Although many SharePoint developers working with SP2010 are now aware of how
useful vital CKS:Dev is, I fear that far fewer are also using John Holliday’s excellent CAML.Net Intellisense. I love this project so much I decided to contribute. If you’re not aware of the tool, the idea is to make it easier to work with the many XML files involved with SharePoint development. It does this by providing detailed documentation “as you type” on the many XML attributes and elements, which so often you’d have open in a separate browser window onto the MSDN docs. There are two huge benefits here:
- The documentation is generally much more detailed than MSDN. It’s clear that John has spent hours on this.
- The documentation is right there in Visual Studio, right where you’re working.
- Additionally, many nodes have direct links into the corresponding detail page on MSDN – so if you do want more detail, you don’t even have to GoogleBing it.
CAML.Net Intellisense existed for SharePoint 2007 development, but John has done a great job rolling things forward for 2010. The tool is now WPF-based and provides a rich (and striking) presentation of the documentation – here’s me working in a file declaring a list instance:
The tool works across most aspects of SharePoint XML schema, so you get support for declaring Features, fields, content types, modules and so on. Although I’ve typed the first few characters in the screenshot above, the dialog actually appears as soon as you hit space so it’s great for discovering which attributes/child elements hang off the current node.
I did some beta testing on the tool before it was released, and noticed some areas such as the Feature upgrade schema which didn’t have documentation. John was open to me adding these, so after a couple of nights of XSD editing the Intellisense is now useful here too - Here’s me editing a Feature.xml file:
..and showing some other elements:
Don’t stop me now!
If I was reading this post, I’d be saying “Yeah, you know this type of thing is great and everything, but they always slow Visual Studio down. And that makes me mad!”. John mentioned in an e-mail that a design goal for CAML.Net Intellisense was to have zero performance impact on the developer experience – it’s astonishingly fast, and just doesn’t get in the way at all. On that basis, I see no reason why every SharePoint developer shouldn’t install it as a core tool. John’s done a great job and I’m happy to contribute in some minor way. In the future I might look at the giant undertaking of documenting the ribbon schema, but secretly I’m hoping Wictor (or someone else) gets there before me ;)