Setting Up Visual Studio Code

Page content

Visual Studio Code is becoming a standard text editor for developers.

Software Ethics and Visual Studio Code

The Microsoft releases of Visual Studio Code are proprietary software. They have telemetry enabled by default. If you prefer to avoid proprietary software, consider using the packages that are provided by the vscodium project instead.

Both Visual Studio Code and a number of extensions use telemetry. Always review the documentation for an extension before you install it, and look for notes about telemetry.

Installing Visual Studio Code

Installing Code on macOS

To install Visual Studio Code on macOS with Homebrew, enter this command in a terminal window:

brew cask install visual-studio-code

If you manually install Visual Studio Code, rather than using Homebrew, you will need to add the code executable to your PATH. To do this, start Visual Studio Code, open the command palette, and choose Shell Command: Install ‘code’ command in PATH.

Installing Visual Studio Code to a USB Drive

To run Visual Studio Code directly from a USB device, without installing it on the computer, use portable mode.

The EDITOR Environment Variable

Remember to set the EDITOR environment variable in your shell profile, so that this editor is automatically invoked by command-line tools like your version control system.

To make Visual Studio Code your default editor, use this line:

export EDITOR="code -w"

Disabling Telemetry

Visual Studio Code enables telemetry by default, and connects to remote services for various features, such as natural language search in settings. The FAQ explains how Code complies with the GDPR.

To disable telemetry and crash reporting, set these options in Preferences > Settings:

"telemetry.enableTelemetry": false,
"telemetry.enableCrashReporter": false

To see settings for online services, search for @tag:usesOnlineServices in Preferences > Settings.

Microsoft also add telemetry to some of their extensions to Visual Studio Code. This means that you must check the description of each extension to know whether it will send data to Microsoft, even if you have disabled telemetry for Visual Studio Code itself.

Third-party extensions may also send telemetry data. Check the specific settings that each extension uses, because settings may not be correctly tagged.

Enabling Bracket Pair Colorizing

This feature was added in version 1.6.0. It supersedes plugins for the same purpose.

This feature automatically sets colors for matching brackets.

To enable it, add this setting:

"editor.bracketPairColorization.enabled": true

Enabling Formatting on Save

Visual Studio Code automatically recognises if a formatter is available for the type of file that you are currently editing. The Format Document command runs the appropriate formatter on the current file.

To automatically format files on save, enable this setting:

"editor.formatOnSave": true

Adding Extensions for Programming Languages

Visual Studio Code includes support for JavaScript, TypeScript and Node.js. To add support for other programming languages, install the extension for the languages that you would like to use.

For UNIX shell scripts, use the Shellcheck extension. Run this command to add Shellcheck:

code --install-extension timonwong.shellcheck

You will need to install Shellcheck into the environment to use all of the features of this extension.

Consider Enabling Inlay Hints for JavaScript and TypeScript

This feature was added in version 1.6.0.

Inlay hints add additional inline information to source code. This feature is subject to change.

Read the blog post for more details:

Setting up Collaborative Editing with Live Share

Use the Live Share service for collaborative editing between copies of Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code.

This service is proprietary, but free of charge. It requires you to use an official build of Visual Studio Code.


Extensions for Writing

Extensions for Software Development

Extensions for DevOps