IntelliSense is a form of automated autocompletion popularized by the Microsoft Visual Studio Integrated Development Environment. It also serves as documentation and disambiguation for variable names, functions and methods using metadata reflection.Using IntelliSense is a convenient way to access descriptions of functions, particularly their parameter lists. It speeds up software development by reducing the amount of keyboard input required. It also allows less reference to external documentation as documentation on many functions appears with the function name.
The feature works by accessing an automatically generated in-memory database of classes, variable names and other constructs defined in or referenced by the application being edited. The "classic" implementation of IntelliSense works by detecting marker characters such as a period, which depend on the language used. As the user types one of these marker characters immediately after the name of an entity that has one or more accessible members, IntelliSense starts suggesting matches with a pop-up window. The user can either accept the suggestion by typing a statement completion character (<Tab> or <Enter> or a language-specific marker such as the semicolon for C++) or continue typing the name.
Eventually IntelliSense will determine exactly which variable or function the user desires, given enough information. The feature also allows the user to select from a number of overloaded functions in the case of languages that support object oriented programming. IntelliSense can also display a short description of a function in the pop-up window.
This feature was included in VB 5.0 and is found in all the latest versions of Visual Studio. IntelliSense supports C++, C#, J#, Visual Basic, XML, HTML and XSLT among others. Other Microsoft products that incorporate IntelliSense include FrontPage , the VBA IDEs in the Microsoft Office products and many others.
Example in C++
Assume an application has a class Foo with some member functions:
As soon as the user types the period after foo, IntelliSense automatically lists all the available member functions (i.e. bar() and foo_bar()). The user can then select one by using the arrow keys and hitting a completion character when the correct member function is highlighted. When available, IntelliSense displays a short description of the member function as given in the source code documentation.It goes further by indicating the required parameters in another pop-up window as the user fills in the parameters. As the user types a variable name, the feature also makes suggestions to complete the variable as they are typed. IntelliSense continues to show parameters, highlighting the pertinent one, as the user types.The user can "force" IntelliSense to show its pop-up list without context by using <Ctrl>+<space>.
IntelliSense was first introduced as a feature of a mainstream Microsoft product in 1996, with the Visual Basic 5.0 Control Creation Edition, which was essentially a publicly-available prototype for Visual Basic 5.0. Although initially the primary "test bed" for the technology was the Visual Basic IDE, IntelliSense was quickly incorporated into Visual FoxPro and Visual C++ in the Visual Studio 97 timeframe because it was based on the introspection capabilities of COM, the Visual Basic versions of IntelliSense were always more robust and complete than the 5.0 and 6.0 versions of Visual C++, which did not have the benefit of being entirely based on COM. These shortcomings have been largely corrected in the .NET product lines. For example, one of the most requested capabilities missing from the pre-.NET products was support for templates, which is now fully implemented.
IntelliSense has entered a new phase of development with the unified Visual Studio.NET environment first released in 2001, augmented by the more powerful introspection and code documentation capabilities provided by the .NET framework. As of Visual Studio 2005, IntelliSense is now activated by default when the user begins to type, instead of requiring marker characters. The IDE has the capability of inferring a greater amount of context based on what the developer is typing, to the point that basic language constructs such as for and while are also included in the choice list.
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