Visual Studio Extensibility (VSX) gets serious!

March 13, 2008 02:51 by garrymc

I went along to the .NET developers association in Redmond on Monday where Ken Levy demonstrated the extensibility tools of VS.NET 2008 (which also relates to VS 2005 to some extent). It seems that MS have decided to offer the VS 2008 shell license free! If you're anyone who's looking at providing third party tools (related or not to Visual Studio) and need a good IDE host, you've just saved yourself a bucket load of time. Also, it runs in two modes, integrated (merges with your instance of VS 2008) or isolated where it acts as its own (customisable too I was led to believe) IDE without the need for VS 2008.

If you're not so inclined to use the VS Shell,  you may want to try adding your own custom extensions to VS to provide addition features MS haven't gotten around to yet. The API which used to be only available to partners (at a large cost - which is now free!) allows you to extend the IDE in just about any way you want. The VSX site provides links to numerous samples and they seem quite committed to building a large community around this technology, so I'd keep an eye on their Visual Studio Gallery where the community will post their extensions.

Other improvements seem to be in the area of DSLs (Domain Specific Languages) where they now provide DSL tools to build your own DSLs. This is an area I believe will become more important as people begin to realize that a lot of what we do is based on a known pattern, with customizations for a given problem.

I'll be looking into how DSLs can be leveraged with the framework I'm currently developing that code gens your stored procs, entities and services. Anyway for those who are interested in learning more about these new tools I'd recommend you visit the following sites: - The Visual Studio Extensibility home page - Ken Levy's blog

Also MS sponsored CoDe magazine for a special focus on VSX which allows you to download the full magazine which has a heap of VSX information. You can download the PDF here.

Oh should mention that the demo's are quite impressive, take a look at the World of War Craft editor (with its own language) using the VS Shell.

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