Visual Studio Code Guide: How to Start a New Coding Project

As a web developer with over 10 years of experience, I highly recommend using Visual Studio Code (VS Code) as your code editor when starting a new coding project. VS Code is free, open-source, lightweight, yet packed with features to enhance your productivity.

In this guide, I will walk you through the steps to effectively set up VS Code and start a new project from scratch. Whether you are learning to code or working on an enterprise application, these tips will help you be more efficient.

Why Choose Visual Studio Code

Here are some of the key reasons why VS Code is my editor of choice:

  • Intelligent code completion – Get context-aware suggestions as you type with IntelliSense.
  • Debugging support – Debug your code with breakpoints and call stacks.
  • Customizable interface – Choose from various themes and customize shortcuts.
  • Extensions ecosystem – Enhance VS Code by installing extensions.
  • Built-in Git support – Review diffs, stage files without leaving the editor.
  • Integrated terminal – Quickly run commands and install dependencies.

VS Code gives you the flexibility of a text editor with the features of a full-blown IDE.

Step 1: Download and Install VS Code

First, go to the VS Code download page and get the install file for your operating system. I recommend installing the user installer rather than the system-wide installer so you can update VS Code easily.

The installation is straightforward. Accept the license agreement and choose your preferred options during setup.

Step 2: Open a Project Folder

Once installed, open VS Code. You will see the Start screen with options to open a folder, recent workspaces or create a new file.

Click on Open Folder and select the folder containing your project files. This sets the workspace that VS Code will use.

Alternatively, go to File > Open Folder in the menu bar.

Step 3: Add Files and Folders

In your open project folder, start adding files and subfolders to organize your code.

For example, create an index.html file, a css folder with a styles.css file, a js folder with script.js file.

Use the Explorer pane on the left to view and navigate between files.

Step 4: Open a File

Double click any file like index.html in the Explorer to open it in the editor.

You will notice syntax highlighting for the programming language used in that file. The bottom right corner shows the detected language.

Step 5: Write Code with IntelliSense

One of the best features of VS Code is IntelliSense, which provides smart completions as you type.

Start typing html and you will see HTML tags pop up for auto-completion. Press Enter to insert the selected tag.

IntelliSense works for CSS, JavaScript, TypeScript and other languages depending on installed extensions.

Step 6: Install Extensions

While VS Code has great out-of-the-box support for web development, you can add more features by installing extensions.

Click on the Extensions icon in the Activity bar and search for extensions. For example, install ESLint to lint JavaScript code or Prettier to format code.

Popular extensions like GitLens add extra functionality for built-in Git version control.

Step 7: Customize Keyboard Shortcuts

Learn keyboard shortcuts to navigate and edit code faster.

For example, Ctrl/Cmd + P to quickly open files, Ctrl/Cmd + B to toggle the sidebar.

Go to File > Preferences > Keyboard Shortcuts to view and customize all shortcuts.

Step 8: Change Color Theme

Give your eyes a break from the default theme by trying out new color themes.

Go to Code > Preferences > Color Theme and browse from dozens of quality themes. I recommend GitHub Theme, One Dark Pro or Night Owl.

Step 9: Additional Tips

Here are some additional tips to level up your VS Code skills:

  • Split editor layout to view multiple files side-by-side
  • Enable Auto Save to save files automatically
  • Install code snippets for quick code blocks
  • Integrate VS Code with source control like Git/GitHub
  • Use Emmet abbreviations for fast HTML/CSS coding
  • Add JSDoc comments for better code intelligence
  • Enable accessibility features like screen reader

I hope this guide gives you a good starting point to set up Visual Studio Code for your next coding project efficiently. Let me know in the comments if you have any setup tips to share!