Enable the Expression Tree Visualizer in VS 2008 by ThinqLinq

Enable the Expression Tree Visualizer in VS 2008

In LINQ in Action, we discuss how to add the LINQ to SQL Query visualizer into the Visual Studio 2008 environment. This tool allows you to open a window during debug time to view the TSQL that is generated from the LINQ expression tree. It also allows you to run the query and view the results. If you're not familiar with it, check out this post by Scott Guthrie.

In addition to the query visualizer, you can also build and install the Expression Tree visualizer, not only as a separate application, but also as an integrated visualizer within Visual Studio 2008. To do this, download the Linq Samples from MSDN Code gallery. Inside of that, you can find a project for the ExpressionTreeVisualizer.  To use it as a stand alone utility, build and run the ExpressionTreeVisualizersApplication. This is the method most people are familiar with.

Building the solution will also build the ExpressionTreeVisualizer library. This is the one you need to use to enable it in Visual Studio natively, copy the generated ExpressionTreeVisualizer.dll library and paste it into your ..\Program Files\Microsoft Visual Studio 9.0\Common7\Packages\Debugger\Visualizers directory.

Once you have placed the library in the visualizers directory, let's see what you can do to use the new visualizer . First, let's build a LINQ to SQL query:


Dim query = From cust In dc.Customers _
            Where cust.City = "London" _
            Order By cust.CompanyName _
            Select cust
Given this query, we need to access the expression object exposed by the IQueryable query object as follows:

Dim queryExpression = query.Expression

Now, that we have our code set-up, set a breakpoint in your code after you have instantiated this queryExpression variable and debug your project. Now, if you hover over the query.Expression method, you'll see a new magnifying glass as shown below:

 

Clicking on the visualizer icon, will launch the visualizer tool revealing the following screen:

 

Sure, there's lots of information in there. The expression trees are quite complex. This tool helps you decipher them in cases where you need to either parse or dynamically create expression trees in your applications.

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