Delphi is a good language and Delphi IDE is a good development environment and together they make a good pair, but admit it - Delphi language is missing some modern language constructs (parameterized types, for example) and Delphi IDE can be rough at the edges. We can't do much about the former, but Delphi IDE can be greatly enhanced by installing third party add-ons (and great thanks to Borland/CodeGear for enabling us to do so).
Recently I've noticed that I can't really function well on a bare-bones IDE. I'm heavily dependent on three IDE extensions - GExperts, DDevExtensions, and ModelMaker Code Explorer. I decided to dedicate some blog space to them and describe what they do and why I like them.
It would take too much space to describe every aspect of those three add-ons, so I decided to focus on a navigation in a broad sense - moving inside unit, between units, between code and design view etc. Even more, I won't cover every navigational helper in those three, I'll just focus on the features I'm using regularly.
Delphi IDE has some neat navigation tools built in. First, there are markers. You can drop ten markers by pressing <Ctrl><Shift>number, where number is a numeric key from 0 to 9 (you don't have to use numeric keyboard keys, standard keyboard numbers will work just fine). By pressing <Ctrl>number you'll be transferred to the line containing the marker. To delete a marker you just press <Ctrl><Shift>number while the caret is positioned in the line containing the marker.
Another neat feature of the Delphi IDE is the ability to jump from method implementation to its declaration and back. The shortcut for this operation is <Ctrl><Shift><UpArrow> or <Ctrl><Shift><DownArrow> (both work the same).
When you want to find where some identifier is used (in current unit and in the rest of the project), you can use find references (<Ctrl><Shift><Enter>) command. I'm mentioning it here because you can also use it to jump to the place where the identifier is used.
I'm also using the unit list (<Ctrl><F12>) and form list (<Shift><F12>) regularly. First shows the list of units in the project and second the list of forms. Just double-click the unit/form or select it and press <Enter> and it will open in the IDE.
GExperts is a set of freeware experts that enhance Delphi IDE in various ways. Only small subset is connected to the navigation.
One of the most useful helpers is open file expert. Press the key (I have it configured to <Ctrl><Shift><Alt>O) and up pops a list of all files that are accessible from the current project. You can select the unit and press <Enter> to open it (alternatively you can double-click that unit) but before that you can - and that's even more important - start typing in the filter box and the expert will remove all non-matching units.
Another useful tool is procedure list expert. As the name suggests, it presents a list of methods in the current unit, which you can, of course, filter by typing. Double-click or <Enter> will beam you to the selected method.
GExperts also offers bunch of helpful editor experts. Locate matching delimiter (<Ctrl><Alt><LeftArrow>/<RightArrow>) jumps to a matching delimiter - from left to right bracket, from begin to end, from implementation to interface and so on. Locate previous/next identifier (<Ctrl><Alt><UpArrow>/<DownArrow>) locates previous/next occurrence of the identifier under the caret.
The last navigational help in the GExperts is hidden in the form designer pop-up menu. It is extended with the find component reference command. Right-click on a component or control and select this option and GExperts will bring up the editor, focused on the part where this component/control is declared. Or used for the first time in the code. Sometimes former and sometimes latter and I can never guess which one it will be.
DDevExtensions is developed by Andreas Hausladen, author of well-known DelphiSpeedUp. I'm mostly using it because it reconfigures the <Tab> key to indent a block of code and <Shift><Tab> to unindent it, but that's not a navigational extension so you can pretend you didn't hear that from me. It also implements smart home functionality. First time you press the <Home> key, caret will jump to the first column in the row. If you press the <Home> button again, caret will jump to the first non-blank character in that line. Useful.
DDevExtensions also redefines unit list and form list keyboard shortcuts so that display a list that can be filtered - similar to the GExeperts' open file expert.
ModelMaker Code Explorer
ModelMaker Code Explorer (or MMX as it is usually called between loving users) is one of the largest Delphi IDE add-ons on the market. Its most important functionality is refactoring - creating classes, fields, properties, and methods becomes lightingly fast with MMX - but it also offers some navigational functionality. MMX is not free like GExperts and DDevExtensions but I can assure you that it's worth every cent.
An important part of MMX interface is the Explorer window. It lists every class and method in the current unit, has movements synchronized with the editor and is filterable.
Similar to Delphi's find reference is find in module command (<Ctrl><Shift><Alt>F). It locates all occurrences of the identifier in the current module and uses tabbed interface to store old searches. Great advantage of MMX over Delphi is that it works in older IDEs and that it works on a non-compilable code.
MMX also offers extended up/down navigation. Delphi's shortcuts <Ctrl><Shift><UpArrow>/<DownArrow> are redefined to jump (in addition to the default behaviour) between propery declaration, its getter and setter, between constructors and destructors and between overloaded methods. Highly useful.
The last enhancement on my today's list is global history. MMX will automatically remember any method where you spent more than a few seconds. When you press the keyboard shortcut (I have it set to <Ctrl>` - the latter being the key left to the '0' key), MMX displays pop-up menu with most recently edited methods. Click one and you're instantly transferred there.
That's all by me, I've exhausted my knowledge. Here's where you, dear reader, can help. If you know a trick that I didn't mention or a helpful expert that I don't have installed, do tell me about it in the comments. You'll help me and other Delphi programmers.