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Organizing Your Project with the Solution Explorer

Solutions and projects hold forms and components like files in folders. In fact, solutions and projects are represented by folders in the Visual Studio Projects directory of your My Documents folder. The Solution Explorer is Visual Studio's tool that allows you to manage the files that make up your project.

If you envision your projects like folders, you can imagine that you would group like folders together in a folder one level up, right? That's what solutions do. They are both physically and logically exactly that — folders full of projects.

To open a file, double-click the file's icon or name. To rename, copy, or delete a file, right-click the file and choose the desired action from the context-sensitive menu that appears. In the Solution Explorer, you can also make new folders and move files into them, or right-click the project to make a new form or support file.

The buttons above the files themselves are the most significant part of the Solution Explorer. They are as follows, from left to right:

  • Properties: Opens the Properties window.
  • Show All Files: Shows hidden files. This is more significant in VB 2008 than before. Even more files are hidden from normal view.
  • Refresh: Checks the solution folder for new files that may have been added by another tool. This button is very handy when you're using third-party tools.
  • View Code: Opens the selected file in Code View.
  • View Designer: Opens the selected file in Design View.
  • View Class Diagram: Opens the selected file in Diagram View.

Visual Studio stores a lot of files that hold metadata about the project in the My Project folder in Solution Explorer. Metadata is information about data — in this case, extra information about your project. If you click the Show All Files button in Solution Explorer and expand My Project, you will see no fewer than seven files with information about your project. You won't need to edit these files often, but if you just can't find something, you might want to check them out.

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