Microsoft Visual Studio Code Live Share - Collaborative Coding Extension

Microsoft Visual Studio Code Live Share extension allows for sharing our VS Code editor easily with others. This collaborative experience is great for code reviews, troubleshooting, and learning environments. Live Share makes it easy to work together on the same code without the issue of setting up different environments or OS issues.

Episode Transcription

Welcome back to The Byte, just made it back from San Francisco, struggling with a little jet lag. I'm sure everyone understands this. In this episode, we're going to talk about Microsoft Visual Studio Live Share. Live Share is a code collaboration tool which allows us to invite people to Microsoft Visual Studio Code, to actually review our code, actually interact with the code. So we can actually see multiple different cursors moving, and we can invite people to our server, we can share our terminals. I mean we can really do a lot of information. We can do a lot of collaboration with this.

Now typically people use screen sharing, or talk over the phone, or sending screenshots, and I find Visual Studio Live Share is actually much more collaborative. Because you can actually spawn a call within Live Share. So you can actually have a Skype call going, while you're doing Live Share, and you can actually do live debugging, you can do a collaboration, you can do actually code review. And I quite like it, personally, for doing training. Teaching people how to use something remotely. They can log in, they can see the link, they can actually interact with the code, they can see what I'm doing, how I'm executing things. So it brings a whole new use case to collaboration with editors.

Now Live Share is just an extension within Microsoft Visual Studio Code. And you install it like any other extension, you go to extensions, search for Live Share, install it. And you have to connect it to some sort of authentication provider. So I connected mine to GitHub, it's owned by Microsoft anyway, so no problem. And from there, you can then collaborate with people. It installs an additional extension, and then at the bottom of the screen, you see your name usually, your GitHub name. And in here, you can invite others with a link, you can share terminals, you can share servers, and you can stop the collaborations sessions. And you see like little icon next to it, it's like a team icon. And you see how many people are actually viewing your code simultaneously.

Now once you have it up and running, I mean it's quite cool, because you can invite somebody in. And they see your code, and you can see everyone's cursor, where everyone's working, you can see the debugging. And I find it quite helpful. I've used it a couple of times where people say, "Oh no, you know this docker composed file or whatever is not running." And we start up a session, I look at it, and like okay, walk me through exactly what you're doing, let me see. And you can identify right away what's going on. And you can actually interact with it, and jump in the terminal, and they see exactly what you're typing, etc. So it actually is a great learning tool. I find it's a great learning tool.

Now some of the common use cases, which people say they're using Live Share for is often you see quick assistance. I'm having an error, can you help me? Office hours, I want to demo my project, how about like mob programming, like pair programming, coding competitions, hackathons, school group projects, developer streaming, then interactive education. And I find interactive education is probably the best use case for the Live Share because I see it as really a learning tool. And I'll give you an example, at DockerCon, Patrick Chanezon actually did his session with Live Share. And he invited someone from I to think the UK, and DockerCon was in San Francisco. He called them up with Skype and said, "Hey, we're going to do this really quick." They interacted with Live Share, they were doing actually Kubectl commands, via Live Share, sharing the terminal. And it was really amazing. I mean this is the first time I've seen it in a conference, someone actually doing collaborative editing with the editor. So it was really nice.

Other use cases, code reviews, and technical interviews. Maybe someone wants to show you what they're working on and walk you through the code and how it works, which is also quite interesting. Then you can share it with multiple people, you don't have to be in the same room. Especially since we're getting into more of a remote type of context. More people are working remotely. This is really helpful to see the code and understand what their thought process is when they're looking at the code. Because someone just sends you a GitHub link, that's great. But when someone can walk you through the code, interactively, and highlight the different sections, this changes the whole aspect of how the code lives, an how it communicates different people.

So I'm using it quite often and I'm going to use it more for my training sessions. I'm going to kick out some workshops, and I'm going to actually do everything through Microsoft Live Share. So people can actually interact, they can see exactly what's going on, then they can try it on their terminals to see what's going on as well. So it's learning by doing a type of thing, but it's very easy to identify exactly what I'm doing, what step I'm in, and it's clear. I actually find it a little bit easier than attending workshops, because you see the code, you see how I'm typing, you see how I'm interacting.

The only limitation I find is you definitely need two screens. So you can work on one screen and view the other screen. Now I'm going to start using this more and more, I've used it a couple of times already. I see tons and tons of use cases for it. I highly encourage everyone to go check it out. I mean just go to Microsoft Visual Studio Code, install Live Share, connect it to GitHub. And then within the Live Share client, I mean right when you click your name, you can just copy the link, drop it into Slack, you can email it to anyone. And once this other person clicks this link, they connect to your session. It is that easy. And then you can do Skype calls, or you can do Hangouts, however, you want to talk. So you can have a call going while you're doing the live share.

Give it a try, I mean it's very, very helpful. You can see a ton of use cases out of it. I mean to try it out, give me some feedback. Let me know what you think of it, like I said, in DockerCon they demoed it, they demoed part of the session using it. So I can see more and more use cases coming along. And I can see this type of collaborative workshops, code reviews, and just collaboration on projects generally should increase. So we're getting away from screen sharing, we're actually all using the same terminal, same code base, and view exactly what's going on at the same time like we're all sitting in the same room.

Well, that's all for this episode, Microsoft Visual Studio Live Share, give it a try. Have a great day and we will see you next time.
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