VB Swiss Army Knife

Filed under Utilities, VB Feng Shui

VB has one of the best IDE’s around. Sure Eclipse is pretty capable, Delphi is quite slick, and for the purists, editors like SlickEdit can make you almost believe you’re coding in an IDE.

But VB’s IDE is the one to beat. And it has been since VB3.

But even the best have issues; mistakes, ommisions, things that jsut could have been so much better.

And that’s where MZTools comes in.

If you haven’t already played with it, download a copy and install it now. Carlos originally built MZTools for VB6 way back when, and that version was (and still is) a free utility. He’s branched out to supporting Visual Studio .NET now, and the newest version is not free, but it is worth every penny.

Take a look at the features page for version 3 (which supports VB6). The Code Review, Code Templates, and Error Handler Templates are gauranteed to save tons of time.

Personally, I don’t like his line numbering support. I feel like the line number applied to a line should be the same as the actual line number in the file, as reported by the VB6 editor, like this:

That way, you don’t have to retain the numbered version of the source to be able to refer back to a specific line number. However, this is a pretty minor nitpick.

In short, MZTools is a massively handy utility to have on you’re VB menu bar. Definitely for VB6 (cause it’s, well, free), and worthy of consideration for .NET.


  1. Ralf says:

    Agreed; VB’s IDE is wonderful. More importantly it’s STABLE. Playing with the (agonizingly slow) VS2005 interface reminds me of that everytime I am prompted to send an error report to Microsoft.

    In fact everything (slothlike, snail-torturing) VS2005 does well is a nod to the old VB6 interface. It amuses me that stop-edit-and-continue didn’t exist until, what, VS2003? That’s a feature I remember from VB3 days, and I *think* VB2 even had it.

    Thanks for reminding me of the MZTools. A well-crafted package, and the price is right. The author has an uncanny way of targeting shortcomings in the IDE and addressing them simply.

    For code snippets and such I use a combination of freeware: PhraseExpress and StrokeIt. Auto-expanding keywords hooked up to a huge library of my often-used code is a great time saver. They’re not VB-specific tools, but that can be an advantage too, like for when I wnat to email blocks of code to somebody.

  2. Darin says:

    Hi Ralf
    I finally finished with my real work and got a chance to check out PhraseExpress and StrokeIt.

    Holy cow! I’ve never heard of either of those tools but wow! Esp PhraseExpress

    I could see StrokeIt being handy eventually, but it’d take some getting used to.

    My favorite general purpose clipboard/paste phrase utility has been ClipCache, but PhraseExpress might replace it.

    The only thing I see so far is there’s no way to "disable" a phrase or folder without actually deleting it. Yeah, ok, I’m nitpicking.

    Many thanks for the pointers.

  3. Ralf says:

    Re: PhraseExpress

    I’ve had a few email exchanges with the author(?) who has been extremely polite and helpful. I suggested a few things that would make PE a better tool for developers, but clearly that’s not their intended market. I was very politely shrugged off. 🙂

    To make it work better with the VB6 IDE, I set the threshold for using the clipboard (instead of sendkeys) to *1* character. That preserves any tab-indented formatting in the phrase. Otherwise you end up with pasted code that

    His suggested to preserve formatting was to embed {TAB} escapes throughout my phrase, which struck me as silly. Yeah, it WORKS, and I suppose I could define a {TAB} phrase and bind it to the tab key for PE only, but Rube Goldberg’s specter already haunts me five days a week. Please, give the guy some rest.

    But since the clipboard trick works great I’ve stopped there.

    Re: StrokeIt

    I am not a mouse gestury person. I worry about sneezing in the middle of a phrase and turning a thousand lines of code into sanskrit. Having said that, I have a few gestures bound to the IDE that save time:

    Stroke Right = SHIFT+F2 (jump to a reference)
    Stroke Left = CTRL+SHIFT+F2 (jump back to the last edit)
    Stroke up = SHIFT+F7 (to show a parent form while looking at its code)

    And that’s it. Some of the sample templates include enough carpel tunnel fodder to make an orchestral conductor hide under their podium, but please stay away. Far away.

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