Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Microsoft loves you – three free tools

Sometimes it is not easy to refrain from posting links instead of original content :) But there are three recently released tools that richly deserve advertising.

Framework Design Studio allows comparing different versions of the same managed library (in binary form). You can filter the interface content being compared, comment on the differences and save the output as MS Word 2007 document.

I have tested the application a little, and it packs surprising amount of functionality. One thing to be aware of is that the user interface is somewhat quirky, so make sure you read the manual before using the app (manual docx is installed as part of the application package).

Typical usage for the app would be to compare new version of third party (meaning only binary is available) library with previous version, in order to discover the changes to interface. Another application I could think of would be to produce sort of release document to be distributed with the new versions of given library (since FDS allows commenting the differences and produces very nicely formatted Word document – beats documenting interfaces changes manually).

VSCT Power Toy is a small application that Visual Studio package developers will kill for. It retrieves command tables (including all ids) from VS packages or VS registry, and even nicely formats it for copy/paste to .vsct file. Anyone who did it without this app can appreciate the difference (look at my previous post if you want to get a feeling). I practically drooled all over the screen with this tool running

Patterns & Practices Documentation Tools is set of instruments Patterns & Practices team uses to create documentation. The tools are Word 2007 (English only) template with macro and associated toolbar to create well-formatted content and PowerShell scripts to convert the document authored through template to HTML, CHM or HxS. I did test the template, and the process of authoring document appears to be pretty smooth. The converters, on the other side, require bunch of things to be installed (in addition to PowerShell). But if you look at P&P produced documents, the result probably worth some extra work.

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