options area:

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Then select Show Search Results From Previous Search When Quick Launch Is Activated option:

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The next time you run a search, leave the Quick Launch area, and come back it will retain the search term last used and show you the search results as well.


Turning It Off

If for some reason you don’t like the Quick Launch feature, you can always turn it off by going to Quick Launch in the options:

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Then unselect the Enable Quick Launch option:

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This will remove the Quick Launch area from the IDE. To bring it back just go to Tools | Options | Environment | Quick Launch and select Enable Quick Launch.


Finally

I absolutely love this feature! My passion is around helping people be more productive in the IDE and I think Quick Launch is probably one of the biggest steps forward for discovery of VS features that I have ever seen. I’ve been using it for several weeks and am at the point now where I can’t imagine not having it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Thanks,
Zain Naboulsi
Senior Developer Evangelist (Blog)