Visual Studio 2013 New Editor Features

Visual Studio 2013 New Editor Features

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[10/31/2013 : Updates to these features can be found in the latest post on Updates to Visual Studio 2013 Editor Enhancements]

In Visual Studio 2013, we have introduced new features that boost productivity and save time when working inside the Editor. Some of these are new features and some are the most popular extensions from Productivity Power Tools. These features are a result of the feedback you gave us through User Voice requests, forum posts and Connect bugs. The MVP community also helped us pick some of these experiences.

Our primary focus for the Editor in this version is to keep the developer in context as much as possible. This blog post describes capabilities that bring information to your fingertips and allow you to do as much as possible without leaving your place in code.

Peek Definition (Alt + F12)

We know developers move around code a lot when browsing definitions. While designing Visual Studio 2013 features, we looked at the elements and gestures that will help developers stay in context of their code while browsing through definitions. Peek Definition is one such feature that allows you to view definitions inline in the Editor without having to open a new document tab. To see it in action, right click on a symbol and click on the “Peek Definition” command in the context menu or invoke the keyboard shortcut Alt + F12.

Peek Definition

Using Peek Definition saves you time when understanding a code base because it allows you to view definitions without losing sight of the code that you are already in. You can even browse through a series of definitions without leaving the original file. When you invoke the Peek Definition command inside an existing Peek view, we navigate you to the definition inside the Peek view and add a breadcrumb for the previous Peek view. These breadcrumbs help you visualize the path you take to reach any given definition.

When designing this feature, we chose to build on top of the “Preview Tab” concept that we introduced in VS 2012, because the Peek view is temporary and saves you from opening more documents. The breadcrumb style navigation is another piece we added to help visualize the navigation stack without losing context of your current code. In fact, if you hover over the breadcrumbs, we’ll show a tooltip with a short snippet of code so you can quickly see where you’re going.

In Visual Studio 2013 Preview, the Peek view is read only. In our testing with internal users, we heard a clear desire to be able to edit in the peek view, and we’ve already been working on that. You’ll be able to see how that works for you soon!

Enhanced Scrollbar

The Enhanced Scrollbar has been one of the most popular Productivity Power Tools extensions and is now part of the Visual Studio 2013 product! The Enhanced Scrollbar provides you visual cues about your file on the vertical scrollbar. Markers on the scrollbar allow you to quickly view the location of errors, warnings, breakpoints, bookmarks, find results and other useful information in your file. Here, too, we focus on bringing information to your fingertips – you don’t have to scroll away from your current position to get information about other parts of your file.

Enhanced Scrollbar

Map Mode

We have added a “Map mode” to the scrollbar which gives you some cool features, each of which you can customize:

  1. 10,000 feet view of the code – a high level view of the code is overlaid on the scrollbar helping you understand the structure of the code in a glance.
  2. Single click to scroll – clicking on any region of the scrollbar immediately takes you to that location in the file – this is a quick way to get to any location in your file.
  3. Preview of a section of your file – hovering on any section of the scrollbar show a live preview of that part of the file inside a tooltip. This is handy when examining interesting parts of your file.

Map Mode

Navigate To (Ctrl+,)

Part of our quest for more productive development is moving away from separate tool windows and modal dialogs towards fluid, inline experiences that keep you focused on coding rather than managing Visual Studio. We analyzed usage data and decided to update Navigate To, a widely-used feature that until now, resided in a modal dialog.

Navigate To

Using the new Navigate To, you type in any part of a symbol and can find its definition, using smart semantic search. You can also type in part of a file name in your solution and quickly switch to it, regardless of whether or not it was previously open.

Navigate To in Visual Studio 2013 supports all previous capabilities in a fluid, non-modal and space efficient way. We positioned the new search window around the same upper-right area as the in-editor Find. This positioning allows us to display both the preview tab and maximize the number of Navigate To results we can display on screen without blocking your view of the preview code.

Selecting a result automatically displays it in a preview tab. This helps ensure the selected result is what you're searching for, so you can make a better decision before committing to the new view. To make sure context is easily preserved, pressing Escape takes you back to your initial location if the result wasn't what you were looking for.

When designing features, we intend to not only improve raw runtime performance, but also improve the workflow. The new Navigate To is optimized for search based keyboard driven usage, compared to Solution Explorer’s browsing focus. Along the development of the feature, we instrumented it and analyzed the telemetry from our internal users to measure the efficiency of the feature. Here are a couple of examples that guided our design.

We measured the number of times users press the keyboard down arrow key on the listed results as a metric for the accuracy of the result list:

Number of down-arrow key presses on results list

The data showed that in most cases, users just press enter, which meant the search query placed the right result first. The group of users browsing results is identifiable through the 15+ entry, where users are going through a larger number of results.

To decide whether to keep Navigate To open when the user clicks outside the results list, we measured the time users kept it open. We found that the median usage time from the moment the dialog is opened until it’s closed, is roughly 6 seconds:

Navigate To dialog median usage time

This reflects both cases where users navigate away to a new destination or cancel the operation. This supported our decision to close Navigate To when users click out. We will continue to monitor usage data to ensure this is best.

Auto Brace Complete

The Auto brace complete feature automatically adds closing parenthesis, quotes, braces and brackets for you as you type code in the Editor. This was one of the popular Productivity Power Tools Features that we decided to include in the Visual Studio 2013.

Auto Brace Complete


We have added specialized completions for different languages. For example in C++ we automatically complete C++11 raw string literals and closing comments token “*/” for C-style comments, and insert semicolons for class types.

Move Line Up/ Down (Alt Arrow-Up/ Arrow-Down)

Move Line Up/ Down feature allows you to quickly move single or multiple lines up and down using the keyboard shortcut Alt + Up Arrow and Alt + Down Arrow. This was another popular extension from Productivity Power Tools that we decided to bring forward for this release.

 Move Line Up/Down


New IDE Features for Visual C++

We have also added many new features specific to Visual C++. You can find more detailed posts on the Visual C++ team blog in the next few weeks, however one significant new feature we wanted to highlight is C++ code formatting.

The C++ editor now automatically formats your code as you type, and on pasting code into a C++ file. We realize that for C++ there isn't a single widely accepted coding style, so we’ve added considerable flexibility into the settings to allow you to customize the environment to match your preferred style. We would love to get your feedback on the settings we have provided so we can make adjustments.

New IDE Features for JavaScript

In JavaScript, we added identifier highlighting - now when you select an identifier, such as a variable name or function call, references to it are highlighted in the current source file. We also added a new navigation bar that appears at the top of the editor window so you can more easily move through the primary functions and objects in your JavaScript source.

New IDE Features for JavaScript

There is more!

In this post, we have covered just a small subset of all the new features we are shipping in Visual Studio 2013. You can find a complete list of new features on the MSDN page What’s New in Visual Studio 2013 Preview.

We want to hear from you! Please send us your feedback through replies to this post, Connect bugs, User Voice requests or the new Send A Smile button in the Menu bar inside Visual Studio.


Authors (In Alphabetical order):

image Ala Shiban (@AlaShiban)– Program Manager

Ala Shiban is passionate about people and technology that empowers us. He's been on a PC since the Commodore64 days, and throughout the years he's developed systems revolving around image processing, machine learning, cancer detection, robotics, web apps and data analytics. Having worked with C, C++, VB, C#, Java, JavaScript and MATLAB, he combines his cross-language and platform insights to continue improving the developer experience on Visual Studio.

image Jennifer Leaf- Senior Program Manager, Visual C++ 

Jennifer is a Senior Program Manager with the Visual C++ team. Prior to joining Microsoft in 2010, she spent the previous 9 years leading teams that developed C++ and C#-based tools for simulation and network data instrumentation and analysis.



image Jordan Matthiesen (@JMatthiesen) - Program Manager, Visual Studio JavaScript tools team

Jordan is a veteran web developer of 14 years, now working on the Visual Studio JavaScript Tools team as a Program Manager to provide great tooling experiences to JavaScript developers.


image Murali Krishna Hosabettu Kamalesha (@MuraliKamalesha) – Program Manager

Murali Krishna is a Program Manager with Microsoft and works on the Visual Studio Editor. Living in Redmond, WA, he loves designing and developing software. He has been with Microsoft for over 5 years and has worked on a variety of products built on server-side and client-side technologies. Currently he is building futuristic editing experiences for the best IDE on the planet, Visual Studio
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  • This is very nice

  • Great to see more features from the Power Tools mvoed to VS. One productivity feature that I've come to rely on so much that I start to shake and get disoriented when I'm sitting at another computer and it's not there, is the references-highlight in the enhanced scollbar. You know, just like highlight find-results, but it shows the locations where the particular identifier your mousecurser sits on, is located. While true, once all my code is refactored to always fit on a single screen page, I'll won't need this feature any more, but since those days are still a couple of lifetimes away. So, please please pelase, port this feature, too, for VS2013.

    Beest regards, Michael

  • I am glad that you are continuing with the improvements. I am also glad, that you started to embrace more open standards. My biggest problem right now with Visual Studio 2012 is the lack of support of JSDoc. You know how important is the documentation and how important is that documentation to be easy understandable by everyone. Please add full support of JSDoc and JavaScript intellisense in Visual Studio .

  • Nice One

  • I also don't understand why so many people like the brace completion. For me it's much simpler to just type the brace or quote than to move the cursor. My hands are on the keyboard at a place where those are near my fingers. Arrow keys aren't there. But since it's possible to disable it, I don't mind. But I was surprised when it was on by default.

    Also I hope it works better than the one in Xcode. It's super buggy. But then again, it's Xcode and this is Visual Studio. They're worlds apart.

    Nothing of use or me at a glance, really, but I think the peek feature might be nice after I try it out a bit.

  • So we don't need Resharper anymore :)

  • Attempting to dethrone ReSharper? ;)

  • Will you intend to bring the macros back on Visual Studio? I miss it!


  • Pl bring back VB6 IDE "procedure view" feature where developer can concentrate on one procedure instead of showing entire file code.

  • Nice work! i love the "Peek Definition (Alt + F12)" features in IDE.

  • may be you guys could finally add 'rename/refactor variable name' for C/C++ code? so I don' t need to pay a few hundreds dollars for a plugin? Every other major IDE has it 10 years ago except Visual Studio. How do you guy rename variable then? Just curious.

  • Wow, this is pretty depressing. Not a single feature worth being excited about. Seriously, instead of trying to copy tiny bits of ReSharper, try doing something new and original instead!

  • It's good to see more of the productivity tools being rolled into the core product - even with R# I still install and use most of the ones detailed here.

    My only gripe is around the whole "Navigate to/Peek Definition" area - this is fine for projects that have lots of hard dependencies on classes, but because I rely on DI so much I tend to reference interfaces. This means that when I navigate to definition I only ever end up a the interface method definition, not the implementation of it. This is actually one of the key things I rely on R# for.

    Please let me know if I'm missing something obvious in VS2012/13 - I'd really love to be able to Ctrl-F12 and "Goto implementation" out of the box!

  • Mike G speaks sage words of wisdom. For well written OO code navigating to implementations rather than definitions is key!

  • @yiyiyaya C++ refactoring is not in Visual Studio 2013.  The Visual C++ team is aware of this feature request, but I don't have anything to share about whether it will be included in future Visual Studio releases at this time.

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