Working on a bug in Microsoft VSCode (Part 1)

I’ve been looking for an issue to work on in big open source projects earlier this week, and I came across VSCode repo on GitHub. I’ve never contributed to any Microsoft’s projects before, and I didn’t really think about doing that even though I use VSCode a lot. Every time I looked at the list of issues in VSCode repo, I thought it’s very hard to find a good one to work because it seemed to me that most of them are created by its users and not verified by project’s maintainers.

4640 issues filed in Microsoft VSCode as of 02/01/2019

Writing a code that is not going to be accepted (or even reviewed) eventually is probably one of the saddest things in open source.

However, some of my peers in open source class have contributed to this project, and they shared their strategy in finding issues. Basically, they looked for older issues that nobody worked on or fixed yet. I tried this strategy and I came across an issue filed two months ago. I found that there was a member of Microsoft organization assigned to this issue, but there was no Pull Request submitted yet. I asked if I can work on this issue, and he got back to me and said that I can work on it.

Issue

First, for those of you who haven’t worked with VSCode before, let’s take a look at its interface:

Retrieved from VSCode documentation.

If you take a look at Activity Bar (A), there are 5 sections:

  1. File explorer
  2. Search
  3. Source Control
  4. Debugger
  5. Extensions

The filed issue is about Extensions part of the Activity Bar, and the requested the following feature:

It would be helpful if the search bar in the Extensions Side Bar maintained its value when reloading the window. (issue description)

Current behavior

Steps to reproduce this bug:

  1. Type something in extensions search
  2. Reload window

After reloading window, the search bar has no value.

In order to fix this bug, I have to find a way to save the value when the window is reloaded.

Research

My very first step was to look for similar resolved issues in the repository. After a comprehensive search, I didn’t find any closed Pull Request similar to this issue. That’s why I had to start exploring the codebase of the project.

As I mentioned above, I haven’t worked with VSCode codebase before, so the first thing I had to do is to find where is the source code for extensions. Fortunately, big projects like VSCode usually have good documentation, and I found a code organization page:

I read it and found that all Activity Bar code is under ssrc/vs/workbench folder. I started looking through it. I found a parts folder there, which contains all parts of the workbench including extensions.

I began studying the codebase of the extensions. It was a lot of new code for me. I wrote some small changes, debugged some code in order to get a better understanding of how their code works.

I still couldn’t figure out how I can keep the value after window reloading. Then, I tried to find out if there is any other part of the Activity Bar that stores the value of the input after reloading the window, and I found one! The search part of Activity Bar. Its input has the value even if you reload the window.

I understood that the similar feature is already implemented somewhere in the code.

I did some debugging for search input and extensions input during the reloading window. The call stack is similar but different at the same time.

After my research, I guess that the reason why search input saves the value is that it implements viewletState which keeps track of the component state. I didn’t find any similar things in the implementation of the extensions input, so I’ve shared my guess in the issue discussion, and I wait for a response from the contributor.