Category Archives: VS 2017

Building a VSIX extension with the Visual Studio 2017 Build Tools

As I explained in the post Migrating the build of a VSIX project to a build server if you are a solo developer, I am taking the steps to build my MZ-Tools extension on a build/release server. As part of that process, I realized than rather than installing Visual Studio 2017 Community edition on the server, I could use the Visual Studio 2017 Build Tools that were thought, well, for build servers that don’t need the overhead of a Visual Studio 2017 installation. They are a lightweight version of Visual Studio 2017 without the IDE (devenv.exe executable). They can be used to build either managed (C#, VB.NET, etc.) projects or native (C++) projects. Incidentally my MZ-Tools solution has both type of projects.

The Visual 2017 Build Tools can be downloaded from here. Once you install them on a clean machine, you will notice that they provide only the following:

  • A built-in (non-optional) set of components to build MSBuild-based projects (for example managed projects).
  • An optional workload “Visual C++ build tools”.
  • An optional workload “Web development build tools”.

There are also optional individual components to install .NET Framework 4.6.1 support Windows SDKs, ATL support, etc.:

In my case my extension needs to use .NET Framework 2.0 for some projects (I still support Visual Studio 2005). Since that version is not installed by default on modern versions of the Windows OS, I need to install it going to “Control Panel”, “Programs and Features” item, “Turn Windows Features on or off” link:

My obfuscator tool needs the .NET Framework 3.5 SDK (or the .NET Framework 2.0 SDK). While the Visual Studio 2017 Community installer provides the optional individual component “.NET Framework 3.5 developments tools”, the installer of Build Tools 2017 doesn’t. That is not only a pity but also causes a bug if you install yourself the Windows 7.0 SDK that contains the .NET Framework 3.5 SDK that I reported here: the resource .resx files of a .NET project targeting .NET Framework 2.0 are compiled using the Assembly Linker (al.exe tool) of the .NET Framework 4.0, which will cause them to fail silently at run-time. Microsoft fixed the bug just in time for RTM in Visual Studio 2017, but the Build Tools 2017 still has the bug due to the lack of the “.NET Framework 3.5 developments tools”. There is a fix that I explained in the bug report if you find this problem. I have also requested to Microsoft to include the “.NET Framework 3.5 developments tools” in the installer of Build Tools 2017.

My extension for Visual Studio targets version 2012, so I need to stick to .NET Framework 4.5, not some higher version. Since that version is not provided by the Build Tools 2017, I need to install the Windows 8.0 SDK, that contains the .NET Framework 4.5 assemblies and SDK.

For the C++ projects, I needed to install:

  • “Visual C++ ATL Support”: required to get files such as atlbase.h, etc.
  • “Windows 8.1 SDK”: I could upgrade to some Windows 10 SDK version but they occupy much more space on disk.
  • “UCRT SDK”: the Universal Common RunTime that provides files such errno.h and other files in the folder “C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\10\Include\10.0.10240.0\ucrt”.
  • “.NET Framework 4.6.1 SDK”: to get files such as mscoree.h / mscoree.lib in the folder “C:\Program Files (x86)\Windows Kits\NETFXSDK\4.6.1\”.

My build script uses tf.exe to set a workspace and download the latest sources. Alas, tf.exe is not installed with Build Tools 2017 (Visual Studio 2017 installs the Team Explorer extension, that contains that file in the folder “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\Community\Common7\IDE\CommonExtensions\Microsoft\TeamFoundation\Team Explorer”). Now there is a standalone installer for Team Explorer (that includes tf.exe) announced here. Since that’s a bit overkill, I just copied tf.exe and the required dlls.

The build script needs also nuget.exe, but that’s easy to get.

So, when I thought that I had all the required components installed, I tried to build the extension. I got the following problems:

First, the error “Error’MSB4226: The imported project “(…)\VSSDK\Microsoft.VsSDK.targets” was not found.” Initially I thought it was a bug, that I reported to Microsoft here, but I discovered that the problem was solved setting the “VisualStudioVersion” MSBuild property, something that a machine with the full Visual Studio 2017 does and that a machine with the Build Tools 2017 does if you open a developer command prompt. Since I was not using it, I passed it as a parameter to the MSBuild script. It can be defined too inside the .csproj file, something that previous Visual Studio versions did automatically but recent versions don’t.

Then I got an error about a missing Microsoft.VisualStudio.Settings.15.0 file. How is that a file from Visual Studio is required by the NuGet package that provides the Visual Studio SDK?. It happens that Microsoft.VsSDK.Build.Tasks.dll, the file that contains the MSBuild tasks needed when creating a VSIX file, references it. But on a machine without Visual Studio, that dll is not present. I discovered that despite the error, the VSIX file was generated correctly, so that DLL was required for a task after generating the VSIX file. That task is to deploy the generated VSIX file to the experimental instance for debugging. Since on a release server that step is not needed, I knew how to instruct the .csproj project file to avoid it:

<PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)|$(Platform)' == 'Release|AnyCPU' ">
   <!-- Do not deploy the extension in Release configuration -->

Finally, when I thought that all obstacles were solved, I got an error about the Microsoft.Visualstudio.Shell.Interop.dll being delay-signed rather than strong-signed. Since my development machine has tons of Visual Studio versions and SDKs, I discovered that all the Microsoft.Visualstudio.Shell.Interop.dll files were strong-named except an old one, which somehow Microsoft shipped delay-signed, and that was the one that I was referencing. So, I only need to change it by the correct version. And finally, my extension generates a VSIX file on a release server with only the Build Tools 2017 plus some additional components, but without Visual Studio 2017 installed.

The next step is to install some agent to connect to the Build/Release Management of Visual Studio Team Services.

Migrating the build of a VSIX project to a build server if you are a solo developer

Some months ago I started a long and slow journey to migrate the build process of my MZ-Tools extension from a custom .NET-based builder that ran on my development computer to Visual Studio Team Services, leveraging its Build management and Release management capabilities. My goals are to learn those capabilities and, well, to use them as if I were a team. I haven’t reached yet that destination but I have made significant progress and I am quite close now. In the process I have realized somewhat ashamed that I wasn’t following the best practices in a lot of places. I say “somewhat” because there are some mitigating circumstances:

  • Being a solo developer it is too easy to arrange things in such a way that only works on your development machine. You don’t have a team to warn you that it doesn’t work outside your development machine.
  • Even if you change your development machine to a new one from time to time, or use two development computers, you use the same username and tend to install and configure the software in the same way.
  • My Visual Studio solution and some projects were born in the year 2002, with the first Visual Studio .NET. At that time Team Foundation Server, NuGet, MSBuild, etc. didn’t even exist on paper.
  • I have all the Visual Studio versions and VS SDKs from 2005 to 2017 installed on my development machine. That causes that you don’t think carefully where a DLL is referenced from.
  • I have also all the .NET Frameworks and SDKs from .NET Framework 2.0 installed on my development machine. Another source for undocumented hidden dependencies.
  • My Visual Studio solution has become quite complex over the years with several projects and technologies:
    • One project that uses .NET Framework 2.0 and C# for the core plug-in, that is reused at binary level for many Microsoft’s IDEs.
    • Four projects with host adapters for Visual Studio (2005, 2008, 2010) as add-in, VBA (Microsoft Office 2000 or higher, even on Windows XP), VB 6.0 and VB 5.0, using .NET Framework 2.0, C# and 3rd party tool for the setups.
    • One project with a host adapter for Visual Studio (2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017) as package, using .NET Framework 4.5, C#, and VSIX.
    • Four projects with COM Shims for VBA (32-bit and 64-bit), VB 6.0 and VB 5.0 using Visual C++, ATL, Windows 8.1 SDK and the .NET CLR loader APIs.
    • One project for a portable version for VBA, using .NET Framework 2.0 and C#.
    • Help file and online help generated by a 3rd party tool.
    • Two projects with integration tests.
    • Obfuscation performed by a 3rd party tool, that requires delay signing.

Microsoft tends to create a new VSIX with each new Visual Studio release but most of us want to create a single package and single VSIX for as many Visual Studio versions as possible, using always the latest Visual Studio version for development (Visual Studio 2017 at the time of this writing). If this is your case, even if your solution is not as complex as mine, ask yourself these questions:

In the process that I have followed first I envisioned the final result:

  • I would use the hosted agent of the Build management of Visual Studio Team Services to provide the following benefits:
    • Gated check-ins to prevent code that breaks the build.
    • Gated check-ins to prevent code that violates code analysis rules.
    • Integration tests. This will require a major effort because I use my own test runner and testing framework instead of Visual Studio Test with the MSTest framework.
  • I would use a private agent on the Release server with the Release management of Visual Studio Team Services to provide the following benefits:
    • Tracking of releases deployed to the test environment, to the pre-production environment and to the production environment.
    • Maybe automated releases.

For these purposes I decided that I would use a new “Build” configuration of the solution for the Build server. In this configuration the obfuscation, help file and online help, setups, etc. are not created. For the Release server I would use the “Release” solution configuration that performs all those additional steps.

For the Build server it is quite easy and I can use the hosted agent of Visual Studio Team Services since I don’t need any 3rd party tools.

For the Release server I cannot use the hosted agent because I need the 3rd party tools that I use to obfuscate, create the help, setups, etc. In the process I have also removed the need for admin rights that my custom builder required previously (the hosted agent of Visual Studio Team Services doesn’t allow admin rights either).

The milestones would be:

  • Migrate the custom .NET-based builder to a MSBuild script. This took me weeks but it’s done.
  • The solution and projects, when built in “Release” configuration, would auto-increment version numbers and would obfuscate the output assemblies, build the help, setups, etc. with their own MSBuild targets without requiring external steps.
  • A master MSBuild script would perform some additional steps before building the solution (such as creating a workspace, getting latest files, restoring NuGet packages, etc.) and some other steps afterwards (such as publishing and archiving binaries).
  • Build on a separate workspace on my development machine. Previously I was building on the same workspace used for development. I know, I know, a horrible bad practice.
  • Create a separate temporary virtual machine to act as Release server with only Visual Studio 2017 Community edition installed, without previous Visual Studio versions to identify missing dependencies and build with the master MSBuild script.
  • Discard the virtual machine of the previous step and create a new virtual machine with the Build Tools 2017 but without Visual Studio 2017, identify and install missing dependencies, build with the master MSBuild script and document everything. I have reached this point!
  • Install a private Visual Studio Team Services agent on the virtual machine that acts as Release server and launch the master build script from the Release management section of Visual Studio Team Services.
  • Create additional scripts to publish binaries to the pre-production and production environment rather than using manual FTP.
  • Repeat everything with the solution for my ASP.NET web site.

I encourage you to follow the same journey if you are a solo developer (and of course if you are a team). At the very least, the exercise of building on a separate build server with only Build Tools 2017 will unhide you hardcoded paths, references that are not provided by source control or supplied as NuGet packages, etc.

Microsoft now working on conditional payloads for VSIX. And for VS 2017 service release!.

Almost three years ago I created this request on Uservoice:

Conditions support for <Content> section of VSIX manifest

This request tries to solve a problem that is increasingly tricky: while Microsoft (or developers that work within Microsoft) release a new extension for each new Visual Studio version, most of us want desperately to update our existing extensions to support multiple versions of Visual Studio. Ideally we would like to have a single package DLL that targets many Visual Studio versions, but if you want to use the latest extensibility APIs, then most of the time you are forced to add references that demand a new package DLL because those references don’t exist on old versions of Visual Studio. But yet, we would like to ship those different package DLLs in the same unified VSIX file, so that for some versions of Visual Studio the VSIX file deploys a package DLL, and for other versions of Visual Studio the VSIX file deploys a different package DLL. Even you may want to deploy different .pkgdef files, as I explained in the request. And nowadays, with the release of Visual Studio 2017 and its manifest “v3”, we would like even different manifests (“v1” for Visual Studio 2010, “v3” for Visual Studio 2012-2017) within the same VSIX, which would solve the most common question on the forums these days: “How can I make a single VSIX that targets Visual Studio 2010-2017?” (sorry, you can’t).

Today, I have received an update from UserVoice indicating that Microsoft is now working on it, and that it will be “for a future servicing release of Visual Studio 2017”. Big news!!!

You can still vote for the idea to show user demand 🙂

3rd party database tools such as MySQL requiring some work to integrate with Visual Studio 2017

With the release of Visual Studio 2017, some popular database tools such as MySQL no longer appear in the Data Connections node of the Server Explorer even if you have installed current version of MySQL for Visual Studio 1.2.6:

It’s no wonder since if you select the Custom installation you will see that Visual Studio 2017 doesn’t appear yet in the list of possible Visual Studio versions to integrate with:

There is also some bad news: the integration with Visual Studio 2017 is more difficult than in previous versions. Third party database tools have two ways to integrate with Visual Studio using Data Designer Extensibility (DDEX):

The first one is to create some entries in the Windows Registry. See Registering a Registry-Based DDEX Provider. For data providers and data sources the entries are:
Visual Studio merges later and redirects at run-time HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\VisualStudio\<version> to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\VisualStudio\<version>_Config, but that’s transparent for the tool. In this case, since Visual Studio 2017 uses its own private Registry hive, the setup has some work to do using the RegLoadAppKey. See the Change: Reduce registry impact > Visual Studio registry section of Changes in Visual Studio 2017 extensibility.

The second one is to create a .vsix extension (package) that provides enhanced design-time support and uses a .pkgdef file to create those registry entries. See Registering a Package-Based DDEX Provider. This is the approach used by MySQL. For Visual Studio 2015 you can see that it installs an extension in the folder:
C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio 14.0\Common7\IDE\Extensions\Oracle\MySQL for Visual Studio\1.2.6.

In that folder you can find the MySql.VisualStudio.pkgdef that creates the registry entries:

So, Oracle needs to modify the MySQL package to support Visual Studio 2017. Alas, their vsix manifest is still using version 1.0:

and that is because they wanted to support Visual Studio 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015 with a single .vsix file:

  • Visual Studio 2010 only supports manifests with version 1.0.
  • Version 2.0 was introduced by Visual Studio 2012, and it is not backwards compatible, so Visual Studio 2010 doesn’t support it.
  • While Visual Studio 2012, 2013 and 2015 support manifests with version 2.0, they also support manifests with version 1.0. So a single .vsix can target Visual Studio 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2015.
  • Visual Studio 2017 doesn’t support manifests with version 1.0. So, it is not possible to have a single .vsix for Visual Studio 2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017.
  • Instead, Visual Studio 2017 requires a manifest with version 3.0.
  • Fortunately, version 3.0 is backwards compatible with version 2.0 (version 3.0 adds a Xml entry that is only recognized by Visual Studio 2017 and ignored by previous versions. See section Changes Affecting VSIX Format and Installation). So, a single .vsix can target Visual Studio 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017.

The bottom line is that two installers will be required for MySQL to target the last five versions of Visual Studio 2010-2017. It’s a pity that Oracle hasn’t used the previous months to make all these changes, frustrating its users.

Using VSIXInstaller.exe to install programmatically an extension to Visual Studio 2015 and Visual Studio 2017

Answering a question in the MSDN VSX forum today, I have learned another change caused by the new VSIX installer (VSIXInstaller.exe) of Visual Studio 2017 that it is worth documenting here.

As you know, in Visual Studio 2015 only one edition (Community, Professional or Enterprise) could be installed on the same machine. Two or more editions couldn’t coexist at the same time. Given that the Enterprise edition includes the features of the Professional edition and that the Community edition is basically the Professional Edition (without some feature such as CodeLens), the VSIX manifest of your extension could target the “Pro” edition and as such it would be installable on any edition (Community, Professional or Enterprise):

Normally a .VSIX file is installed just double-clicking it, so that the VSIXInstaller.exe application is launched. But if you want to install an extension programatically, the VSIXInstaller.exe application offers a few command-line switches:

Notice the /skuName:<name> option: it allows to specify the exact edition (Enterprise, Premium, Pro, Community, etc.) of Visual Studio where you want to install the extension. Which value you would need to use? It happens that for Visual Studio 2015, you can use “Pro” and the extension will be installed happily not only on Visual Studio 2015 Professional, but also on Visual Studio 2015 Community or  (Updated March 1, see comments section) Visual Studio 2015 Enterprise. For example, installing my MZ-Tools extension on Visual Studio 2015 Enterprise edition with this command line works perfectly:

vsixinstaller.exe /skuName:Pro /skuVersion:14.0 “<path>\MZTools8VSPackage.vsix”

(notice that it recognizes my Enterprise edition as Professional edition).

However, the same is not true for VS 2017. Using this command line to install it on my Visual Studio 2017 Enterprise edition:

vsixinstaller.exe /skuName:Pro /skuVersion:15.0 “<path>\MZTools8VSPackage.vsix”

causes this error:

The following command-line is required, targeting specifically the Enterprise edition:

vsixinstaller.exe /skuName:Enterprise /skuVersion:15.0 “<path>\MZTools8VSPackage.vsix”

So, this is another implication of the new modular setup of Visual Studio 2017 for VSX developers. You can query the installed VS 2017 editions with a new Setup API (sample included).

Videos and extensions by Justin Clareburt, Program Manager in Visual Studio Extensibility

Justin Clareburt, Program Manager in Visual Studio Extensibility, and super passionate about VSX and super active in the Microsoft/extendvs Gitter room to help you to update successfully your extension to Visual Studio 2017, has also time to produce videos and to create extensions!:

The first video is with Seth Juarez, about using keyboard mappings in Visual Studio:

And his “hot” extensions:

– Hot Keys: Visual Studio Extension that imports several new keyboard mapping schemes

– Hot Commands: Provides additional commands and shortcuts for enhanced productivity

The second video is with Robert Green (Visual Studio Toolbox) about updating your extension to the new Visual Studio 2017:

Microsoft.VSSDK.BuildTools 15.0 no longer in Preview/Release Candidate

Just in case you haven’t noticed it, the NuGet package for Microsoft.VSSDK.BuildTools 15.0 is no longer Preview or Release Candidate (RC, RC2 or RC3) but final release:

As you can see, it has been a long way of previews / RCs to reach this point:

So, it’s time to update that NuGet package and rebuild. Microsoft hasn’t announced yet the release date of the final version of Visual Studio 2017 but it seems that we are approaching that date, at least from the Visual Studio Extensibility point of view. Update (Feb 10): the launch date has been announced for March 7. If you haven’t updated your extension to support VS 2017 yet, the clock is ticking. Here you have the guidance to do it.

It’s time to change the VSIX manifest of your extension to v3 for Visual Studio 2017 compatibility

I still see, even as today Jan 10, people asking why you get this error when trying to install your extension on Visual Studio 2017 RC:

“The following extensions are not compatible with Visual Studio 15. Installation may cause Visual Studio to be unstable”:

or this other one when you try to upload the extension to the Visual Studio Gallery:

“This extension targets Visual Studio 2017 but was not build with an up-to-date VSSDK. Please make sure to update your references and try uploading again. Note: you’ll also need to add Prerequisites to your extension.vsixmanifest.”:

In both cases, the answer is the same: you have just updated the extension.vsixmanifest of your Visual Studio 2015 extension to add 15.0 (for Visual Studio 2017):

 <InstallationTarget Id="Microsoft.VisualStudio.Community" Version="[14.0, 15.0]" />

But that is not enough to add compatibility for Visual Studio 2017. Even worse, some people wonder if you can live ignoring those warnings.

The short answer to make an extension compatible with Visual Studio 2017 is the following:

  • You need to build it with Visual Studio 2017, you cannot use Visual Studio 2015 (at least at this time). Updated (Feb 7): actually you can build with VS 2015. Updated (Mar 3): as explained in the FAQ entry Can I build a VSIX v3 with Visual Studio 2015?
  • You need an updated pre-release VS SDK (via NuGet). Updated (Feb 7): The Nuget VSSDK 15.0 is no longer prerelease. This VS SDK generates two additional files (catalog.json and manifest.json) inside the output .vsix file (which being a .zip file really, you can rename and unzip to inspect) that were not present in the .vsix generated by the VS 2015 SDK.
  • You need to update the InstallationTarget range in the extension.vsixmanifest (likely this is the only thing that you have done).
  • You need to convert the extension.vsixmanifest to version 3, which is the only version that Visual Studio 2017 accepts (and the Visual Studio Gallery for extensions targeting Visual Studio 2017). Version 3 is backwards compatible with version 2, which means that all fields are the same (including the Version=”2.0.0″!). The only difference is that version 3.0 adds a mandatory section for the prerequisites. At the very least you need to specify the Visual Studio Core Editor (Visual Studio 2017 has an editor to enter values in a friendly way):
   <Prerequisite Id="Microsoft.VisualStudio.Component.CoreEditor" Version="[15.0.25904.2,16.0)" DisplayName="Visual Studio core editor" />

The long answer, with links to resources is on my post Visual Studio 2017 RC announced. Extensions need some changes, and for advanced topics read Some implications of the new modular setup of Visual Studio 2017 for VSX developers.

Now, once that you have assumed that you need a v3 VSIX manifest for Visual Studio 2017, you may wonder how to support multiple instances of Visual Studio from VS 2010 to VS 2017 with the same .vsix: you can’t, because VS 2010 only accepts manifest v1, while VS 2012, VS 2013 and VS 2015 accept manifest v1, v2 or v3 (backwards compatible with v2), and VS 2017 only accepts manifest v3. You need to .vsix files. So, you have two choices:

  • Create a VSIX with manifest v1 for VS 2010, VS 2012, VS 2013 and VS 2015, and another VSIX with manifest v3 for VS 2017. This is the most suggested approach, but there is a better one.
  • Create a VSIX with manifest v1 for VS 2010, VS 2012 and VS 2013, and another VSIX with manifest v3 for VS 2015 and VS 2017. Why? Because VS 2015 introduced APIs not available in previous versions that you can use in VS 2015 and VS 2017 to make your extension a better citizen, such as How to: Use AsyncPackage to Load VSPackages in the Background and How to: Use Rule-based UI Context for Visual Studio Extensions.
  • Updated (Feb 7): if you are not targeting VS 2010 but only VS 2012 and higher, you can have a single VSIX using v3 for VS 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2017.

To get support from Microsoft, you can become a Microsoft Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) “Basic” level for free and get access to workshops explaining the migration process, or you can use Gitter (Microsoft/extendvs), where people from Microsoft and other VSX developers answer questions, the MSDN Visual Studio Integrate Forum that I visit daily, or StackOverflow. And if you find bugs or want to provide suggestions to Microsoft, you can also send feedback to Microsoft about Visual Studio Extensibility through several ways.

Some implications of the new modular setup of Visual Studio 2017 for VSX developers

As you may already know, VS 2017 (formerly VS “15”) introduces a couple of very welcomed changes:

  • It provides a new modular setup that allows you to decide which tools (“workloads”) you want to install and, most importantly, which ones you don’t want at all. The consequence is that installing VS 2017 is much, much faster (unless you install a lot of workloads, of course). This suggestion had almost 2,000 votes on UserVoice. For VSX developers like me that already have six versions of Visual Studio installed (from VS 2005 to VS 2015) on the main dev machine (not counting isolated installations on virtual machines) and know how painful each installation is, this is big news.
  • Visual Studio 2017 allows to coexist several editions on the same machine. So, you can have VS 2017 Community Edition, VS 2017 Professional Edition and VS 2017 Enterprise Edition. This may not be very useful for end users, but for VSX developers it allows you to test your extension (which needs to declare the minimum supported edition in the Vsix manifest) on the three editions on the same computer. Here you can see my computer with the Community edition installed (notice the familiar “Common7” folder inside the “Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\Community” folder):


If you want the details about the new setup experience, the official posts from Microsoft about this on the Visual Studio blog are the following:

Faster, Leaner, Focused on Your Development Needs: The New Visual Studio Installer

Visual Studio “15”: Installing Just What You Need

Anatomy of a Low Impact Visual Studio Install

On the Road to Release: Redesigning Visual Studio Installation

Visual Studio “15” Preview 4

But not only that. Visual Studio 2017 is also much more isolated and resilient. It doesn’t install Visual Studio assemblies in the Global Assembly Cache (GAC) and it doesn’t use for the most part the main Windows Registry. In the past (since VS 2010, see my post The strange case of the registry key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\10.0_Config\Projects\{C8D11400-126E-41CD-887F-60BD40844F9E}), Visual Studio redirected HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\<version> to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\<version>_Config, to allow installation of extensions through .pkgdef files without admin rights, etc. Now, VS 2017 uses its own private registry. See how empty is the regular HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\15.0 key on my machine and notice that there is no 15.0_Config key:


Instead, the VS 2017 private registry is stored in your AppData folder:


Fortunately, you can use regedit.exe to load a private hive. You need to select the HKEY_USERS node, and click the File > Load Hive… menu. You select the privateregistry.bin file, give a name to the hive (I entered “VS2017PrivateRegistry”) and now you can see the 15.0<id>_Config key populated as usual (note: use File > Unload Hive when done):


Hopefully all this isolation and resilience can prevent the problems that I suffered with VS 2015 when my Surface Pro 4 crashed at boot time due to a buggy antivirus update (I never recovered VS 2015).

So far, so good, but all this will cause some issues to VSX developers. I adapted my MZ-Tools extension to run in Visual Studio 2017 some weeks ago and I am these days migrating my old .NET-based custom builder for MZ-Tools to fully embrace MSBuild and hopefully to use a separate Windows Azure build server, better environment/workspaces isolation, etc.

The changes above can cause some trouble:

  • The location of devenv.exe for Visual Studio 2017 has changed, and can be several of them.
    As explained above, you can have now several Visual Studio 2017 installations on your machine. In the past (until Visual Studio 2015) you could query the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\WOW6432Node\Microsoft\VisualStudio\14.0, InstallDir entry, to get the (only) installation folder for Visual Studio (2015). Now, there can be several Visual Studio 2017 installation folders (Community, Professional, Enterprise), and you cannot query the registry directly. Instead, the official approach is to use some interop assemblies (Microsoft.VisualStudio.Setup.Configuration.Interop) provided by Microsoft to enumerate the Visual Studio 2017 installations. See the post Changes to Visual Studio “15” Setup and the Microsoft/vs-setup-samples samples on GitHub. Of course, for your own use on your own build script you can hardcode paths ;-).
  • External processes cannot read Visual Studio 2017 registry entries directly.
    Extensions can read Visual Studio 2017 registry entries from the private registry in a transparent way, because being dlls, they run in-process with devenv.exe and leverage the redirection provided by Visual Studio. But out-of-process executables or scripts need to use the  RegLoadAppKey function. See the section “Change: Reduce registry impact” in Breaking Changes in Visual Studio 2017 extensibility.
  • The location of MSBuild for VS 2017 has changed, and can be several of them.
    In the past (until Visual Studio 2015), the path of MSBuild was “C:\Program Files (x86)\MSBuild\<version>”, where <version> was “4.0”, “12.0” (VS 2013), “14.0” (VS 2015). There is no “15.0” folder there for VS 2017. Instead, MSBuild for VS 2017 is installed in the folder “C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\<edition>\MSBuild\15.0”, where edition can be “Community”, “Professional” or “Enterprise”. Again, for your own use on your own build script you can hardcode the path, but if you want to use a more proper way, you need to get the VS 2017 installation folder as explained above and concatenate “MSBuild\15.0”. Or you can wait until Microsoft releases a document about how to resolve MSBuild location (they are working on it and now that MSBuild is open source you can follow the progress on GitHub). BTW, you can download the MSBuild Tools for Visual Studio 2017 RC here.
  • The location of tf.exe (Team Explorer command-line) has changed.
    In the past, for Visual Studio 2013 and 2015 it was stored in the folder C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio <version>\Common7\IDE. For Visual Studio 2017, it is installed in the folder of the Team Explorer extension (C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\<edition>\Common7\IDE\Extensions\<random folder>). Fortunately, there is a shortcut in the folder C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Visual Studio\2017\Community\Common7\IDE\CommonExtensions\Microsoft\TeamFoundation\Team Explorer that point to that location. Did I mention that there can be several editions of Visual Studio 2017 installed?
  • The VsWebSite.Interop.dll automation file is not included in the Core Editor and causes FileNotFoundException.
    The EnvDTE automation assemblies don’t provide extensibility for all kind of projects (for example, you cannot get project references for VB/C# projects with that assembly). For VB/C# projects, you need the VSLangProj.dll family of assemblies. Both EnvDTE and VSLangProj are included by default with the Core Editor of Visual Studio 2017 and therefore your extension will work just declaring Visual Studio Code Editor as dependency in the new Vsix Manifest editor for version 3:vs2017coreeditordependency
    Those assemblies are also valid for Web Application projects. However, Visual Studio 2005 introduced Web Site projects, that lack a project file and Microsoft provided the VsWebSite.Interop.dll family of assemblies to deal with that kind of projects using automation (for example, to get their references). Alas, the VsWebSite.Interop.dll assembly is not included in the core editor, and therefore each time that a method of your extension uses its types (when the method is JIT-compiled) will cause FileNotFoundException. For example a method with this code:
foreach (EnvDTE.Project project in solution.Projects)
   langProject = project.Object as VSLangProj.VSProject;
   if (langProject != null)
       webProject = project.Object as VsWebSite.VSWebSite;
       if (webProject != null)

I reported this to Microsoft through private channels and on Microsoft Connect (VsWebSite.Interop.dll extensibility assembly not installed by Visual Studio core editor) and the only answer so far has been that the extension must declare a dependency on the Microsoft.VisualStudio.WebTools (which installs that assembly), but that is not a solution for me since:

1) That component installs tons of files related to web development, not only VsWebSite.Interop.dll. The user should not be forced to install web-related stuff (project templates, etc.) that she doesn’t require and that would dirty the Visual Studio installation for that simple extension to work.

2) Even if only VsWebSite.Interop.dll was installed by that Microsoft.VisualStudio.WebTools component it would be annoying for users to install that component.

It is a good thing that Microsoft uses EnvDTE / VSLangProj internally and therefore they needed to include them in the Core Editor. Otherwise they wouldn’t be there either. You know that I am not very fan of EnvDTE/VSLangProj although I still use them very heavily (Microsoft has insisted that they are not going to disappear or be deprecated).

Fortunately, there is a workaround, that is what I used. I refactored the methods of MZ-Tools that use the types of VsWebSite.Interop.dll to move the code inside the method that uses the types to a new method and then handled gracefully the FileNotFoundException. For example:

public Collection References
      Collection references = new Collection();


      if (references.Count == 0)
         catch (System.IO.FileNotFoundException)
            // This can happen in VS 2017 if the web development workload is not installed 
      return references;

I hope this post helps you. Happy coding!

Visual Studio 2017 RC announced. Extensions need some changes

Today at the Connect(); // 2016 conference Microsoft has announced the Release Candidate of Visual Studio 2017, formerly known as Visual Studio “15” whose last public beta was Preview 5. I think that this is going to be a great release, because Visual Studio 2015 was very heavy, bloated and slow unless you had a powerful machine and this new version has been greatly optimized and made granular so you only install the pieces (“workloads”) that you need.

To learn what’s new in VS 2017 RC read: Visual Studio 2017 RC

Now, if you are a developer of extensions for Visual Studio, you have work to do. Visual Studio 2017 introduces version 3.0 of the manifest (which is backwards compatible with previous versions) but requires that your extension declares the components required in the new modular setup.

To learn how to migrate your extension to VS 2017 read How to: Migrate Extensibility Projects to Visual Studio 2017.

To learn what’s new in the Visual Studio 2017 SDK read What’s New in the Visual Studio 2017 SDK.

See also:

FAQ for Visual Studio 2017 extensibility

Breaking Changes in Visual Studio 2017 extensibility

Ngen support in VSIX v3

Installing to external directories

Measuring extension impact in startup

The Visual Studio Gallery is also being revamped and renamed to Visual Studio Marketplace and you can manage your extension using the URL, although some features are not migrated yet from the Visual Studio Gallery.

I have migrated my MZ-Tools extension to work with VS 2017 RC and I have sim-shipped it with Microsoft publishing it today on the Visual Studio Gallery/Marketplace. In a next post I will explain the issues that I have found in the process.