Consultant's guide to legacy development.

Being a consultant, once in a while I have to forgo the modern niceties of OOP, Reflection, Refactoring, etc... and jump into the client's old Visual Basic 6 code.  But the experience doesn't have to be crappy - there are a lot of free add-ins that extend in VB in various ways and speed up development.  This is the list of tools that I typically install to be productive.

  • Microsoft Virtual PC 2007.  You can't have all that COM junk funking up your consulting laptop.  I have a Windows 2000 Professional virtual machine that has all the VB6 goodness installed on it.  For these days, Win2k is unbelievably lean.  The entire OS install, all the patches, plus all the dev tools you need typically weigh in at no more than 3-4 GB.  The price: free.
  • VMware Workstation or VMware Player.  Same as above, but if you have to work with hardware (like USB devices or comm ports), this is your best bet, as Microsoft's tool does not support anything external really.  VMware Workstation prices range, while the VMware Player is free.
  • Collection Class Master Add-in.  The VB6 strongly typed collection generator.  Originally written by Francesco Balena, the tool is invaluable to OCD types like myself.
  • VB6 Mouse Wheel fix.  It's not like the mice did not have mouse wheels when VB6 came out in 1997.  But for some reason, the support did not come in the box.  The mouse wheel was only useful if you bought an MS mouse and installed the Intellimouse drivers.  That insanity came to an abrupt end, when Rob Gruen of Microsoft came up with an add-in that fixed all that.  Price: free.
  • PDSA Property Creator.  A total convenience tool - it does one thing and one thing only: create properties.  Sure, VB ships with a wizard that is supposed to do the same thing, but it sucks.  This one sucks a lot less.  Written by a well known author Paul Sheriff.  Price: free.
  • MZTools.  When VB6 was in its prime, this was the add-in to have.  That has not changed.  It's got a lot of convenience tools, it's got some refactoring tools (except we didn't it "refactoring" back then), plus some statistical analysis and auto documentation support.  Price: free.
  • ADO Stored Proc Generator Add-in. A simple VB6 add-in that generates the mindless stored procedure wrapper code.  Sweet.
  • Make VB6 Dialog Boxes larger.  This is literally a gift to those who long suffered with the ridiculously small References dialog, which is so small that you can never actually see the path of the DLL that you are referencing.  Thank you Larry!!!