Pimp my VS Code

Those who know me, know that I have a keen interest in software tools and exploring the various different ways that people use them. I take great joy in exploring custom or 3rd party plugins and add-ons to get the most out of the tools I use every day. From OS automation tools (like BetterTouchTool) to custom screen savers (Brooklyn is my current favourite), I love it all.

On a good day, I spend quite a bit of time in Visual Studio Code, my IDE of choice. VS Code has all that you need right out of the box, but why stop there? Heres a list of some of my favourite VS Code Extensions that I now consider essential when doing a fresh install.

Indent-Rainbow and Bracket Pair Colorizer 2 are must installs for me. Both really simple, change colours of indents and brackets so you can easily see them at a glance. Always useful when working with ident heavy languages like YAML.

GitLense is another essential if you are working with Git repositories. GitLense integrates lots of various Git tools and information into the editor. My favourite feature of GitLense is the current line blame, you can see it in the screenshot above which shows an unobtrusive annotation at the end of each line as you select it. The annotation shows commit information for that piece of code.

Beautify helps you make your code beautiful. Beautify can automatically indent Javascript, JSON, CSS, and HTML.

Better Comments makes your comments human readable by changing the colour of comments based on an opening tag. You can even define your own.

Source: Better Comments Documentation in Visual Studio Code

Next up, some extensions that I install to match the work I’m doing. In my day to day work, I’m regularly authoring infrastructure templates for Azure and AWS (ARM and CloudFormation). To assist with making this as simple as possible I install some specific extensions for syntax highlighting, autocompletion and even do some code snippet referencing.

Azure Resource Manager (ARM) Tools is a collection of extensions for working with Azure made by Microsoft. This one has lots of features so I’ll just pick a few. You can use the ‘arm!’ shortcut to create a blank ARM template with all the property you need – this one makes life so much better, spend less time lining up brackets in JSON and more time defining resources!

Image showing the arm template scaffolding snippet
Source: Azure Resource Manager (ARM) Tools Documentation in Visual Studio Code

Each time you use a snippet, you can also use tab complete to go through commonly modified configurations, again, less time reading documentation more time writing code!

Image showing snippet tab stops with pre-populated parameter values
Source: Azure Resource Manager (ARM) Tools Documentation in Visual Studio Code

CloudFormation Template Linter and CloudFormation Resource Snippets add some similar functionality for working with AWS CloudFormation templates. While neither of these are created by Amazon, they both do a good job at implementing similar functionality to the above ARM tools.

Next up is one of my new favourites, Dash, sorry Windows guru’s this one’s only on Mac. Dash is an API documentation browser which can hook into your VS code to quickly search documentation (from their 200+ built in doc sets, or add your own GitHub doc sets). Sounds boring, but I think it’s far from it. I’ve loaded mine up with lots of Microsoft Azure Documentation and AWS documentation. It’s really handy to be able to highlight a resource type or PowerShell Command, hit control + H and have the document reference instantly pop up, each time it saves me minutes.

Dash - Visual Studio Marketplace
Source: Dash Documentation in Visual Studio Code

Finally, my icon and colour theme I use VSCode Icons and Atom One Dark. This really comes down to personal preference. I like the syntax colour coding included in the Atom One Dark theme, I find it useful especially when writing PowerShell. VSCode icons is the most popular icons extension, and I’ve had no issues since installation.

Source: Atom One Dark Theme Documentation in Visual Studio Code

Thats my round up for my must have extensions. Are there any missing off this list that you think should be here? – Comment below with your must have extensions.

Cheers, Joel


Oils ain’t Oils and Neither are Calculators.

Some of you may remember the Castrol oil commercials on Australian television throughout the late 1980’s where they claimed than not all oils are created equally.  – If not indulge yourself in 43 seconds of nostalgic cinematic genius.

1988 CASTROL GTX2 Oils Ain’t Oils

Such is true with cloud pricing calculators. Whilst these are invaluable tools for putting together an order of magnitude estimate on a bill of materials, they do little to attract, engage and delight customers.

One of the main differences between a pricing estimate output from regular vendor calculators and a cloudstep model is that with a cloudstep model, all focus is placed on the consumer’s business and the cloudstep consulting partners’ unique relationship with them.

Why is cloudstep more than just a calculator?

  • Cloudstep models are multidimensional and provide a mechanism to accurately account for all the costs that represent the true total cost of ownership.
  • More than a spreadsheet – build 5 year forward projections for business as usual vs migration scenarios.
  • Cloudstep models on-premisses, IaaS, SaaS and PaaS solutions.
  • Model, manage and track phased migrations which involve multiple waves or batches of application migrations.
  • Measure actual vs projected expenditure, ingest Azure bills to identify and manage variances.

A pathway to mutually beneficial consulting engagements.

Cloudstep was built from the ground up by cloud consultants, that understand the need for consulting firms to build strong strategic relationships with their customers.

Cloudstep models unlock opportunity within businesses by building trust and credibility, thus leading to significant momentum gained with consumers. Cloudstep  is about adding value at every stage in your customer’s journey with you,  from the initial awareness or interest in alternate IT arrangements all the way through post-migration and ongoing measurement of IT operational expenditure.

Granularity and Complexity

Whilst it is true that high degrees of granularity often result in complexity, cloudstep has tooling to get started in as little as 10 minutes, designed to help consulting firms quickly engage with their customers business and begin to foster stronger relationships.

Cloudstep provides a means to have more meaningful conversations with prospects, creating genuine relationships with them. Quickly share relevant content that can be refined and built upon as you get to know your consumers’ unique needs.

Plan, Transition, Manage

Continue to engage with consumers, even long after their journey to the cloud.

Successful IT leaders understand If you don’t measure success in terms of what’s truly important to your organisation, you can’t work towards getting there.

Cloudstep makes it easy to measure actual vs projected expenditure, providing a means for your consulting team to continue to engage and offer strategic advice and services.

Cloudstep creates happy customers who turn into brand ambassadors and send more customers your way.


cloudstep – The value proposition for consulting firms.

Cloudstep is a tool for consulting firms, built by a consulting firm. It makes it easy to capture existing capital and operational IT expenditure for an organisation and make accurate comparisons against alternate IT delivery options.

We built cloudstep to make it easy to sell consulting engagements for professional services focused around cloud migrations.

Build 5 year forward projections for business as usual vs cloud migration scenarios based on evidence and hard costs, not speculation.

We understand the need for consulting firms to build strong strategic relationships with their customers.

Position your consulting firm as a trusted advisor with outputs that are easy to share, confidence inspiring and make it easy for CFOs and CIOs to stand behind.

Cloudstep models unlock opportunity within businesses by building trust and credibility. Cloudstep is about adding value at every stage in your customer’s journey with you, from the initial awareness or interest in alternate IT arrangements all the way through post-migration and ongoing measurement of IT operational expenditure.

Cloudstep creates happy customers who turn into brand ambassadors and send more customers your way.


Welcome 2020ne – “are we there yet?”

“are we there yet?…. are we there yet?….”

In vacations past, this was the back seat cry heard by many young parents as they sought the refuge of a far-away campsite or holiday house in search of some peace and quiet after a hectic and busy year.  Clearly, 2020 was no normal year and it takes the prize for giving us the single biggest reality check for generations.  Our near and mid-term futures whilst cautiously optimistic are still shrouded in a degree of uncertainty and we should still expect some unsettling times.  When will be able to say we have arrived at our destination, the end of COVID, and no longer be faced with the lingering “are we there yet?” back seat cry?

For many we invested in keeping as much of our operations as normal as we possibly could – we saw immediate investment in better working from home solutions and in expanded video-conferencing and collaboration tools and techniques, but not every business was well suited to implementing these new practices. In some cases, we had great foundations to build from, in others it just needed to be done. But at what cost and has it truly delivered what is needed?

For many, new programs of work were put on hold or cancelled altogether.  Top line revenue pressures forced many to introduce drastic cuts in operational expenditure, tough decisions were made. When thinking about 2021 and beyond we should continue to expect that there will be less, little or no new money for projects – and savings will need to be found to pay for reforms”

What programs of work did you put back on the shelf because there was no resources or there was no longer any money in 2021? 

Do you know how much an application truly costs and how much cost can be attributed to a “function” or “team” within your business?

Do you fully understand the cost and resource impact of change and will your CFO believe you?

Do you have the detailed financial awareness of different deployment options (on-premise, cloud, IaaS, PaaS or SaaS.

Are you giving consideration to where the next level of IT investment should be made – and when?

Do you need to rebuild the business case and demonstrate benefit and cost with confidence?

Do you know when you will arrive at your chosen destination – …are we there yet?

We were tackling these questions with cloudstep before our worlds were completely up-ended –  and it seems to me the answers that cloudstep can provide are more important to a business than ever before.

cloudstep helps CxO’s understand the financial impact of past, current and future IT investment decisions. It helps you compare different deployment scenarios and provides a month by month cashflow model of your total cost of reform and ownership.

To be fair – its not always about cloud – its about being better informed of the financial impact of future choice.

If you are reimagining your IT plans in 2021 and need to demonstrate value in change – not just the tech speak – then ask us or your IT partner about cloudstep.  Are we there yet?

daryl knight | partner at cloudstep