I was pleased to find out that Visual Studio.Net has an option for not only setting symbol servers to use during development, but also the ability to cache downloaded symbols for later use.
For those of you unfamiliar , debugging symbols allow you to debug code that is compiled, and possibly running some where else, all without need access to the source code. Many MS products come with debugging symbols out of the box ( including BizTalk 2004! ), and debugging symbols are created by default with you build in ‘Debug’ mode in VS.NET. When the IDE finds the requested debugging symbols, it loads them into memory, fills out the call stack of debugged code. If you are lucky enough to have access to the source code, the debugging symbols will load up the source code and you will be able to step through the code.
You have always been able to do this in the past, but you have to set environment variables behind the scenes and such….ugly…
Now, you can setup URL’s within VS.NET so that VS.NET will automatically download & load the symbols for the code you have running so you can step through it.
It is HIGHLY recommended to setup a symbols server for your environment / team if you do product development. That way you can debug against the same set of symbols.
Here is a step by step example of setting up Visual Studio.NET 2005 to use the MS symbol server: