Total .NET XRef

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Optimized for Microsoft Visual Studio .NETTotal .NET XRef for Visual Studio Code Cross-Reference

Review: Understand Your Variables

Visual Studio Magazine, Andy Clark November 2003

Total .NET XRef

Total .NET XRef from FMS is a simple-cross referencing tool that helps you understand complex VB.NET and C# code. Cross-referencing tools show you where your source code uses variables and other code items. Total .NET XRef provides on-demand cross-referencing that integrates fully into VS.NET.

XRef's straightforward installation procedure adds a tool window to your projects that shows where your code references variables—including line number, file, namespace, class, member, and character position. It also previews the line where it locates the match and indicates the type of match. The tool window is completely dockable: You can close it when you're not using it and redisplay it from the Tools menu.

You simply highlight a variable, right-click on it, and select XRef to examine how your code uses it. Total .NET XRef then compiles a list showing every line that uses the variable and places the list in the tool window, where you can click on any line to see how you've used the variable throughout the project.

XRef doesn't do a simple search for the variable name. When you work with a simple search, you see all references to a given string value, and it's up to you to know which references are pertinent to your current problem. In contrast, XRef ensures you're examining the same data item. For example, if you do an XRef on a local variable named Counter, you see only the use of this local variable, not local variables by the same name in different methods or other items with the same name.

Total .NET XRef also allows you to sort, group, and filter its results. It works with parameters, fields, properties, constructors, classes, modules, namespaces, operators, methods, and several other code elements in addition to variables. It includes an option for exporting a tool window to an HTML file for printing, but I was unable to get this feature to work.

A minor limitation of Total .NET XRef is it works only with a solution that compiles cleanly and only with one item at a time. It would be great if it could let you parse your solution completely and deliver an exhaustive cross-reference. Such an option would help you verify naming conventions and check for spelling errors. I found FMS' technical support to be competent, but a little slow.

A cross-referencing tool such as Total .NET XRef can be vital to supporting large, complex systems, and a lifesaver when you maintain other people's code. You can make changes with fewer unintended side effects when you can see every place where the code uses a data item. If you work with heavily used module-level variables or find yourself changing frequently used methods, XRef can help you avoid making serious mistakes.

About the Author

Andy Clark is a consultant with iGate Inc. in the Richmond, Va., area. He holds PMP, MCSD, and SJCP certifications. Reach him at

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