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Finding files in Visual Studio 2005

Is searching for VS 2005 files worse than locating a needle in a haystack? Here we look at five Visual Studio add-ins that make this process much easier.

I arrange my CDs alphabetically by artist, then in chronological order by release date. Some friends mock my system, but it lets me locate a song or album or seconds -- provided, of course, that the CD is not in my glove compartment.

If your Visual Studio files lack this level of organization, there are several file-finding add-ins available for Visual Studio 2005. Earlier this month Roland Weigelt set out to review two free options, VSFileFinder 2005 and SonicFileFinder, in this blog entry. Commenter Jon Galloway threw his support behind DPack, also a free add-in, while Oskar Austegard endorsed the file-finding features in the C# tool ReSharper. Here we describe each of the four tools and provide thoughts from their users.

UPDATE: A fifth tool, MZ-Tools 2005, now appears in this tip.


  • VSFileFinder 2005: This tool, developed by Jonathan Payne, is the successor to VSFileFinder 2003 for Visual Studio 2003. Weigelt cites two nice features of this tool -- it offers filters to exclude certain file types from search results list and it lets users highlight certain file types in a different color. "I never really missed 'positive highlighting' of specific files (e.g. in bright colors), but what came into my mind as a possible use was, e.g., to color WinForms designer files (.Designer.cs) in dark grey instead of black," he writes. On the other hand, Weigelt notes, there is no documentation or Read Me file for the product, and its Web site offers few details.


  • SonicFileFinder: This tool, developed by Jens Schaller, was first released in July 2006. Weigelt describes it as possessing both a "polished" look and "slight fluff," the latter referring specifically to a Match column (listing the % relevance of a particular search result) and a nav bar at the bottom of the window, which leaves less room to display text. However, the Match feature allows users to sort items, and the nav bar becomes a non-issue if SonicFileFinder is used in pop-up mode. "[I]f the thought of yet another tool window competing for screen space scares you, you should definitely go for SonicFileFinder," Weigelt concludes.


  • DPack: This toolset for Visual Studio 2003 and 2005, developed by UsysWare and currently in version 2.5.6, includes four search features for developers. Along with the File Browser, which offers custom search and "opened files only" options, DPack includes a Code Browser, a Solution Browser and a Framework Browser, which lets users locate a type and its corresponding namespace and assembly. "I don't know how I missed the 1.0 release, but I'm very impressed. This one is a keeper," Galloway wrote in his own blog when DPack 2.0 was released. "The website and the UI aren't flashy, but this thing really work[s] well."


  • ReSharper: Like DPack, ReSharper offers a plethora of productivity tools for Visual Studio 2003 and 2005. ReSharper, though, is not free, though a trial download is available, and it is compatible only with C#. It does merit mention due to its ease of use, Austegard writes in Weigelt's blog. "In ReSharper you simply press Ctrl+N and start typing -- works the same but looks for classes (types) rather than files. Also has an interesting feature that allows you to search by initials -- as in to find FooBar, you can type FB," Austegard says. "Similarly, in ReSharper, once you have the class file open, you can press Ctrl+F12 to do the same kind of search for members within the file." More details about ReSharper's functionality are available in Jeffrey Palermo's blog.


  • MZ-Tools 2005: This, too, is a multi-faceted productivity tool for Visual Studio 2005. A demo download is available; those who purchase the product also receive MZ-Tools 4.0 for Visual Studio 2003. Search results are displayed in a hierarchical tree, multiple tabs allow users to access previous searches and search results can be refreshed at any time. Jim Cross offers a succinct review of the product here in his blog, and since MZ-Tools 2005 comes in one of eight localized languages, there are reviews out in the blogosphere in French and Spanish as well.

    If we have missed a file-finding tool that you find useful, send us an e-mail and we will add it to this list.

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