As Microsoft continues to develop Visual Studio .NET, it's easy to find that you're not using some features to their fullest. For that matter, you might not even know the full potential of a particular feature. In this article, you'll discover all the benefits of Server Explorer, including the biggest one: letting Visual Studio .NET 2003 helping you write less code.
Generally, you'll find Server Explorer tucked away on the left side of your display. (This feature isn't available to developers who have the older versions of Visual Studio .NET installed.) Simply click on the double computer icons, and you'll see Server Explorer pop up from its hiding place. Use the View, Solution Explorer command to display Server Explorer if you don't find it on the left side of the IDE.
Hidden Secrets of Server Explorer
Server Explorer is one of the best features that Microsoft has added to the Visual Studio IDE over the years. Unfortunately, many developers still don't understand that the essential purpose of this feature is to free them from performing some tasks outside the IDE. Figure 1 shows a typical Server Explorer view. Notice that you have access to database connectivity through explicit connections (an Access database, in this case) or implicit connections (a SQL Server database accessed through its server connection).
Figure 1 Server Explorer provides access to a number of resources.
However, database connectivity is just the tip of the Server Explorer iceberg. For example, if you have Crystal Reports installed, you can create a report directly from Server Explorer. You'll also find that Server Explorer comes in handy for working with the event logs, message queues, performance counters, and services on any machine that you can access and have rights to work with. I stress the fact that you need the required access and permissions because even the Visual Studio IDE can't bypass security.
Right-clicking the various entries is helpful because you might find that you can perform a task that normally requires a trip to the server. For example, you can stop and start services on another machine using Server Explorer. The context menu you see when you right-click contains all of the required entries.
The Properties window changes to match whatever object you click on within Server Explorer and provides you with information about that object. For example, you can see the setup and requirements for a service. You might need to know that the SQLSERVERAGENT service depends on the MSSQLSERVER service for support. The icons within Server Explorer tell you when Windows has started the service so that you don't try to test an application when the service is down.
The Performance Counters tree is also quite helpful. For example, you can drill down to the Processor object and determine whether a server has multiple processors. A server with multiple processors has a counter entry for each processor, along with the _Total counter. Go to the Process\% Processor Time entry, and you'll find a list of counters for each active process on the system. This list lets you monitor which processes are running and tells you how many resources the process uses.