August 06, 2009

Visualize Your Data!

You may or may not know that VS comes with a Data Visualizer (since version 2005). This handy utility lets you see data in datasets while you’re debugging – a common requirement when working on data-intensive apps. You simply hover over the dataset and click the magnifying glass to bring it up.

Like many stock components, it's useful, but in my experience is pretty unstable and often returns unhandled exceptions. It’s also somewhat limited because you can only view a single table at a time.

I have found a much better tool called Righthand Dataset Debugger Visualizer. Go
here to see screenshots and download it.

This little utility rocks! On the left-hand side of the screen, you’ll see a tree view of the dataset objects: the dataset at the top level, then each table and for each table, its related tables, and so on. What I needed it for was to be able to see tables and related tables in a data set while debugging. In this tool, you can click on a data row, expand it, and then see all the related data rows.

In addition to all that, you can do things like sort and group data as well as add rows or edit data right from the tool UI. Another cool feature: you can filter the dataset data source to see only new rows, only modified rows, etc. This data visualizer is available for both VS 2005 and 2008 and is tops on my list of utilities that help me get my job done.