An Overview of VS Code

Intro

Out of the box, VS Code is described as a “lightning fast” and “lightweight” source code editor that supports hundreds of programming languages. It can be used on any platform – Mac, Linux, Windows.

vscode-11.png

The guts

VS Code is built on Electron, along with Javascript, Node.Js and some Mcirosoft-y things like the Visual Studio debugger and TypeScript. So it’s a pretty powerful editor. It has built-in IntelliSense (note: not all languages, so you may need to pick up an extension for ones not included). For those who are not familiar, IntelliSense provides a number of features like code completion, parameter info, and more. You may have heard IntelliSense called in a different form like code completion or code hinting. You can find an in-depth explanation of IntelliSense for VS Code and how to get the most out of it here. And to be honest, it’s the kind of thing you don’t really know you’re missing until you fully use it. It’s got the Visual Studio debugger allowing you to step through code, inspect vars, view call tacks, and execute commands in console easily. VS Code is great for building cross-platform applications. It was originally described as being created for building web and cloud applications, but I believe it is and will continue to be for more than just that.

So, why VS Code?

Why choose something like VS Code, well let’s see..

Customization

Firstly, how customizable it is. It’s super easy to install many third-party extensions or to even create your own (which we will be learning how to do later on!).

Open source

It’s open source. So you can contribute to it and join the community on GitHub. I always find a tool most powerful when the community can come in and improve it. Missing a feature? Let the community create it and it helps to expand the improvement for integration with other tools. Super!

Git diff view

I have adored Intellij’s git diff view for the longest time and now VS Code has got a great one as well. VS Code displays the current and the previous versions side by side for a quick comparison and makes it easy solve merge issues!

vscode-diff
Photo taken from bytearcher

The fact that git is integrated already is also just great.

Easy split-screen

Forget remembering the shortcut for split-screen. VS Code makes it easy with the click of an icon. (Located at the upper right side of the editor… There are also several other ways to splitCtrl+/, drag and drop, Ctrl and click on the file in the Explorer, etc.)

Peek view

vscode-peekededitor
Photo taken from code.visualstudio.com

Want to check something quickly without doing a huge context switch? Well, VS Code has got you VS Code introduces peeked editors so that you can easily search, and even make edits right there in the peeked editor.

Terminal

VS Code makes it convenient to execute a command line task without the need to switch windows. (Note: it starts at the root of your workspace.) And you can even manage multiple terminals if you want. Ctrl+`

Zen Mode

Zen mode hides all the UI features (activity bar, status bar, side panels, etc) and let’s you focus on your code. The editor becomes fullscreen. To enabled Zen Mode you can either select it by the View menu, the Command Palette or by hitting Ctrl+K Z.

 

zen mode
Taken from VS Code Tips & Tricks

 

There’s probably an extension for that…

Whatever you are in need of,  whatever feature you love in another editor/IDE, there’s probably an extension for that!

Wait, why an editor over an IDE?

Let’s compare

An editor, like VS Code, is built for speed, starts up fast since it’s so lightweight and extensions are loaded in a separate process. An IDE, like Visual Studio, is feature rich, robust, and can ‘do everything’. However, it tends to be slower and you can feel overloaded with features. You might be so overloaded that you can not even utilize the IDEs full potential… or maybe you don’t even need all those luxurious features.

Let’s dive in a bit. Let’s compare VS Code to Visual Studio. VS Code is portable as hell, works on all platforms and generally requires fewer admin rights. VS Code allows you to install plugins and extensions as you go, as you need. As mentioned earlier Visual Studio, being an IDE, is feature rich. If you don’t need all those features, maybe go for something lighter. n particular with Visual Studio, for the longest time the IDE only existed for Windows machines. However, recently Microsoft has released a version for Mac. It’s based on Xamarin Studio, the cross-platform mobile development editor, that Microsoft acquired. In its current state, Visual Studio for Mac, it’s still missing a lot of the features a typical VS Windows user would be accustomed to. Microsoft has displayed a commitment to supporting more than just Windows (in particular for Visual Studio) so we will see where Visual Studio for Mac goes.

Examples of editors: Sublime, Vim, Brackets, Atom, VS Code. 

Examples of IDEs: Visual Studio, IntelliJ, Eclipse, WebStorm. 

TL;DR

Your setup is an important part of how you work and how productive you will be as a developer. And so your choice of code editor is no exception!

I highly recommend checking out VS Code.  Considering it requires little configuration to get up and running it makes it a must try in my books!

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