Extending Visual Studio 2015

When we decided to expand Visual Studio 2015 in the hopes of making it *the* premier platform for cross-platform development, we acknowledged that the ability for our customers to extend, customize, and generally make it their own was absolutely, critically important. It is a win-win: make an extension and you get a product or tailored experience for your specific scenario, and we – Microsoft – see Visual Studio’s potential audience get a little bit bigger and a little bit happier.

After 7 years of growing the Visual Studio Platform, it has become rather bulky and packed with features. In addition, it is hard to know where to start! We had to make it simpler. So with Visual Studio 2015, we set out on the long road of making it easier to develop extensions, giving you the functionality you need to make great integrated tools, frameworks, and languages, and connecting you with other extension authors in our ecosystem.

Starting with Visual Studio 2013 Community, and continuing with Visual Studio 2015 Community, you can create and use Extensions in a free version of our IDE. Get started today by directly downloading the Visual Studio Extensibility Tools or checkout the Visual Studio 2015 RC Downloads page. Now let’s look at all the new ways in which you can make Visual Studio your own!

Item templates: the convenient way to create basic extensions!

In Visual Studio 2015, it is exceptionally easy to add new functionality to your extension. In earlier versions of VS, you depended on project templates and “merge projects” to get more functionality. Now, all of your favorite extensibility templates are available to use as item templates, which means adding a new menu command or editor feature is as easy as adding an item to an existing extensibility project. If you would like to see any other item templates, request them here. To get started with item templates, check out Creating Templates for Projects and Items in Visual Studio, Starting to Develop Visual Studio Extensions, and Creating an Extension with an Editor Item Template.

Add Item

Visual Studio Extensibility on GitHub

We are now on GitHub! Share your open source extensions with the growing community of Visual Studio Extension authors on http://microsoft.github.io/extendvs. Submit a pull request to have your own extension’s repo added to the Community Extensions list. We look forward to seeing yourextensions in GitHub, it’s a great way to add your voice to the thousands of extension authors who help shape the Visual Studio Extensibility platform.

Getting the VSSDK Just Got Easier

In the past, when you opened an extensibility project in Visual Studio without having the VSSDK,you would get a cryptic error message in a big, confusing dialog box. Now, you can simply open the project directly – no fuss.

If you don’t have the VS SDK installed, Visual Studio 2015 asks you to install it when you want to do things such as add an item template.

VSSDK Availabiliti Notification In Solution ExplorerTo get started, download the VS SDK directly or check out the Visual Studio 2015 RC download page, under Additional Tools, to learn more about the SDK. In the final release of Visual Studio 2015, you the VS SDK is part of your initial setup.

Visual Studio SDK reference assemblies via NuGet

For increased portability, and sharing of extension projects, you can use the NuGet versions of the VSSDK Reference Assemblies. This makes it so you have access to everything you need for an extensibility project on any connected machine. No need to spend time downloading the SDK, and then adding the references into your project. When you author your extension project with the NuGet-based reference assemblies, it pulls everything you need directly into your project.

New and improved docs

We’ve overhauled the documentation to help you better discover the best walkthroughs and reduce the headache of finding the best APIs for the job. Get started with our up-to-date Visual Studio SDK walkthroughs.

Whether you are updating a set of in-house developer tools, have a great idea for the next great VS productivity tool, or are creating the next big Visual Studio framework, we’d love to hear your feedback! Drop us a line at Heather.Brown@microsoft.com, add suggestions on UserVoice, or visit us on Stackoverflow with tag “visual-studio-extensions”.

HeatherBrown-small Heather Brown, Principal Program Manager, Visual Studio Platform Team
@Heathbr_MSFT

Heather Brown is a Principal Program Manager on the Visual Studio team where she aspires to create a Visual Studio that maintains the familiarity of our most prized developer tool, with new innovations that empower developers to do more.