I quickly wanted to respond to questions or misconceptions raised in the comments of my previous blog post.
A common question or misconception in the comments is saying that if didn’t want extensibility we should have provided technical limitations to prevent extensibility (see comments: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18).
Express Extension Workarounds
To respond, Visual Studio Express extensibility is limited in a number of ways. One way it is limited is that it does not permit extensibility through Macros, Add-Ins, or Packages. It attempts to reserve these limitations by technical means. Some examples of these technical limitations are that there is no Macros IDE, there is no Add-In manager, and registered Add-In’s and Packages are not loaded at startup. The only way to even extend Express is to work around these in-built technical limitations and that is prohibited by the License.
For a high-level overview on how TestDriven.NET works around technical limitations, here’s a response from our development team:
The TestDriven.NET product is implemented as a Visual Studio Add-In. In the Visual Studio Standard, Professional, and Team System SKUs, TestDriven.NET is installed as an Add-In and gets loaded into the IDE through the Add-In Manager. In the Visual Studio Express SKUs, because we disabled extensibility (macros, Add-ins, and VS Packages), the Add-In Manager is removed and therefore Add-Ins are not detected or loaded. Jamie has created additional components specifically for the Express SKUs to work around this technical limitation. He takes advantage of an extensibility point that allows user controls (such as a button class) to customize entries in the Properties window. When his property extender gets called, he executes code that finds, loads and injects the TestDriven.Net assembly into the Express SKU’s running process, thus replacing the functionality of the removed Add-In Manager. This explains why he instructs Visual Studio Express users to open the Properties window in order to enable TestDriven.NET. Once his code is injected into the Express SKU’s running process it can add menu items, enable features that were disabled, and in general take over that instance of Express. These special loading mechanisms that Jamie has built exclusively for the Express SKUs are unauthorized workarounds to the SKUs’ technical limitations.
For an analogy, this would be comparable to someone working around the technical limitations in the personal version of TestDriven.NET to unlock features in the professional or enterprise versions for free.
What complicates this even further is that this isn’t a developer doing this for his or her personal use or experimenting with our product, this is a business trying to sell a product. We tried for close to two years to get Jamie to stop releasing the Express version of TestDriven.NET without success.
I hope this helps clarify some of the questions or misconceptions surrounding this issue.