Visual Studio Extensions
As a developer who primarily creates web applications on the .Net stack, I spend a lot of time in Visual Studio. For smaller edits, I’ll use tools like Visual Studio Code of gVim. But most of the time I want to be able to take full advantage of the full array of tools Visual Studio provides. Whether I am creating projects, editing files, or debugging code, Visual Studio offers an unmatched feature set. But as many features as it offers, it doesn’t have everything I want. That is where extensions come in.
Over the last few days, I’ve been thinking about the role of extensions. As I see it, there are two primary benefits of extensions. The first is to add functionality that Visual Studio doesn’t have yet, but someday it should. The other benefit is to offer features that only apply to a subset of users.
Technology changes very rapidly. When Visual Studio 2015 originally shipped, WebPack didn’t have nearly as large of a user base as it has today. So it didn’t make sense to support it out of the box. But now it is much more widely used. Instead of waiting for another Visual Studio release, we can have WebPack support now via the WebPack extension. It is possible that the next version of Visual Studio will include this functionality and the extension won’t be needed. But until then, we have improved functionality with the extension installed.
There are other features that will never make it into Visual Studio because a large number of users wouldn’t care about them or they would be opposed to them. The quintessential example of this is VsVim. It provides Vim keybindings in Visual Studio. I can’t live without this extension. I installed as soon as I install Visual Studio. However, a large percentage of developers would hate the idea of having to use Vim commands to work in Visual Studio. So this is a case where an extension benefits a subset of users with forcing unpopular technology on other users.
In general, I believe that most Visual Studio developers don’t take advantage of extensions as much as they should. Many developers could be more productive with an IDE that was customized to their preferences or needs. If you have never installed an extension, go out to the gallery and browse for some that might help. If you google for lists of the best extensions, you will find some that will help you. The same goes for users of Visual Studio Code or Xamarin Studio, both of which have rich extension galleries of their own.
In the coming days, I’ll post about some of the extensions that I find to be incredibly useful that are not widely known. I’ll not post again about VsVim even though it is my favorite extension and it is very well written. But the fact is, if you are the kind of developer that wants VsVim, you probably already know about it. So I’ll try to highlight some extension that you may not know about.
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My name is Eric Potter. I have an amazing wife and 5 wonderful children. I am a Microsoft MVP for .Net. I am a software architect for Aptera Software in Ft. Wayne Indiana and an adjunct professor for Indiana Tech. I am a humble toolsmith.