Configure VSCode for maximum productivity

How do we configure VSCode?

VSCode has a built-in configuration setting that you can access using Ctrl/Cmd followed by a , (comma).

At the same time, VSCode is extensible using its Marketplace of extensions.

What built-in options should I configure VSCode for maximum productivity?


Save some keystrokes by configuring VSCode to autosave your files after 10 ms. This is useful if your workflow doesn't involve running a live server that reloads code on every save.

Format on save/paste

When you explicitly command VSCode to save your file, it can run code formatters (such as black) on the file being saved.

Insert Final Newline

This option will insert a final newline to a plain text file. Makes viewing them in the terminal much easier.

Trim trailing whitespace

This will clean out trailing whitespace. Again, makes viewing them in the terminal a bit easier.

What VSCode extensions help with productivity?

Python + Pylance

The official Python extension for VSCode contains a ton of goodies that are configurable in the settings. It can help you load conda environments in the shell directly, automatically lint source code that is open, debug a program that has to be executed, automatic importing of resolvable functions and modules, and many, many more goodies for Python developers and data scientists.

In fact, you can write a .py file and execute it interactively as if it were a Jupyter notebook, without the overhead of the Jupyter front-end interface. Steven Mortimer even has an R-bloggers post on how to configure VSCode to behave like RStudio for Python, for those who prefer the RStudio interface!

With the Python extension being powerful as it is, the Pylance extension will supercharge it even more. Using an extremely performant code analyzer, it will highlight nearly all problems it detects within a source .py file within a few hundred milliseconds (maximum) of the file being saved. When I have had to do tool development as part of my data science work, Pylance has been essential for my productivity.


One good practice we have written about here is to Follow the rule of one-to-one in managing your projects. When one project has one directory, that directory acts as a "workspace", which in turn gets opened in one VSCode window. If you have 3-4 windows open, then figuring out which one corresponds to which project can take a few seconds.

VSCode Remote

This extension gives you superpowers. It will enable you to edit code on a remote server while still having all of the goodies of a locally-running VSCode session. Leverage this extension to help you develop on a powerful remote machine without ever leaving your local editor.


This extension highlights indentation in different colours, making it easier to read Python (and other indentation-friendly languages') source files.

Rainbow CSV

Rainbow CSV highlights the columns in a CSV file when you open it up in VSCode, making it easier to view your data. This one was suggested by one of my book reviewers Simon Eng.


This extension checks your Markdown files for formatting issues, such as headers containing punctuations, or missing line breaks after a header. These are based on the Node.js markdownlint package by David Anson.

Markdown Table Prettifier

Also suggested by Simon, Markdown Table Prettifier helps you format your Markdown tables such that they are easily readable in plain text mode.


Polacode is "polaroid for code", giving you the ability to create "screenshots" of your code to share with others. If you've ever used, you'll enjoy this one.

Use VSCode to help you with software development and collaboration

Why you might want to consider using VSCode

VSCode's most significant selling point is not that it's free. Its biggest selling points are actually:

  1. Remote editing
  2. Collaborative coding

If you are developing on a remote machine, the VSCode Remote Development extension pack will enable you to code on a powerful remote machine while having the UI local. VSCode's remote capabilities are convenient, as you can then install other utilities to turn VSCode into a full-fledged IDE (such as code linters and more). You can avoid running code locally, which is fantastic on a power-sipping laptop, and instead take advantage of more powerful compute servers. (It also beats mounting remote file shares, as the latency can be kill patience!)

If you're pair coding, nothing beats the collaborative coding capabilities of VSCode Live Share. This extension pack will enable you to invite a colleague or friend to type in your VSCode session with minimal latency. (It beats using MS Teams remote control!)

How do we get those extension packs?

I linked to the extension packs above, but in case you were distracted for a moment:

Of course, I'm assuming you have VSCode available on your system :).

See also: Configure VSCode for maximum productivity.

Alternatives to VSCode

Some of you may have customized vim, emacs, Eclipse, or PyCharm to your heart's content. If that's the case, you're already well-equipped!

Follow the rule of one-to-one in managing your projects

What is this rule all about

The one-to-one rule essentially means this. Each project that we work on gets:

In addition, when we name things, such as environment names, repository names, and more, we choose names that are consistent with one another (see: Sanely name things consistently for the reasons why).

Why is this important

Conventions help act as a lubricant - a shortcut for us to interact with others. Adopting the convention of one-to-one mappings helps us manage some of the complexity that may arise in a project.

Some teams have a habit of putting source code in one place (e.g. Bitbucket) and documentation in another (e.g. Confluence). I would discourage this; placing source code and documentation on how to use it next to each other is a much better way to work, because it gives you and your project stakeholders one single source of truth to find information related to a project.

When can we break this rule

A few guidelines can help you decide.

When a source repository matures enough such that you see a submodule that is generalizable beyond the project itself, then it's time to engage the help of a real software developer to refactor that chunk of code out of the source file into a separate package.

When the project matures enough such that there's a natural bifurcation in work that needs more independence from the original repository, then it's time to split the repository into two. At that point, apply the same principles to the new repository.

Choose and customize your development environment

At the end of the day, we choose a development environment that we are most comfortable with. The interface with our colleagues is at the level of what we share, so this should not be the highest of your concerns. Nonetheless, let me showcase where some tools can be used. Above all, avoid religious wars about text editors. Be productive, stay productive.