Monday, August 18, 2008

Book Review: Visual Studio Extensibility

Visual Studio ExtensibilityThis book goes into great detail about the various methods of extending the functionality of the Visual Studio 2008 IDE. It discusses Macros, Add-ins, Shell extensions and …This is not the kind of book that you sit down and read cover to cover but it is a very good reference with practical examples of the various extension methods.

The first section of the book contains a comprehensive review of Visual Studio and the various versions from version 6 through 2008. The book primarily focuses on the latest version of Visual Studio ( 2008 ) but a lot of the material applies to the 2005 version as well. The first four chapters cover Visual Studio history, the .NET Framework, an overview of extensibility options and a discussion of the automation model.

There are about 10 chapters which cover the various aspects of add-ins. All of these chapters focus on one small topic related to add-ins from the Add-in Wizard through Deployment and Testing of add-ins. There is even a discussion of localization which is an often over looked aspect of programming. This section is not something you would read through in one sitting but it is a valuable resource for understanding the various aspects of Visual Studio Add-ins.

The rest of the book discusses several other methods which can be used as extensions. This ranges from the complex such as Shell extensions to more common extensions such as Code Snippets and Macros. I have always liked Code Snippets and I have been impressed with the number which come built-in to Visual Studio. Adding your own custom snippets isn’t a difficult process but you have to know where to find the proper directories for the snippets. Having this book as a quick reference will be helpful.

There is also a chapter on MSBuild which is another somewhat overlooked tool. MSBuild has a ton of functionality and there are entire books dedicated to using it. The chapter in the book gives a good overview and a sample build file which can give you a good idea if this tool will be useful for your projects.

The bottom line is this book is quite useful as a reference with good examples which will get you started extending Visual Studio. It covers the advanced topics of add-ins and shell extensions as well as taking a close look at some of the out of the box extensibility tools. If you are writing extensions for Visual Studio or looking for a way to be more productive by using the included extensibility tools this book will help you out.

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