Tag Archives: Desktop

VS 2013 Express tips

Just thought to share a tip or two about making the user experience better. The following applies to the desktop version but should also work (with some minor adjustment) to the other editions as well.

Change the all UPPERCASE main menus

In the registry, find the key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\WDExpress\12.0\General. Add a (32-bit) DWORD value named SuppressUppercaseConversion and give it a value of 1. Next time you open the IDE the menu’s will be normal Title case again. It also applies to VS2012 editions as well (just change the version number to 11.0). For web express just change the ‘WDExpress’ part.

Update: If you are using the Web express edition the registry path for the change upper case menus are: HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VWDExpress\12.0\General

Adding more themes

By default there are only 3 themes (for the express versions). To add some more options go to http://alinconstantin.blogspot.com/2012/09/using-color-themes-with-visual-studio.html?_sm_au_=isV7sFqHt8JbtbNM

Adding my Source backup tool

My source backup tool id aware of the desktop express version and can automatically add itself as one of the custom tools of the IDE. See SourceBackup.

If I come across more tips I’ll add them here as well.


Windows Forms vs WPF

The following short piece is about my opinion of comparing old fashioned Windows Forms development to using WPF (Windows Presentation Foundation).

After some real experimenting, researching, googling, scratching, digging, hair pulling (what is left of it), swearing, yelling, kicking around getting a very simple WPF application to work I can seriously say that WPF is a load of … brown stuff. I’m not denying that it could be used to create really beautiful and powerful applications given enough time, patience (and hair) but, the effort to do this is making me question whether this is worth while. It has a few benefits over WinForms but they are offset by some really annoying and lacking features, not to mention that it also have all the same disadvantages that WinForm applications have (compare to stuff like Web/mobile applications). Essentially, anything you can do with WPF can also be done with WinForms with less time and effort.

Let me give a few examples.

Basic layout and design of a form

I’m sure once you are completely fluent with WPF and all the possible permutations of properties, behavior, styles etc. that you can also do basic layouts of an application very quickly. For me, knowing exactly what I wanted and even what I’m looking for, it took more that two days to create a basic interface (which I could have done in 5 minutes in WinForms). Yes, part of the problem was I’m not fluent in all that is WPF but thanks to Google I could find solution quickly every time. Despite this I had to retest every possible basic behavior of all controls – even simple things like clicking on a blank space inside a control to ensure all ‘basic’ functionality as a plain user would expect (people that have been using Windows app for years), are still the same. One of the most important fundamental concepts of UI design is to have consistency – like behavior of controls. Something like keyboard navigation was seriously not part of the WPF designers ideas.

The ListView control.

This control has been changed in several ways which could both be seen and good and bad. In WinForms this is/was one of my favorites. The way you design, code and use columns are very different from WinForm ListViews. It does give you more powerful ‘formatting’ options but this make it incredibly complex as well. Doing basic stuff like right aligning a column is not straight forward anymore. Yes, it can be done but this requires doing ‘non-standard’ things like ‘Styles’, custom code and so on. Then behavior like selecting items in the ListView has changed and even something like ‘unselecting’ all items by clicking on a blank space inside the control now requires you to write ‘extra’ code just to accomplish it. Essentially this is not the same ListView control that we were used to in WinForms but a new control that superficially looks like it.

There is however one aspect/feature of this control that I really like. The way you can bind columns to properties of an object – which by the way is the only way to use it! In general I do NOT use databinding features because it removes your ability to do really powerful things with the control and more importantly databinding controls never really work well with huge sets of data. For that reason I always populated my controls myself so I have ‘real’ control over them. That does come at the cost of having to manually always sync the displayed values on a control with the underlying data.


There might be people out there that prefer WPF over an ‘old’ technology like WinForms and possible they can create even better applications if they put their mind to it but I’m still in the WinForms camp. Then you have to keep in mind that WPF just like WinForms as a development technology is in danger of being abandoned thanks to the whole HTML5 and JavaScript mobile revolution.  WPF might become just another one of those potential (good) technologies that Microsoft killed before it had time to evolved into something really good. That is a shame.


I also discovered that WPF does not even support some VERY basic dialog boxes like browsing for a folder. I mean, FFS Microsoft, what were the developers of WPF smoking when they created this abortion of a tool/technology??

Also, they changed the very standard way of returning results from dialog/messages boxes to use a nullable boolean in stead of a usable structure. WTF??

VS2012 Express for Desktop

I’ve been waiting for this for a while so I was glad when they finally released this. Now for some initial feedback.

First off, the download was reasonable – size and speed wise. The installation was, lets just say ok – as I had to reboot since it had to update some libraries that were is ‘use’ at the time. Registration was also not too bad – since I have an old existing Hotmail/Live account where more of the details were already populated. Running it for the first time is where the shock comes in… it is as ugly as hell (reminds me death, all grey and boring). Unfortunately the same would apply to any of the other Express and even full versions of VS2012.

VS2012 Express For Desktop development

Functionality wise it provides just the very basics – not that you can expect anything more. Since I haven’t installed the ‘full’ express version I cannot comment on any other functionality that version might have. Anyway, The only templates worth mentioning is the Windows Forms, WPF and Console ones. Again, one cannot expect anything more of this release. Interestingly enough, when creating a new project the framework version cannot be changed on the ‘create project’ dialog screen. You can only change this ‘after’ the project has already been created.

One nice thing is that you can still create custom toolbars with ‘external’ commands – I use it to run a source backup tool I created some time ago. Another thing to remember is that this tool can be installed in Windows 7, unlike the full Express version that can ONLY be installed on Windows 8. The Web express version can also be installed on 7 (plus the TFS Express version).

If you excuse the way it looks (wearing shades to protect your eyes) then this tool is not that bad… Just wish they allowed old fashioned ‘themes’ to change the look and feel of the entire editor. Ah well, it is an ‘Express’ product… Fortunately you can import your VS 2010 color and font settings to get all your customizations back (even though it does moan about a whole bunch of settings that are not applicable to this edition which you can ignore)

In order to try it out you can follow this link.

If you like to change the overall theme and don’t like the built-in Light or Dark there are some more options if you look at this blog entry.

Windows 8 – Down with Metro

No, I haven’t managed to get the latest build or RTM of it yet and neither am I going to rush out to get it. I played with the Developer preview and then again with the Consumer preview plus I’ve been following online all the ‘progress’ (or lack thereof) and thoughts of other people and reviewers.

In recent news two ‘Gaming’ companies gave Windows 8 a thumb down for their own reasons. They probably also have alternative motives which I don’t even know about right now – and don’t care about. My ‘beef’ with it is more on the productivity and corporate fronts.

Let me try to explain a bit more.

The vast majority of ‘users’ I know use the desktop in Windows like a… {drumroll} real desktop with Icons cluttered all over the show. Some may say that is untidy and unproductive but most people (me included I admit) ‘know’ exactly where I left stuff in that mess (yes and my wife also hates that… hehe ). It all forms part of my thought or work processes as I may not be done with something yet and want to go on or repeat that action or process at some time again. Sounds familiar? That is why I create custom shortcuts or leave some files on my desktop. Lots, if not the majority of users do that.

Now, Retro (cough I mean… Metro) was probably (in part) made to help clean up that messy practice – but here is the problem – just like when my wife (or maid or whoever) go an clean or pack away stuff that I left there where I know about it, Microsoft went and try to ‘fix’ something that ain’t broken. I absolutely hate this! If they have to ‘fix’ Metro to do this it will become just another ‘desktop’, duhhh.

Further, Metro looks more like a toddler interface meant for babies or (cough) idiots. Yeh, I know, it is intended for the more ‘mobile’ space like tablets but I’m using a ‘desktop’ computer so why must I also be forced feed this ugly interface? I admit, it has its advantages but I can happily live without most of them for my purposes.

The ideal would simply have been that we still had the option to make the ‘classical’ desktop the default upon starting Windows. It can be system setting that you can choose either during set-up or through control panel or whatever system configuration tool they use. I have a suspicion that somewhere down the line they (MS) will be forced to implement this – mark my words!

Until then, Windows 8 will not see any of my computers where I have a say about it.

Update: Well, apparently the name ‘Metro’ itself has become almost poison to Microsoft themselves -due to trademark issues with a German retailer (Metro AG).

Rumours of desktop development death greatly exaggerated

Ok, Microsoft has restored some faith from my side in them – after announcing that the new Visual Studio 11 (now called VS 2012) would NOT support any desktop development anymore.

They eventually changed their minds due to a lot of pressure and decided to release a desktop specific version as well – see this.

A quote from the article:

With this new Express edition, developers will be able to use C++, C#, or Visual Basic to create Windows desktop and console applications. Developers will also get access to new advances available across the Express family in Visual Studio 2012, such as the latest compilers and programming language tools, integrated unit testing, and the ability for small development teams to collaborate via Team Explorer and TFS Express.

Now, we just need to get MS to drop Metro and BioWare to fix Mass Effect 3’s ending… and the world could be a happy place again… hehe

Death to desktop development

Well, perhaps that is what Microsoft is trying to achieve with its latest move to remove all desktop development functionality from its Express versions of Visual Studio. Yes, you can still create desktop apps in the ‘pro’ version but at something like $500 it isn’t cheap for hobbyist op someone that is still learning.  Lately they have been making all kind of wild and ridiculous decisions trying to push their new ‘Retro’, eh I mean ‘Metro’ interface down our throats. I for one don’t like this new interface ‘on the desktop’ at all and I’m definitely not the only one!

Just looking at the comments in articles like these you can get the impression that more and more people (developers) are really not liking this new direction that ‘they’ are taking. It is one thing to create something new and exciting but another to actively alienate/irritate your existing followers just to try and push them into a new direction (which might or might not suit them). Is this rush to try and play ‘catch-up’ with ‘the fruit company’ so important that they actually are shooting themselves in the foot? Yes, that is right, they are actively playing the catch-up game but is loosing it with every move they are trying. Not a good move if you want to survive in the end. As big as they are (once) ‘they’ are now in the ‘failing’ game – as Adam Savage would say – Failure is always an option. Microsoft is now ‘living’ that lotto!

Was good knowing ya: RIP Microsoft 1975-2012