Making Visual Studio less annoying #1

Wednesday 3 March 2004This is more than 19 years old. Be careful.

If you are like me, you use Microsoft Visual Studio 2003, and there are things about it that are just plain annoying. I’ve discovered a few tips to ease the irritation. The first is how to get the solution explorer to stop flipping and flapping.

You know the solution explorer, the list of projects and their files? It’s constantly opening itself to show you the current file, even when you just switch from one file to another in the editor. This is annoying for a number of reasons:

  • The movement as the thing opens up is distracting visually.
  • It’s supposed to be a navigation element, so it should stay where I want it to stay.
  • When I do want to use it to find something, it’s useless, because it’s completely expanded, making it hard for me to find what I want.
  • When opening a solution, it opens all the previously open files, and each of them changes the solution explorer, and the tree control does its fancy smooth opening thing, and I swear it slows down the launch time.

After upgrading to VS 2003, I thought maybe they had provided a toolbar command to entirely collapse the solution explorer. There are macros to do this, and they seem to work, but I wanted there to be a built-in operation. I selected Tools - Customize, clicked the Keyboard button, then typed “Solution” into the Show Commands Containing field. They didn’t have what I wanted, but had something even better: View.TrackActivityInSolutionExplorer. It disables the tracking of the current file in the solution explorer altogether.

You can add this command to your View menu (or wherever): select Tools - Customize, then the Commands tab, choose the View category, then almost all the way at the bottom of the Commands list is Track Activity in Solution Explorer. Drag this thing onto the View menu (or wherever), and you’re good to go! Now you can turn off the whole flipping and flapping thing completely, and if you ever do want to find the current file in the solution explorer, click the thing on again, and you’re there. Woohoo!


I don't know if you're aware of this, but there is an option to do this in the visual studio configuration. Open the "Options" dialog from the Tools menu, and navigate the tree on the left to "Environment / Projects and Solutions". A checkbox on that page with the label "Track Active Item in Solution Explorer" does this same thing.
I just read about this on a blog of a VS.NET employee. There are some othere VS.NET tips there as well. Cheers.
I have recently started using VS2003 and was having exactly the same issues, you have saved me a lot of digging trying to find the settings... thanks :o)
D'oh! I wish I had seen that checkbox ages ago!

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