During the last week of talking to quite a few Web developers at DevConnections who are doing JavaScript development and during my jQuery and WCF REST talks, a recurring question kept popping up. Why isn't there some way to get a list of functions in the Visual Studio JavaScript editor like in the other languages?

This is a fairly vital feature of a code editor, especially once you start writing a lot more client centric applications that have a fair bit of callback code that is maintained on the client. In fact, the question came up because I was scrolling rapidly over large amounts of code in several demos - or using trusty old CTRL-F - to jump to a given function in the code. In a demo that's annoying as heck, but it's also a problem during day to day development when you're working with more than a few JavaScript functions in a source .js file; client side code accumulates fast, even if you do little more than handle a few client side callbacks.

C# and VB both have class and member drop downs at the top of the code editor:


There are also document outlines for the HTML and CSS editors, class editors for C# and VB,  but unfortunately there's nothing along these lines available in the Visual Studio JavaScript editor.

I've begged for this feature for a while and it's always been declined as a low priority issue, which I find surprising because to me at least it's pretty high on the productivity list.

I realize that JavaScript parsing and displaying reliable class information is a pretty difficult process. JavaScript's Function based Closure/Class model makes it pretty difficult to figure out exactly what constitutes a function and what constitutes a class. The same issue also applies to the JavaScript Intellisense in Visual Studio which - although pretty good - also misses quite a few scenarios for finding embedded functions and classes and so often provides incomplete information.

There are alternatives though. I've been using Aptana off and on and it does support function and class outlining:


As nice as the class view is in Aptana, it's also not perfect. It too misses things. For example, pointing Aptana at the jQuery library also doesn't capture most of the jQuery wrapped set handling functions. As a developer who lives most of the day in Visual Studio I also find the way that Intellisense and the editor in general behaves is a little foreign and I would much prefer to work in VS than another huge external environment.

Still when I'm working on large libraries like the code above or on complex pages that have more than 10 functions on them I tend to switch to using Aptana, simply because I do a lot of jumping back and forth that is much easier to do in this environment than Visual Studio.

So, am I the only one who doesn't see this as a low priority scenario for JavaScript support in Visual Studio? Seems to me this is a vital feature that is incredibly useful for anything but simple JavaScript development.

What do you think?