Using a ToDo list more effectively

Have you ever had the need to place a TODO in your code? I’m sure we’ve all done so, for some reason or another. Normally it’s just a temporary reminder that we’ll get back to after finishing off something else, in an attempt to avoid breaking the expensive flow we get our minds into when writing code.

Similar to comments however, TODO’s are only valuable if they have meaningful information, and much like comments, we developers, aren’t necessarily to attentive to such things. A TODO can be a bug, a code smell, an optimization or even a feature that would need to be logged. As such, it would be more valuable if things TODO’s were defined correctly, something that doesn’t often happen (specially when considering the whole flow thing…). That translates into expecting TODO’s inline with:

// TODO: this needs cleaning up

// FEATURE: Need to add support for XYZ

but in turn we get:

// this is some stinky piece of code

// ultimately we need to support feature XYZ

// this code smells worse than a dark alley next to a Club on a Sunday morning

The problem with this, apart from the inconsistency that can cause you sleepless nights, is that things can get lost. The TaskList feature in Visual Studio requires these kind of comments to follow a certain pattern, and even when that occurs, the way they are presented leaves a bit to be desired.


[Visual Studio Task List]

Enhancing ToDo’s

ReSharper ToDo management adds several benefits over Visual Studio’s built-in. But before we see these, let’s first examine how we can solve the previous problem. To recall, what we want to do is be able to support multiple formats when it comes to defining comments, so // TODO: fix this and // add this to the list of ToDo’s to fix both would appear under the list of ToDo’s.

Fortunately, the way ReSharper allows us to define ToDo items make this very simple. First, in order to access the definitions, we go to ReSharper| Options | ToDo Items


Selecting any of the items (for instance the first one) and double-clicking or clicking on Edit, we get the definition dialog box:


As opposed to the default Visual Studio, with ReSharper we use regular expression. This provides us with the flexibility required. The above example for instance is telling ReSharper to search for any pattern that contains the word TODO in it. By default, normally these patterns are searched for in comments, although we can optionally look in strings and identifiers too. We do not have to worry about defining case-sensitivity in the regular expression. Instead we can just mark the Case sensitive checkbox if we require it. Finally, we can define the color and icon we want displayed when viewing the list of items (which we’ll see later on).

Adding new Items

By default, out of the box, ReSharper comes with four items (Todo, Bug, Note and NotImplemented). We can easily extend this to offer support for other items such as identifying code smells, features, etc. Easiest way is to simply click on an existing item and Duplicate it:


Searching and Filtering Items

Having the items defined, we can now display a list of them by invoking the Todo Items Explorer from ReSharper | Tools | To-do Items, or pressing Ctrl+Alt+D (VS Scheme)


The advantage of course is that it is not required for items to begin with a certain word, as this can be in any position of the string. ReSharper also allows us to filter items so that we can focus on a specific type of task by using the Filter option:


which can also be customized using under Tools | Options (accessible too from the To-do Explorer [icon to the left of Filter]). Last but not least, we can also group items by a variety of options, from namespaces to projects, to types, etc.


Now that’s what I call a colorful, albeit long list of tasks!

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