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Title: Enable commands in Visual Studio Express Edition

[Enable commands in Visual Studio Express Edition]

This post explains how you can enable commands that are missing by default in Visual Studio Express Edition. Some of this may also apply to other editions.

Visual Studio Express Edition is not quite the same as the more expensive editions. Most of the tools that it is missing are most useful for teams of developers so you shouldn't miss them if you're a beginner. In fact, I rarely use those tools. Still there are a couple of omissions that you may find annoying.

First, the Express Edition doesn't include an integrated icon editor. That means you can't add a .ico file to the project and then double-click it to edit it inside Visual Studio.

Actually the integrated editor isn't all that great and better editors are available for free on the Internet. I like to use Inkscape and @icon sushi. See this posting Give an application beautiful icons in C# for more information about using those tools to make attractive icons.

A second omission in the Express Edition is its lack of commands in its menus. For example, the View menu normally contains a Tab Order command that lets you set the tab order of controls on a form by clicking on them. By default that menu item is not in the Express Edition's View menu. That seems completely insane. All I can think is that Microsoft is trying to annoy people into paying much more money for features that are present but hidden.

Fortunately you can add that item and many others to the menu yourself. The exact instructions differ slightly depending on which version of Visual Studio you are using. Here are instructions for Visual Studio 2008.

  • Open the Tools menu and select Customize.
  • On the Commands tab, select the View category on the left.
  • In the Commands list on the right, scroll down to Tab Order.
  • Click and drag Tab Order over the View menu in Visual Studio's menu bar. Drag it to the position within the menu where you want it and drop it.
  • Close the Customize dialog.

In Visual Studio 2010, try these instructions:

  • Open the Tools menu and select Customize.
  • Select view in the Menu bar.
  • In the Commands list on the right, scroll down to Tab Order.
  • Select Tab Order in Views drop down list and click OK.
  • Close the Customize dialog.

Note that the Tab Order button will appear light grey and is not selectable until a project with controls is open in the form editor.

It may be worth spending some time browsing through the other commands that are available and that you can add to Visual Studio's menus and toolbars.

Tip: Instead of modifying the standard menus and toolbars, you can create new menus and toolbars and then modify those. That way you can easily find the standard commands when they are referenced by books and articles but you can still have your favorite tools available.

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