Visual Studio Code


Learning Goals

  • Open a specific project in VS Code from the Terminal.
  • Navigate the VS Code interface, using some keyboard shortcuts.
  • Write valid Markdown files in VS Code.


If at anytime throughout this lesson you get stuck or have questions, please head on over to your Mod 0 slack channel and ask your questions there.


  • VS Code
  • Code Editor
  • Keyboard shortcuts

VS Code

Visual Studio Code or VS Code is a code editor. It is a desktop application where we write the code that powers our applications. It offers features like syntax highlighting and line numbers (and many more!) that make it easier for developers to write code efficiently. There are many other code editors - some similar to VS Code and some with even more built-in tools. We ask all incoming students to start with VS Code, so the whole class is using the same set of tools while we focus on learning foundational coding tools and concepts. After Mod 1, students can choose to use other editors.

VS Code is the application we will use to write code in programming languages, such as Ruby and JavaScript. In the Terminal, we run commands to communicate with various programs on the computer.

We will open the VS Code application from the Terminal. Since you’ll have so many files and directories on your machine, you’ll want to get into the habit of only opening the project you are currently working on.

To open VS Code from the Terminal, navigate to your Mod 0 directory, then:

  1. Create a directory called vs_code_practice.
  2. Move into that directory.
  3. Create a file called
  4. Use code . to open that directory in VS Code.

Altogether, those steps should look something like this:

mkdir vs_code_practice
cd vs_code_practice
code .

Note: If you receive an error in your terminal saying the code command isn’t found or is invalid, please return to the Computer Setup lesson and follow the instructions under the VS Code section to Install ‘code’ command in PATH command.

From now on, any code you write in a file will almost always be written in VS Code. So when you get to a challenge and it says something like, “Add a few lines of markdown to that file” - (you guessed it!) - that means open that project in VS Code and write your code there.

Inside the file you just made, type some text using markdown into VS Code using what you learned in the Markdown lesson. Include at least 3 headings (all the same size), with text after each heading. Include at least one set of bullet points. This markdown file can be about any topic you like - choose something that makes you smile! You’ve now written markdown in your VS Code text editor!

VS Code Keyboard Shortcuts

To maximize your time as a developer, the use of keyboard shortcuts will be essential. If you are new to a Mac and/or a development environment, it can feel overwhelming at first. Below is a list of common shortcuts. You are not expected to memorize these all right away, it will come over time.

VS Code Keyboard Shortcuts

With that current open in VS Code, follow the steps below to practice using some of the most common keyboard shortcuts in VS Code.

  1. Toggle the sidebar (file tree) using cmd + b.
  2. Open the markdown preview with shift + cmd + v.
  3. Select the markdown preview tab and drag it to the right of the window to view your file side-by-side with the preview.
  4. Highlight the hashtags on your first heading in the file. Use cmd + d to select all of the matching headings and then change the size of all headings. Observe the changes in your preview.
  5. Choose one heading to comment out using cmd + /. Observe the changes in your preview.
  6. Move your cursor to your last bullet point in the file. Use option + shift + down arrow to copy that line below.
  7. Use cmd + s to save the changes.

You may need to practice these shortcuts quite a few times before you start to build some muscle memory. Don’t try to learn them all at once. A list of commonly used shortcuts that we recommend starting with follows:

  • cmd + b - toggles the sidebar
  • cmd + a - highlights the entire file
  • cmd + right arrow - takes your cursor to end of the current line
  • cmd + left arrow - takes your cursor to start of the current line
  • cmd + d - multi-select cursor
  • shift + cmd + v - markdown preview
  • opt + shift + down arrow - copy a line
  • cmd + / - comment out a line
  • cmd + s - save a file
  • cmd + q - quits the application


  • Learning keyboard shortcuts is a process of consistency and time. The best way to learn these is to pick one shortcut to implement into your routine each day. Just one. Write it down in a notebook and make sure you intentionally and consciously use that new keyboard shortcut the entire day. Over time, you will build up muscle memory for utilizing these shortcuts.
  • You can find more commands, cheatsheets, and resources by googling VS Code keyboard shortcuts!

Turn on Auto Save

To quickly save any file, you can use cmd + s. However, if you prefer to have your files auto-save when you switch to another application, go to `File` at the top of your VS Code window and select Auto Save. We highly recommend turning on auto-save to start with.

Terminal & VS Code Practice

Complete the challenges below to continue building fluency with using your Terminal and VS Code. It’s probably a good idea to go ahead and quit (cmd + q) your current session in the Terminal and your VS Code application before jumping into this practice.

Challenge #1

  1. Run cd to get to your root directory (you’ll probably already be here, but do it just to be sure).
  2. cd into your Mod 0 directory.
  3. Make a new directory in your Mod 0 directory called my_first_projects.
  4. Make another new directory called my_other_projects.
  5. List the contents of your directory (you should see these two directories you just made in the list).
  6. Remove the my_other_projects directory.
  7. Navigate into the my_first_projects directory.
  8. Make a file called
  9. Make a file called
  10. Open the project in VS Code.
  11. Organize your screen using Rectangle shortcuts. Both the Terminal and VS Code windows should be visible at the same time.
  12. Add a list of things you already know about the language that is taught in your program in the appropriate file. You can use Google here - we know you don’t know much yet!
  13. Print the path to your current directory.
  14. List the contents of your directory (you should see the files you created).
  15. Expand and collapse the sidebar with a keyboard shortcut.
  16. Save the file with a keyboard shortcut (if you don’t have auto-save on).
  17. Quit VS Code with a keyboard shortcut.
  18. Delete the file for the opposite program (the one you didn’t write code in).
  19. Back out of the my_first_projects directory.
  20. List the contents of your current directory (you should see my_first_projects).
  21. Remove the my_first_projects directory.

Challenge #2

  1. Run cd to get to your home directory.
  2. Make a new directory called practice in your Mod 0 directory.
  3. Move into the practice directory.
  4. Print the path to your current directory.
  5. Make a file called
  6. Open the project in VS Code.
  7. Organize your screen using Rectangle shortcuts. Both the Terminal and VS Code windows should be visible at the same time.
  8. List the contents of your directory (you should see the file you just created).
  9. In the file, write 1-3 sentences explaining what the Terminal is and does, in your own words, in markdown. Again, it’s ok to use Google for this!
  10. Copy a line using a keyboard shortcut in VS Code.
  11. Comment out that extra line of code using a keyboard shortcut.
  12. Add an appropriate heading.
  13. Demonstrate how to select every instance of the word Terminal in your file using a keyboard shortcut.
  14. Move your cursor to the end or beginning of a line of code using keyboard shortcuts.
  15. Open the markdown preview with a keyboard shortcut.
  16. Close VS Code with a keyboard shortcut. (Don’t forget to save your file first if you’re not using auto-save!)
  17. List the contents of your directory (you should see the file you created).
  18. Back out of the practice directory.
  19. Remove the practice directory.

Check For Understanding

If you haven’t already, create a file in your Mod 0 directory. Answer these questions in that file.

  1. How do you open your current directory in VS Code from the Terminal?
  2. What is your favorite keyboard shortcut for VS Code? What does it do?
  3. What resource will you use to continue learning VS Code shortcuts?
  4. Which keyboard shortcut will you practice tomorrow?
  5. Do you have auto-save turned on in VS Code? If no, why not?