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Visual Studio Flex Property Pages

Making things simpler
by Huw Collingbourne
Monday 6 April 2009.

It’s not only the big features that matter in an IDE. It’s also the little things tucked away into dark corners.

In the current beta of Amethyst one of those dark corners is the Project Properties page. This is where you can tailor project settings such as the project output type (Flex/ActionScript/AIR), the files to be excluded when synchronizing or ’refreshing’ the display of the Solution Explorer, numerous compiler options, pre-and post-build events and so on...

If you look at the property pages in the current beta (beta 4) you will see that there are dozens of options all squashed up together into a grid. These work ok and they do the job they are supposed to do. But properties are hard to find and hard to use. There are just too many options in too little space.

The old-style Project Properties in beta 4

Now if you look at the Project Properties pages for C# you’ll find a big difference. These pages are nicely laid out with some properties having their own editors and others having popup disk browsers and so forth. All of which makes them much easier to use.

But even though we know that the C# property pages are nicer than those in Amethyst beta 4, there is a great temptation just to leave them the way they are. As I said, our grid does the job and, well, it’s not as though property pages are big items on a product’s Features List, after all!

The new style of Project Properties in beta 5

But no, that’s not good enough! Those properties have been irritating me so eventually I decided to set aside some time to do a radical redesign. This takes a lot more time and effort than you might suppose. But, frankly, I really think that this is time well spent. In an IDE it’s often the little things that make a big difference.

Our new style property pages will be in beta 5 and we will continue to refine them right up until the launch of Amethyst 1.0.

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