Benefits of using .NET Source code – Why you should enable Visual Studio Reference Source access!

If you are a developer and wondering what this means or if you still haven’t enabled source access, then this is for you!

You should be knowing that as part Open Source initiative you have get access to .Net Source code (yes! that’s right & this is more than an year old news.)

Also there are articles from gurus like ScottGu and Shawn Burke on how to enable this and get the source code to your system so that you can play with it.

I don’t want to talk about that here. But I know many (a lot) of my peers (and maybe you too) have not done this till now. Let me just list down what all one stands to learn and benefit by getting the .NET source code. If you think “Nah, I’m just new to development and the source code may go overboard for me!” then you should read this..

A little intro how this whole thing works. You have two options to get the source code,

  1. Configuring Visual Studio Reference Source access so that you get the source code on demand from Microsoft reference source server while working
  2. Use this mass downloader tool (also available at CodePlex) to get the complete (almost all) .NET source code for offline access :)

Finally, the benefits…

1. Debug the .NET Framework source code

You always wanted to know how a control as complex and robust as the GridView is implemented in all its respects. Now you can! Set a breakpoint in your application, load the symbols, and step into the framework and experience the code firsthand along with .net runtime.

2. Build better applications

With the understanding of the underlying code and it’s execution, will enable you to develop modules with more sense that will translate into better applications

3. Do it with style and get to understand best practices

Reading (or debugging) through the .net framework will reveal to you a host of best practices and not-to-dos when developing an application. This will enhance and perfect one’s development skills and practices.

4. Know the reason behind all those backward compatibility features, deprecations and weird method signatures

When I said .Net source code it is the exact (more or less) lines of code written by real people – i.e. you get to see the inline comments and method headers, etc with all the reasons behind the existence (or not that of) a particular method or a line of code.

5. For students: learn through example

Always in engineering studies as a student you get to see mostly theoretical way of very common and crucial modules like memory allocation, garbage collection and other components of compilers and runtime engines. Now, you get to experience it first hand with real code!

I guess this should be really good enough to get things started for you. If all this didn’t convince you still or you feel something very important that I left out, comment back.

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