We recommend using Visual Studio Code (VSCode) for doing the programming assignments in CS559. For other suggestions, see the Tools page.
It is worth investing your time in learning to use good tools (like VSCode).
Why I recommend VSCode:
- VSCode integrates syntax and style checkers (linters) so you see potential problems in your code immediately.
- VSCode is infinitely configurable. If there’s something you don’t like about it, you can probably change it.
- VSCode has a very active community building various extensions. I am always finding new gadgets that make programming better.
- VSCode has an interface to GIT.
The features are really helpful for learning. They catch mistakes. Tooltips that pop up when you look at a function call give you documentation which saves you from having to remember what all the functions are (and having to do a web search each time you want to do something). It’s so easy to do a commit to GIT, that you can do it more often. And so on.
Of course, there are downsides. With all of its features, there is a lot to learn (of course, you could start with just using the basic stuff). Also, with all of its extensibility and options, it can be hard to set up. Getting the right extensions and getting all the setting right can be tricky. But when it works, it can be pretty cool.
To get started with it:
- look at the “Interactive Playground” (under help) to learn some ideas of cool things VSCode can do
- You will want to have Node and npm installed. It’s probably better to install Node first (so VSCode can find it). Even if you don’t use Node, VSCode will. And the Node package manager (npm) is the best (only?) way to get tools like jshint or eslint.
- The “LiveServer” extension is very helpful – this will set up a local host server that will make it easier to try stuff out. LiveServer puts its service on port 5500 – the default VSCode debugging works on a different port (you may want to edit your “launch.json” file – which is automatically created by VSCode). Documentation is at https://ritwickdey.github.io/vscode-live-server/
- The debugger defaults to always wanting to debug “index.html” (so if you have multiple html pages in one directory, this can be challenging).
- Be sure to install the extension that enables debugging for the browser that you intend to use. There are extensions for Chome and Firefox.
- If you are using the CSL computers in the CS computing labs… You can install VSCode to your CS user account. The trick is to download the “VSCodeUserSetup” (assuming you’re installing on Windows). This puts things in your home directory (under AppData) – so you have your own copy. Performance may not be great (since your home directory migrates to the file server).
- You need to make sure to start the “live server” – there’s a button that appears in the blue bar at the bottom of VSCode. You may get an error about the firewall, but it should work (even with the firewall) for localhost. Sometimes the button to start “Live Server” (at the bottom of the screen) is missing (it only appears if Visual Studio Code thinks you’re working on a web page project). If the folder has an index.html file, restarting VSCode usually does the trick. Also, “Start Live Server” is usually in some menu.
- Starting the debugger (using “launch”) can be tricky if the browser is already running (you need to “attach” rather than “launch”). If you want to have your already running chrome talk to VSCode, you need to run it with the right options. See the documentation for the VSCode chrome debugger.
- Make sure that you have GIT set up correctly (with public keys) if you want to do GIT from inside VSCode.