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Developing extension packages for Visua…

Developing extension packages for Visual Studio 2005/2008/2010/2012 using C# with real-life samples

11 Oct 2012
Author:

Creating extension packages (plug-ins) for Microsoft Visual Studio IDE appears as quite an easy task at the first sight. There exist an excellent MSDN documentation, as well as various articles, examples and a lot of other additional sources on this topic. But, at the same time, it could also appear as a difficult task when an unexpected behavior is encountered along the way. Although it can be said that such issues are quite common to any programming task, the subject of IDE plug-in development is still not thoroughly covered at this moment.

This article is obsolete. You can read the new version of this article here.

We develop PVS-Studio static code analyzer. Although the tool itself is intended for C++ developers, quite a large fragment of it is written in C#. When we just had been starting the development of our plug-in, Visual Studio 2005 had been considered as modern state-of-the-art IDE. Although, at this moment of Visual Studio 2012 release, some could say that Visual Studio 2005 is not relevant anymore, we still provide support for this version in our tool. During our time supporting various Visual Studio versions and exploring capabilities of the environment, we've accumulated a large practical experience on how to correctly (and even more so incorrectly!) develop IDE plug-ins. As holding all of this knowledge inside us was becoming unbearable, we've decided to publish it here. Some of our solutions that seem quite obvious right now were discovered in the course of several years. And the same issues could still haunt other plug-in developers.

By publishing this collection of small articles we wish to contribute to this area of software development. We hope that developers interested in this topic will discover something new for themselves or at least will use the articles as a collection of how-to's and recipes for Visual Studio extension development.

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