My Visual Studio workflow when working on web applications

I use IIS Express for majority of my ASP.NET development. Generally I prefer not to restart IIS Express because it may take some time to load big application again. Unfortunately Visual Studio is eager to close IIS Express after you finish debugging. In past, there were some tips on how to prevent such behavior, for instance Edit and Continue should be disabled, and then IIS Express stayed after having finished debugging. I observed after Visual Studio 2015 Update 2 this no longer works. But there is yet another way to preserve IIS Express. We must not stop debugging, but detach the debugger instead in order to accomplish this. I prefer creating custom toolbar button:

Right click on toolbar Customize Commands tab Toolbar Debug Add command Debug Detach all

An important caveat is also to use Multiple startup projects configured in the solution properties. A web application typically consists of many projects, so it is convenient to run them all at once.

Having IIS Express continuously running in the background I would like to introduce how to quickly start debugging. Here I also prefer custom toolbar button:

Right click on toolbar Customize Commands tab Toolbar Standard Add command Debug Attach to process

Or even better, keyboard binding:

Tools Options Environment Keyboard Debug.AttachtoProcess

And now we face the most difficult part: choosing correct iisexpress.exe process. It is likely there will be a few of them. We can search for the PID manually by right clicking IIS Express icon Show All applications and we can view the PID. But this may drive you crazy as you have to do this many times. I recommend simple cmd script which invokes PowerShell command to query WMI:

@echo off
powershell.exe -Command "Get-WmiObject Win32_Process -Filter """CommandLine LIKE '%%webapi%%' AND Name = 'iisexpress.exe'""" | Select ProcessId | ForEach { $_.ProcessId }"

Here I am searching for the process whose path contains “webapi” string. I have to use triple quotes and double percent signs because that is how cmd’s escaping works. The final pipe to ForEach is not necessary, it serves the purpose of formatting the output to raw number, not a fragment of a table. I always have running cmd window so I put this little script into PATH variable and I can view desired PID instantaneously. By the way, Windows Management Instrumentation is tremendously powerful interface for obtaining information about anything in the operating system.

Knowing the PID you can scroll down the process list by simply pressing i letter and then you can visually distinguish the instance with a relevant PID.

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