Tools for Tuesday

While we hope Visual Assist is your favorite dev tool, we know we can’t (and won’t) do everything for you. As we continue developing solutions, we’ll also showcase tools or tips for other problems you may face in other parts of development. This week, you’ll hear from our friends at Ranorex:

How to continue to test in Visual Studio in a post Coded UI world. 

Producing powerful on-time releases demands high-quality code and thorough testing. This is why developers have been encouraged to continuously inspect their code for errors and to shift their testing left.  Visual studio is far and away the most popular IDE on the planet with an estimated market share of 39%, and there are some great code inspection tools that extend Visual Studio functionality out there, but what about left-shifted test automation? 

For users of Visual Studio, Coded UI facilitated a shift-left approach to development by enabling automated UI-driven functional testing from within the IDE. However, earlier this year Microsoft announced that Coded UI was deprecated. Visual Studio 2019 would be the last version to support Coded UI.

Does this mean that left-shifted developers and technical testers are bereft of a testing framework that operates from within Visual Studio? The answer my friends is “not on your nelly”. The Ranorex testing framework provides an API for C# and VB.Net that completely replaces Coded UI.

Migration from Coded UI to the Ranorex testing framework is as easy as one, two, three. Once you have downloaded and installed Ranorex Studio simply follow the instructions below:

1. Create a new Visual Studio project 

Open Visual Studio, go to File > New Project. Next, you will need to select .Net Framework 4.5.2 or higher, you will be prompted to choose your programing language, you can select either C# or VB.Net. All that is now left to do in this first step is to select Console Application and hit OK.   

New project window

2. Add Ranorex core assemblies as references

To ensure a seamless migration away from Coded UI you will next need to add the Ranorex core assemblies. To do so navigate to the project’s Solution Explorer, right mouse click on the References Folder and select Add Reference… 

Solution explorer

Click browse and then navigate to the Bin folder of your Ranorex installation, (the default location is C:\Program Files (x86)Ranorex Bin). 

Add the following:

  • Ranorex.Bootstrapper
  • Ranorex.Common
  • Ranorex.Core
  • Ranorex.Core.Resolver
  • All Ranorex.Plugin assemblies
https://miro.medium.com/max/846/1*H3t63DTmK-_Gg9AITVokEA.png

Set the Copy Local option to False for all Ranorex assemblies except for Ranorex.Core.Resolver

3. Over to you 

Start writing code and continue with left-shifted testing in Visual Studio. 

Before you go

Not only are you able to continue to test in your preferred IDE you can also benefit from the best object recognition on the market. Ranorex Spy is the tool developers and technical testers love. Use it to analyze your AUT, its element structure, available object properties and attributes, and build the most robust and reliable XPaths for use in Visual Studio.

Be in full control of your XPaths. Increase or decrease dynamism in line with the complexity your tests require. Add variables to your XPaths and customize how you uniquely identify UI elements even when testing mixed technology applications. 

You can also benefit from all the functionality associated with Ranorex. Have a better understanding of failed tests with fully customizable reports. Get built-in object repository access and organize your tests in logical hierarchical structures. 

Conclusion

Left-shifted developers and technical testers who have used Coded UI need not mourn its passing, rather they should see the deprecation as an opportunity to increase the speed and quality of their releases. The Ranorex testing framework offers an API that completely replaces Coded UI, has far superior object recognition, and increased functionality. But don’t take my word for it download you full featured 30-day free trial and find out for yourself. 

Visual Assist build 2358 is available!

New Year, New Build! Welcome to 2020 and 2358. This release was driven largely to fix an issue with our licensing server and some corruption that may have been experienced by Unity users, but why stop there?

  • NEW Added C++ modernization refactoring: Convert Unscoped Enum to Scoped Enum (execute on the enum definition). See the documentation.
  • NEW Goto Related now allows hopping between *_Implementation and *_Validate implementations in UE4.
  • FIX Goto from a method declaration will now list *_Validate as a target in UE4.
  • NEW Added option (on the Goto page of Visual Assist Options dialog) to prefer implementations when executing Goto (Alt+G) (execution on the implementation will continue to go to the declaration as before).

Take a look at the full list of features and bug fixes here. And of course be sure to update!

Getting Started with UE4 and Visual Assist

Whether you’re new to Visual Assist and UE4 or a seasoned vet, we thought you might appreciate a little more insight into what you can expect and how to get started. Thanks to our resident UE4 wizards for putting this together.

1. Install Visual Assist

  1. Exit all instances of Visual Studio.
  2. Run the .exe installer you downloaded.
  3. Select the IDE(s) you want to install to.

2. Open your game solution

Visual Assist will come alive after it finishes parsing.

3. Look around

Open the Extensions > VAssistX menu. You will use the menu primarily to open tool windows, review keyboard shortcuts, and access the options dialog.

Appreciate the understated UI to Visual Assist. There are just a few visible changes.

4. Change a few settings

If you like meaningful syntax coloring, open the options dialog for Visual Assist and apply coloring to more of the UI.

If you highlight the current line, choose a thin frame that doesn’t obscure your code.

Visual Assist can add important information to tooltips when hovering over a symbol, such as comments from base classes. This is very helpful in UE4, as base class comments are the documentation.

Visual Assist can analyze your code and suggest improvements. Enable Code Inspections to see blue underlines where code might be improved. Visual Assist can even modernize your code for you! We will show how later.

Then, open the options dialog to Visual Studio and eliminate the redundant navigation bar. The version in Visual Assist includes the functionality of the built-in one.

Disable built-in navigation bar

After making the changes, Visual Studio is ready to use.

5. Navigation in UE4

Search for and open files using Alt + Shift + O. Precede a search filter with a hyphen to exclude symbols (negative filtering).

Understand and navigate the inheritance hierarchies of UE4 by using Alt + Shift + G on a class name. The Alt + Shift + G shortcut works on many types of symbols, try using it on a virtual method.

Source files in UE4 can be thousands of lines long. Use Alt + M to search for and navigate to methods inside the current file.

Find references to a symbol using Alt + Shift + F. Visual Assist’s find references is fast and accurate inside huge solutions like UE4. Try cloning your results to save them by clicking the Clone Results button or using the right-click menu.

Hover over a virtual method to see comments from base classes. Base class comments often contain useful documentation.

6. Refactoring in UE4

Access refactoring tools using the keyboard shortcut Alt + Shift + Q, or by hovering over a symbol and clicking the tomato icon that appears. The contents of the Alt + Shift + Q menu depend on the symbol.

It is common in UE4 to override virtual methods, such as Tick or SetupPlayerInputComponent. Visual Assist can implement these methods for you. Click on your class name and then use Alt + Shift + Q.

The Implement Methods dialog is searchable, and you can implement more than one method at once.

Visual Assist will intelligently add a call to the Super class version of the method for you when appropriate.

You will see blue underlines below code which could be modernized. This is Code Inspection.

Visual Assist can refactor the code for you! Use Alt + Shift + Q on the underlined symbol.

If you need to change the return type, parameters, or the name of a method you can use Change Signature. Edit the method definition in the window. References and call-sites to the method will be updated, so you won’t miss anything.

7. Tips

There is a lot of special functionality built into Visual Assist for UE4, such as suggestions for U* macros. The more you can use Visual Assist, the more opportunities to make your life a little easier in UE4.

You may find the built in IntelliSense to be unusably slow, or that it often adds red underlines to correct code in UE4. IntelliSense can be disabled. Visual Assist provides all the intelligent tooling expected in a modern C++ development environment.

You can throttle the initial parse in the Performance tab of the Visual Assist options dialog. By default, the one-time parse uses all available resources to finish as fast as possible.

For more information or support check out our forum and documentation.

Some features mentioned above require the latest build, check here for updates.

Developer Showcase: Visual Assist in Action

If you follow our blog, you’ve seen the features that our team is putting in place and likely felt their impact in your development. Instead of hearing more of the same, we thought we would share thoughts from one of our users. Meet Distalsoft, two brothers, one who can’t stop gaming and one with ideas. We’re not sure which one wrote this post, but either way check them out when you want to hunt for treasure or lose it all attempting Brexit.

C++ with Visual Assist, Visual Studio and Unreal Engine

It’s inspiring that software like Microsoft’s Visual Studio IDE and Epic’s Unreal Engine have been “free” for so long now. It pains me to think about where indie developers would be without the forward thinking force of these larger companies and their seemingly never-ending generosity. Helping start-ups and the like to get their feet on the ground is something I will forever be grateful for.

Although the tools come close to it, it would be naive to think that they can fulfil the job of every requirement. I want to point out a few problems we were facing at Distalsoft when it came to developing in Visual Studio using Unreal Engine and the solution we ended up going with.

Unreal Engine at its core uses the C++ language. Visual Studio – being a Microsoft product – makes development in C# very enjoyable. On the other hand, development in C++ has been a point of frustration for many years. From VS 2010 to VS 2017, improvements have been made to the overall speed of compilation, Intellisense, file searching and the like, but it has taken until 2019 for them to really make a dent in the problem. I must say that VS 2019 has done an excellent job of addressing the aforementioned issues but the question still stands – could it be better?

A few years ago when I was using VS 2015, I’d had enough. I’d sometimes be waiting several minutes for Intellisense to bring back a list of methods or properties that belonged to an object. I’m pretty sure we’ve all done it – smashing the heck out of the ctrl+shift+space keys and cursing at the screen while waiting for the Intellisense to pop up. Or simple searches in the solution explorer that end up taking longer to resolve than simply finding the file yourself. Perhaps even trying to navigate to the definition of a method only to be waiting minutes for the document to load up. Something had to change. I went searching on the internet for a solution. It didn’t take long to stumble across a piece of software called Visual Assist by Whole Tomato. It had been recommended many times on various parts of the AnswerHub forum for Unreal Engine and StackOverflow. Due to it having a trial version, I downloaded a copy to give it a try.

The expression “night and day”, really doesn’t do the software justice but it’ll have to do for now. I was extremely relieved. Searching for files, definitions, even just including header files were now as you would expect from an IDE. The additional dialog menu that is available when right clicking on bits of code you want to perform actions against, has a variety of options that make you realise what was/is missing from the ootb VS. To be honest, I don’t use half of them, but it’s the baseline mechanics that just work so much better. And, to address my biggest issue – the speed of Intellisense – type-ahead now loaded within seconds and sometimes even instantly. What a relief!

Unreal Engine have improved their documentation, but unfortunately it’s still not quite there. I would always see people answer questions in AnswerHub with “Look through the Unreal Engine code, it’s open source”. I always assumed they were joking. Pressing F12 to go to method definitions without Visual Assist would take forever. Thanks to my new found friend Visual Assist, I finally had the ability to go find the answers to some of the most annoying questions. It’s hard to really communicate just how irritating it used to be. Seriously, Visual Assist has made me a happy C++ coder again.

I suppose the last thing to make note of is that Visual Assist is not currently free, but the trial is sufficient to make you realise just how much happier you can be when using it. I would be interested to see Visual Assist introduce a subscription based payment plan, but you can’t complain. They have done a stellar job at creating a brilliant tool.

So in conclusion, go check it out. See for yourself. You won’t be disappointed.

This blog was brought to you by Distalsoft. If you’d like for us to showcase what you’re building (better and faster) with Visual Assist contact us.

Visual Studio 2019 moves VAssistX to Extensions menu

Microsoft Visual Studio 2019 moved all extension menus, including the VAssistX menu of Visual Assist, to a new, top-level Extensions menu. According to Mads Kristensen, a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, the menus were moved to “give the ecosystem more prominence and declutter the top-level menu when you have a lot of extensions installed“. That reasoning might be solid, but it does require an extra keystroke or click to reach extension commands.

In prior versions of Visual Studio, the VAssistX menu is opened via a single Alt+X. That shortcut, fortuitously, now opens the Extensions menu. In Visual Studio 2019, a subsequent X opens the VAssistX menu within the Extensions menu.

If you are a keyboard user of Visual Studio 2019, use Alt+X, X to reach any VAssistX command previously reached with Alt+X. And when you in the documentation for Visual Assist, know that you must use Alt+X, X every time you read Alt+X.

Those looking to restore old behavior in Visual Studio 2019 might find Extensions in Main menu useful. If you try the extension and want a single Alt+X to open VAssistX, use ‘Tools | Customize |Commands’ to change the accelerator key for Extensions, e.g. from &x to &i.

Speed up opening of editors when using Visual Assist in Windows 10 (Fall Creators Update)

Microsoft tightened security in the Windows 10 Version 1709 Fall Creators Update (FCU), but unfortunately, the tightening adversely affects the performance of applications that use the Win32 GetPixel API. Visual Assist is one such application so initial opening of editor windows in Visual Studio, when Visual Assist is active, can be extremely slow.

You can speed up the opening of edtor windows when using Visual Assist to pre-FCU levels by disabling Control Flow Guard for Visual Studio. Navigate to:

Windows Defender Security Center | App & browser control | Exploit protection settings | Program settings | Add program to customize | Add by program name

Be cautious and choose the exact file path(s) for Visual Studio, or disable protection for any application named “devenv.exe”.

Scroll to disable Control Flow Guard (CFG).

You might improve the performance other aspects of Visual Assist in Visual Studio, at least with respect to the effects of tighter security in the FCU, by disabling all 21 program security settings specific to the application.

Apply, and restart your PC.

You can improve performance of all affected applications in the FCU by disabling CFG at the system level:

App & browser control | Exploit protection settings | System Settings

Obviously, disabling a security feature has its own cost, i.e. less security. You can learn more about the slowness of the API at TenForums and in the Visual Studio Developer Community.

Filter using logical “or”

Many of the dialogs and drop-downs of Visual Assist allow efficient lookups via filtering. For example, filtering within Open File in Solution—a dialog with all files in a solution—lets one find a file quickly if only portions of a name are known. This means one can find veryLongFilenameInProjectTomato.cpp if he knows only “long” and “toma”.

Filtering takes many shapes. Aside from substrings, one can filter using simple expressions. Our expression syntax isn’t full regex but it is tailored to the content being searched.

In this blog post, I introduce searching using logical “or”.

Filtering using logical “or” is often applicable when searching VA Hashtags, where tags are created on-the-fly and often without standards. For example, developers might annotate code with VA Hashtags of the format “todo” followed by the name of the teammate who needs to review or fix the code, but names are entered as first names, last names, or misspelled variants thereof.

For tasks related to developer John Smith, we might find VA Hashtags in either of the following forms.

// #todoJohnSmith
// #todoJSmith

Filtering for “smith” in the VA Hashtags tool window easily finds both.

logicalOrSmithDialog

But a teammate might annotate code with only John’s first name.

// #todoJohn

In this case, filtering for “smith” won’t find the new hashtag. We need to search for “smith or john”, and we use a comma in our expression to do that.

logicalOrSmithJohnDialog

Then, our code might also include unrelated hashtags for John, e.g., a comment directed only at him.

// #John, I fixed this for you.

The previous filtering for “smith or john” will include the unwanted entry.

logicalOrSmithJohnDialog2

To omit the unwanted entry, we need to search for “todo and smith” or “todo and John”. We do that with multiple substrings and a comma.

logicalOrSmithJohnDialog3

This final expression using logical “or” gives us exactly what we want.

You can use expressions in all dialogs and drop-downs that support filtering, including the several that support logical “or”:

If you want to know more about expressions, study one of the features that supports logical “or”, then experiment in all the dialogs and drop-downs you encounter.

Logical “or” requires Visual Assist build 2062 or newer.