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Visual Studio
VS 2003+

Visual Studio Tab Groups

When developing applications and libraries, it can be useful to view several editor or designer windows simultaneously. For example, you may wish to show a form's design and code as the same time. This is made possible using Visual Studio tab groups.

Tab Groups

Visual Studio's tab groups feature allows you to split the editing area of the development environment into two or more zones. Each area contains the controls that would expect to see when using a single editing area, including the tabs at the top of the screen that permit switching between files. The split-screen view allows several different editors to be viewed and manipulated simultaneously. This is ideal when you wish to view a form's designer and its code at the same time, as pictured below, if you want to refer to a class diagram whilst modifying code, or if you just wish to edit multiple files concurrently.

When working with tab groups, each group is much smaller than when using a single group. This can be prohibitive if you have a low screen resolution. The problem is lessened somewhat when combining tab groups with full screen mode.

Creating Tab Groups

Tab groups can be created using either a horizontal or vertical split. Horizontal tab groups have a horizontal splitter and their windows are shown one above the other. Vertical tab groups permit editors and designers to be displayed side by side. In either case, the windows are separated by a grey bar that can be dragged to resize the editing areas.

To use tab groups, you must first have two or more tabs visible in the main editing window. You can then select either "New Horizontal Tab Group" or "New Vertical Tab Group" from the Window menu. If you prefer to use context-sensitive menus, right-click a tab and select one of the options. Alternatively, you can drag a tab into the middle of an editing area to show the two layout options.

The diagram below shows a horizontal tab group layout with one tab in the upper window and two in the lower area.

Visual Studio Tab Groups

Moving Tabs and Creating Additional Tab Groups

Once the screen is split into two tab groups, newly opened files are added to the currently selected group. However, you can redistribute the editors by simply dragging a tab from one group to another. If you drop the tab onto the area where tabs are normally displayed, it will be added to the target group. If you move the tab to the lower portion of an editor window, you will see a grey box appear. Dropping the tab in this area creates another new tab group, allowing you to split the screen into more regions.

Closing Tab Groups

When you no longer require a tab group you can remove it in one of two manners. Firstly, if you do not need to leave the group's windows open, simply close every editor and designer in the group. When the last window is closed, the tab group is removed. If you do wish to continue working with the editors, drag all of the tabs into the same group. When the last tab is moved from a tab group, the group is closed automatically.

8 March 2009