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The current JavaScript Intellisense in Visual Studio is generated based on IE’s JavaScript engine Chakraand its support for the various browser/DOM APIs. The cool thing about that is that the accuracy is really high, since the good folks on the IE team spends a lot of time implementing the APIs according to the web standard specifications. Awesome!

However, this means that the Intellisense in Visual Studio doesn’t include APIs that IE doesn’t support yet, such as the Shadow DOM, Server-Sent  Events, HTML Imports etc.

The good news is that the JavaScript editor in Visual Studio can easily be extended to include Intellisense for all of these APIs. The even better news is that it can all be done in JavaScript.

To do that, we need 2 things:

  1. Add a JavaScript file to the global Visual Studio references
  2. Add code to that file containing Intellisense

So let's get started.

Add a .js file to the global references

First of all, we must create a .js file somewhere on disk. Potentially on a network share for your entire team, or just in the user's documents folder. It doesn't matter where.

Then add a reference to it in Tools -> Options like this:

JavaScript references

Make sure to chose Implicit (Web) in the Reference Group dropdown. Otherwise it won't take effect for web projects.

Write some Intellisense

Now that the file has been referenced by Visual Studio, we can start adding additional Intellisense to it. Open the newly created .js file as well as any other JavaScript file. We are using the other JavaScript file to test the changes we make to our Intellisense file. We don't have to restart VS to see the changes, just save your Intellisense .js file and the changes take effect immediately.

Let's start by adding support for the new HTML Imports API. It's really simple because it only adds a single new property to DOM elements called import. So an example of how to use it would be something like this:

var link = document.querySelector('link[rel=import]');
var partial = link.import;

The value of partialis a Document element just like window.document. To add Intellisense for the import property, simple add this one line to your Intellisense .js file:

Element.prototype.import = Document.prototype;

We are extending the prototype of the Element object with an import property and giving it the value of the Document object's prototype. So now when we type this into our other JavaScript file, we should see this Intellisense:

HTML Imports Intellisense

What I've found to be a good rule of thumb is to make the added Intellisense apply more broadly than the spec might call for. In the example above, the import property should only apply to <link> elements (HTMLLinkElement), but since VS can't always know what type of element you're referencing, it makes good sense to just make it apply to all elements. It's up to you of course, but I think that this makes for a better experience.

Web Essentials

Today, Web Essentials 2013 ships two .js files that improves JavaScript Intellisense. One adds JSDoc comment support and the other adds many of the missing APIs including support for Angular.js.

The issue is that Web Essentials can't always add those two files to the global references.

If you already have Web Essentials installed, then you already have these two files located in C:\users\yourname\.

The files are:

  • JsDocComment.js
  • Modern.Intellisense.js

So make sure to check if you already have them in the JavaScript References options:

image

If not, just add them in the above dialog. The APIs that are added through Web Essentials are:

  • Shadow DOM
  • Vibration API
  • Fullscreen API
  • Canvas (improvements)
  • Server-Sent Events
  • HTML Imports
  • Object.observe()
  • Angular.js

Contribute

You can help improving the JavaScript Intellisense shipped in Web Essentials by adding support for more APIs to the Modern.Intellisense.js file on GitHub. A great way to get started is to go to status.modern.ie to look for APIs that Internet Explorer doesn't yet support. Under each API there's a link to the W3C specification.

As an added bonus, all of this also applies to Visual Studio 2012, but you have to get the two .js files from Web Essentials 2013 manually since they aren't shipped with Web Essentials 2012.

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web essentials3rd-party extensions have never been supported in the free Visual Studio Web Express. So you haven’t been able to install Web Essentials on Web Express before. With Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 and Web Essentials 2013 version 2.1 that is no longer the case.

You can now install and use Web Essentials on Web Express and get the exact same features as you would on the paid versions of Visual Studio. It’s the same code that runs in both. In fact, it’s the exact same extension that runs in both.

The reason for opening up Web Express for Web Essentials is to be able to provide cutting edge web tooling for free to anyone interested. Since Web Essentials is the ASP.NET and Web Tools Team’s official unofficial playground, we thought it would make perfect sense to broaden the support to the free versions of Visual Studio.

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This year at the //build/ conference I gave a session on Visual Studio Web Tools and Web Essentials. It’s now online on Channel 9 in case you want to watch it.

I was using a few extensions that are great for any web developer using Visual Studio 2013. I’ve compiled the list of extensions here and added a few additional ones that are really useful as well.

Web Essentials

logoThis is the ASP.NET and Web Tools team’s official unofficial playground – owned and driven by the open source community. It adds a huge number of features relevant for web developers, such as LESS/Sass/CoffeeScript compilers, code linters, additional Intellisense for JavaScript/CSS/HTML/JSON, validators, image sprite creation and a lot more.

Website: http://vswebessentials.com
Download: Web Essentials in the VS Gallery

SideWaffle

imageA delicious side dish for Visual Studio. This is an awesome template pack containing both Project Templates, Item Templates and Snippets for a wide variety of scenarios. From building Angular.js apps, Nancy FX projects, Browser Link and Chrome extensions and a lot more.

Website: http://sidewaffle.com
Download: SideWaffle in the VS Gallery

File Nesting

imageThis extension let’s you manually nest and unnest files in Solution Explorer. It also has an option for doing the nesting automatically based on file naming conventions. This is great for nesting *.min.js and other related files under parent files.

Download: File Nesting in the VS Gallery

JSON Schema Generator

json-logoVisual Studio 2013 will provide full Intellisense and tooltips for any JSON file that is associated with a schema. This extension lets you right-click directly on a JSON file in Solution Explorer and generate a schema file based on the source JSON file.

Download: JSON Schema Generator in the VS Gallery

Here are some additional extensions that might be of interest to you as well.

WebJobsVS

imageIn the Day 2 Keynote I showed how to create a C# console application project and use it as an Azure Webjob. To associate the console application with my web application, I used this extension. It was developed by folks working in the Azure team.

Download: WebJobsVS in the VS Gallery

SlowCheetah – XML transforms

Slow CheetahA great extension that enables you to transform your app.config or any other XML file based on the build configuration. Basically, this extension enables scenarios for XML transforms that are currently only available for web.config files.

Download: SlowCheetah in the VS Gallery

GruntLauncher

If you’re working with Grunt, Gulp, NPM or Bower, then this extension is for you. It allows you to easily run Grunt/Gulp tasks directly from Solution Explorer as well as update Bower components.

Download: GruntLauncher in the VS Gallery

Mexedge Stylesheet Extension

imageThis is a beautiful extension that provides CSS document outline directly inside Solution Explorer. Not only does it look great, it also gives a very convenient overview over media queries, selectors and rule sets. This is a must-have for any web developer working with CSS.

Download: Mexedge in the VS Gallery

PHP Tools for Visual Studio

imageIn my live Channel 9 interview we talked briefly about this excellent extension for PHP development. This gives you PHP Intellisense, debugging, code navigation and a lot more inside Visual Studio. A must-have for PHP developers that want the awesome power of Visual Studio.

Website: http://www.devsense.com/products/php-tools/
Download: PHP Tools in the VS Gallery

Cobisi Routing Assistant

This is a great extension for visualizing your ASP.NET routing table and to find what URLs map to what routes. It makes it easier to diagnose routing issues and even provides some great editor tooling features as well.

Website: http://cobisi.com/routing-assistant
Download: Routing Assistant in the VS Gallery

CssCop – FxCop for Stylesheets

imageIf you’re getting serious with CSS, then this extension is going to help you out. It runs CssLint inside Visual Studio to give you error messages that makes it easy to fix any rule violations.

Download: CssCop in the VS Gallery

Node.js Tools for Visual Studio

nodejsNTVS is a free, open source plugin that turns Visual Studio into a Node.js IDE. And it does a superb job at that. This gives you the power of Visual Studio for any Node.js development.

Download: NTVS on CodePlex

Chutzpah Test Adapter

imageA great extension for JavaScript unit testing. Chutzpah supports Jasmine, QUnit and Mocha tests inside Visual Studio and works from both the command line as well as inside VS.

Download: Chutzpah in the VS Gallery

Lua Test Adapter

imageIf you’re using Lua for your JavaScript unit tests, then this extension will integrate it directly into the Test Explorer in Visual Studio. It makes it really easy to execute tests all at once every time you build the project.

Download: Lua Test Adapter in the VS Gallery

Did I forget any extensions? Let me know in the comments below.

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Earlier this week we shipped Visual Studio 2013 Update 2 CTP 2. Gotta love that name. The previous CTP 1 release didn’t contain any web specific features, but CTP 2 is packed with web goodness. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Improvements to the LESS editor
    • Nested media queries
    • Named parameters
    • Selector interpolation
    • Go to definition for variables, mixins and @import
    • Many additional tweaks and fixes
  • A brand new SCSS editor
    • With all the bells and whistles you’d expect
  • A brand new JSON editor
    • Basic editor features. More to come in the final release
  • Knockout.js Intellisense updates
    • Nested view model support
    • KO comments
    • Fixes and tweaks
  • New URL picker for HTML, CSS, LESS and SCSS
  • Browser Link updates
    • HTTPS support
    • Static HTML source mapping
    • SPA support for mapping data
    • Auto-update mapping data
  • General updates, tweaks and fixes

Even though the release is “just” a CTP, all these features are very solid and of high quality. I can only recommend giving CTP 2 a try if you haven’t already. There is so much web development awesomeness in it.

Web Essentials doesn’t work with CTP 2

That’s right, Web Essentials 1.9 and earlier doesn’t work with CTP 2 due to API changes in Visual Studio. If you install Web Essentials on CTP 2 you will be greeted with this nice error message:

editorextensionspackage

The ‘EditorExtensionsPackage’ package did not load correctly. This makes little sense to most people, since it’s not very clear what EditorExtensionsPackage is. Well, it’s the original name of Web Essentials that never got changed as you can see here in the source code.

Download a compatible version

The open source community  around Web Essentials is working on a new release that is compatible with CTP 2 and beyond. It has not yet been released. When it’s released, it will only work on Update 2 CTP 2 and later. Because of the API changes, we haven’t been able to make it backwards compatible, unfortunately.

So, if you want to give CTP 2 a spin, then please try out the new nightly builds of Web Essentials. As an added benefit, the latest build also contains Intellisense improvements to the JavaScript editor as well as support for JsDoc comments.

Download Visual Studio Update 2 CTP 2
Download Web Essentials 2013 for CTP 2

I have yet to see any issues with the latest build of Web Essentials. Actually, several existing bugs have been fixed in that build.

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Optimizing for website performance includes setting long expiration dates on our static resources, such s images, stylesheets and JavaScript files. Doing that tells the browser to cache our files so it doesn’t have to request them every time the user loads a page. This is one of the most important things to do when optimizing websites.

In ASP.NET on IIS7+ it’s really easy. Just add this chunk of XML to the web.config’s <system.webServer> element:

<staticcontent>
  <clientcache cachecontrolmode="UseMaxAge" cachecontrolmaxage="365.00:00:00" />
</staticcontent>

The above code tells the browsers to automatically cache all static resources for 365 days. That’s good and you should do this right now.

The issue becomes clear the first time you make a change to any static file. How is the browser going to know that you made a change, so it can download the latest version of the file? The answer is that it can’t. It will keep serving the same cached version of the file for the next 365 days regardless of any changes you are making to the files.

Fingerprinting

The good news is that it is fairly trivial to make a change to our code, that changes the URL pointing to the static files and thereby tricking the browser into believing it’s a brand new resource that needs to be downloaded.

Here’s a little class that I use on several websites, that adds a fingerprint, or timestamp, to the URL of the static file.

using System; 
using System.IO; 
using System.Web; 
using System.Web.Caching; 
using System.Web.Hosting;

public class Fingerprint 
{ 
  public static string Tag(string rootRelativePath) 
  { 
    if (HttpRuntime.Cache[rootRelativePath] == null) 
    { 
      string absolute = HostingEnvironment.MapPath("~" + rootRelativePath);

      DateTime date = File.GetLastWriteTime(absolute); 
      int index = rootRelativePath.LastIndexOf('/');

      string result = rootRelativePath.Insert(index, "/v-" + date.Ticks); 
      HttpRuntime.Cache.Insert(rootRelativePath, result, new CacheDependency(absolute)); 
    }

      return HttpRuntime.Cache[rootRelativePath] as string; 
  } 
}

All you need to change in order to use this class, is to modify the references to the static files.

Modify references

Here’s what it looks like in Razor for the stylesheet reference:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="@Fingerprint.Tag("/content/site.css")" />

…and in WebForms:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="<%=Fingerprint.Tag(" />content/site.css") %>" />

The result of using the FingerPrint.Tag method will in this case be:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="/content/v-634933238684083941/site.css" />

Since the URL now has a reference to a non-existing folder (v-634933238684083941), we need to make the web server pretend it exist. We do that with URL rewriting.

URL rewrite

By adding this snippet of XML to the web.config’s <system.webServer> section, we instruct IIS 7+ to intercept all URLs with a folder name containing “v=[numbers]” and rewrite the URL to the original file path.

<rewrite>
  <rules>
    <rule name="fingerprint">
      <match url="([\S]+)(/v-[0-9]+/)([\S]+)" />
      <action type="Rewrite" url="{R:1}/{R:3}" />
    </rule>
  </rules>
</rewrite>

You can use this technique for all your JavaScript and image files as well.

The beauty is, that every time you change one of the referenced static files, the fingerprint will change as well. This creates a brand new URL every time so the browsers will download the updated files.

FYI, you need to run the AppPool in Integrated Pipeline mode for the <system.webServer> section to have any effect.