In this episode of our Meet the Author podcast series, Mike Woodring talks to Kate Gregory about her course Introduction to Visual Studio 2012 – Part 1. In the interview Kate explains who her target viewer is and why Visual Studio 2012 with its massive set of features might seem a bit daunting for new developers. She then discusses how she decided which features to cover in Part 1 as well as giving a preview in what to expect in Part 2.
Listen to the Audio (MP3)
[Mike] Hello, this is Mike Woodring and I’m speaking with Kate Gregory about her course Introduction to Visual Studio 2012, Part 1. Microsoft C++ MVP and Microsoft Regional Director, Kate is the author of over a dozen books and regularly speaks at developer conferences around the world. Hello, Kate. It’s good to have you with us today.
[Kate] Hi. Good to be here.
[Mike] So tell us a little bit about who this course is intended for.
[Kate] The audience is really people who have not used Visual Studio much or at all. Some people have told me that even though they’ve been using it for a long time, they still have more to learn because it’s such a big and opaque product, and I think that even someone who thinks they know especially older versions of the Visual Studio could benefit from going through it. But the person I had in mind all the time while I was explaining it was someone who’s been, you know, maybe using Notepad or a completely different editor system and is staring at all the controls in Visual Studio going, “What do I do now?” That’s who I think of.
[Mike] So now, there is a tremendous amount of surface area to a product like Visual Studio. How did you decide what features to cover in the first installment of this course?
[Kate] It was a real challenge, especially trying to figure out where to start. It seemed like every place I considered for starting I thought, oh, but that’s not going to make any sense if you don’t know about this other thing. And I just decided I would pick a place and start there and say you’ll understand why this matters in a module or two. Bear with me. And I focused first on the things you can see right away when you open it up and you wonder what they are, and then slowly moved into, now you can’t see this but trust me it’s going to make your life better if you know about it. And that was the pattern I went along.
[Mike] So not surprisingly given the scope of the Visual Studio product, you devoted a significant amount of time in this course to topics related to what you call “finding your way around.” What sorts of topics do you explore in those three modules?
[Kate] One of them is just that, what am I looking at? What is Solution Explorer? How does it work? Does things happen if you click on parts of it? Why would I do that? That talking about menus. There are an enormous number of menus with like 20 and 30 items on them, and then if that’s not enough, they have cascading menus off them with another 20. And people sometimes can’t find things because the person who told you how to do it is using a different language than you and the items move around from menu to menu depending on the settings you’ve chosen. So just explaining, look, this is here. If you can’t find it here, maybe it will be on this other Windows menu, and getting that familiarity so that it’s not so much the cockpit of a 747 anymore and you kind of know what everything’s at least called and what it’s for.
[Mike] So in the last module of your course you explore a few productivity enhancing features of Visual Studio. Tell us about that.
[Kate] I see so many people doing things by hand that Visual Studio will do for you if you only ask. So I show how to refactor, things like extracting 10 or 20 lines of code into a method, how to use snippets so that — you know, I tell people over and over again, there’s no medals for typing. Yes, you can type “if, space, open bracket, a condition, closed bracket, enter, brace bracket, new line, another new line, end brace bracket” or you could type “if, tab, tab,” and get exactly the same thing. And no one will know by looking at your code whether you typed those extra 12 keystrokes or not, and that kind of ramping up of your productivity, it has a very interesting effect. It’s not just like, oh, I saved five seconds. I can go home five seconds earlier today. It’s that you’re less likely to forget what you were doing because you don’t have to put so much time into the mechanics and you just stay in flow. And to me, that’s a ramping up of two or three times the amount of code I can produce when I use everything the tool has to offer. So that’s what that last module really wants to take people to.
[Mike] Excellent. So what should viewers expect to take away from this course?
[Kate] If they’ve never used Visual Studio before at all and they’ve been told, “Hi, welcome to your new job. You’ll be using Visual Studio,” they should no longer feel worried. They’d be like, okay, I know how to drive this now. I can do this. If they are a Visual Studio user, I’d like them to take away like, wow, I didn’t know that. That’s cool. I’m going to be better at my job now. And just to have a confidence to maybe poke a little and explore a little when they kind of understand the underlying concepts that — it’s there to help you. It wants to help you, and realize, oh, I’m going to let it.
[Mike] So as the title indicates this is Part 1 of at least a two-part course sequence. What do you have in mind for Part 2?
[Kate] In Part 2, I want to get into debugging. I haven’t shown any debugging at all in Part 1 because I have so much material to cover, things like how to do the finding and how to do the exploration using the Solution Explorer in Class View and so on. So Part 2 has got quite a lot of debugging in it. As well, I talk about extensions to Visual Studio in Part 2, where it’s like, wow, if it’s not big and complicated enough already, you can add even more to it. But I find that really worth doing and I pick out a few extensions that I think people would really like to have.
[Mike] Well, thank you, very much, Kate. We’re happy to are this course in the library and are looking forward to the sequel.
[Kate] I enjoy doing it, and I too am looking forward to the sequel.
[Mike] This is Kate Gregory’s new course Introduction to Visual Studio 2012, Part 1. Thanks again, Kate.
[Kate] You’re welcome.