Visual Studio “painful” releases and “painless” releases for add-ins. VS 2010 belongs to the first group (by far). And maybe next ones too…

There are “painful” Visual Studio releases which require you a lot of testing and changes in your add-in, a lot of time isolating bugs to reproduce them with the minimal code, and a lot of wait until they are fixed in some beta, CTP, etc:

– VS.NET 2002: introduced a new automation model (EnvDTE) very different to the one used in VB6, with commands (a new concept at that time), required (native!) satellite DLLs, shim COM controls for toolwindows, etc.

– VS 2005: introduced XML-based add-in registration, a new
Microsoft.VisualStudio.CommandBars assembly, managed (.NET) satellite DLLs, truecolor bitmaps, a new EnvDTE80 assembly, temporary solutions, build platforms, partial classes, etc.

Then there are “painless” Visual Studio releases which don’t introduce many changes and for the most part use the same code than the one before, so add-ins don’t suffer much:

– VS.NET 2003: it was very similar to VS.NET 2002.

– VS 2008: it is very similar to VS 2005.

VS 2010 belongs to the first group. In the long journey (several releases) that Microsoft is taking to convert the COM-based original VS.NET 2002 IDE to a 100% managed (.NET) IDE, it is the one suffering the most important changes so far. Suffice to say that this is the first VS release that needs to load the .NET Framework when launched (so it loads slower), previous ones went native code all the launch code path.

In this VS 2010 release the commandbars and the code editors are being changed, which causes add-ins to suffer lots of bugs, specially because Microsoft don’t use add-ins (but SDK packages), so bugs get unnoticed until developers of add-ins start testing extensively. I haven’t counted them exactly, but I’m quite sure I have reported more than 30 bugs in the automation model at Microsoft Connect since I started to test VS 2010 Beta 1. I don’t remember me reporting so many bugs in the beta period of any previous release. BTW, the bugs that I report that are still in beta 2 are prefixed with “VSIP: VS 2010 Beta 2” if you want to search them.

Yesterday I finally got tired of not being able to load my MZ-Tools add-in in VS 2010 Beta 2 due to its multiple frustrating critical bugs in the new WPF-based commandbars. So, for testing purposes, I decided to skip the creation of toolbars, menus and commandbar popups and instead I created by hand a custom toolbar with the commands of my add-in (through the Tools, Customize dialog), so I could at last test the actual features. Of course, the process of creating and populating a custom toolbar couldn’t go without finding a new bug:

VSIP: VS 2010 Beta 2 Bug: Removing last button from custom toolbar causes it to disappear temporarily from the list of commandbars

(and another one that I was unable to reproduce)

So today I have started to test some features and soon I have found a bug that didn’t happen in previous releases and that can break add-ins with toolwindows whose content changes with the active document window:

VS 2010 Beta 2 Bug: EnvDTE.WindowEvents.WindowActivated event not fired for window getting the focus after closing other window

Notice that the Properties window of VS 2010 is not affected by that bug and changes the content correctly as you close document windows, because it doesn’t use the automation model (EnvDTE.WindowEvents.WindowActivated event).

Maybe I am too pessimistic, but I think this will be the outlook for add-ins in this and next releases of Visual Studio: a lot of internal changes in Visual Studio that cause bugs in the automation model for add-ins that get unnoticed until very late in the beta cycle (because early betas and CTPs are under heavy construction and are unusable for add-ins).

And if you think that the next VS release (maybe VS 2012 or VS 2013) will be a “painless” one, Microsoft is planning to introduce a new language model (different than the code model provided by Project.CodeModel or ProjectItem.FileCodeModel). Even if the current code model is preserved for backward compatibility, chances are that add-ins will want to use a better code model, given the limitations of the current one (no support for generics, no support for code inside methods, limited code generation, bugs, etc.).

And if you think that the new WPF-based commandbars will be here to stay many years, I bet that sooner of later Microsoft will change them by the ribbon UI of Office 2007 and new Windows 7 applications 😉

On the positive side, I do know that Microsoft people are doing a lot of hard work to fix the bugs and are providing the means to get fixed as many bugs as possible by the RTM release at March 2010.

Importing Visual Studio settings destroys commandbars of add-ins

There is a bug/issue that I reported years ago for VS 2005 and was not even acknowledged as a bug but “by design”. VS 2010 (Beta 2) still exhibits it so I keep pushing to get if fixed (the original bug report was lost, I think it died when MSDN Product Feedback became Microsoft Connect):

VS 2010 Beta2: importing settings destroys commandbars created by add-ins

The problem is that Visual Studio thinks that all the commandbars of the IDE belong to it, ignoring the fact that some commandbars belong to add-ins and it should ignore them when importing settings, rather than resetting them or destroying them…

To complicate things, when the add-in is unloaded at some point later (by the user or closing VS), it doesn’t have a direct way to know if its commandbars have been destroyed by Visual Studio, so it tries to delete them and it gets a ObjectDisposedException….

Add-ins and the “Tools”, “Customize” dialog, “Commands” tab of Visual Studio 2010 (Beta 2)

In VS 2008 (and previous versions), when you opened the “Tools”, “Customize…” dialog, “Commands” tab, you got a list of  “categories”, and each category has a list of commands that you could drag and drop on some toolbar to create a button from that command. For commands provided by add-ins, you had the “Add-Ins” category and for commands provided by macros you had the “Macros” category. Furthermore, you had a “Rearrange Commands…” button where a new dialog allowed you to select a menu bar or a toolbar, and add/move/remove commands (buttons), etc. So far so good, except one thing that VS has never managed well which is that toolbars, menu bars, commandbar popups and buttons provided by add-ins can be temporary if the add-in uses that approach instead of the permanent one, and therefore Visual Studio should not offer the temporary UI items of add-ins for customization, since customization will be lost when the add-in is unloaded and when loaded again the add-in will recreate the UI from scratch. I discussed these issues in detail in the article:

HOWTO: Handling buttons and toolbars user customizations from a Visual Studio add-in

In VS 2010 (Beta 2), commandbars are WPF-based and the Customize dialog has suffered a re-design, but if it is not fixed in the RC / RTM builds things are getting worse due to these bugs (currently under evaluation, but likely closed as “won’t fix” in this release):

VS 2010 Beta 2 Bug: wrong customization for commandbarpopup of add-ins

VS 2010 Beta2: Add-ins and macros commands should not appear in the
“Tools”, “Customize” dialog, “Commands” tab, “Menu bar” combobox

Those bugs will cause confusion to users of add-ins if they try to use the Customize dialog…

At least these two minor bugs were fixed after Beta 2:

VS 2010 Beta 2 Bug: Command picture not shown in Tools, Customize window, Commands tab

VS 2010 Beta 2 Bug: Command name shown instead of caption in Tools, Customize window, Commands tab

Another critical VS 2010 Beta 2 bug that causes the IDE to hang

This bug eluded me during several days because there was another bug that already caused VS 2010 Beta 2 to hang, but finally a couple of days ago I realized that was seeing a different issue (no commandbarbutton involved in this new bug) and I was able to isolate and report it today:

VS 2010 Beta 2 Bug: adding CommandBarPopup to CommandbarPopup causes VS to hang if CommandBarPopup was added to Toolbar before

As I expressed some days ago, my feeling with VS 2010 so far (after four builds) is that once you patch your add-in to (somehow) bypass a bug, the add-in finds a new one.

The (VB.NET) code to reproduce it is:

Imports System
Imports Microsoft.VisualStudio.CommandBars
Imports Extensibility
Imports EnvDTE
Imports EnvDTE80

Public Class Connect
   Implements IDTExtensibility2

   Private _applicationObject As DTE2
   Private _addInInstance As AddIn
   Private _commandBarToolbar As CommandBar
   Private _commandBarPopupOnToolbar As CommandBarPopup
   Private _commandBarPopupMenu As CommandBarPopup
   Private _commandBarPopupOnMenu As CommandBarPopup

   Public Sub OnConnection(ByVal application As Object, ByVal connectMode As ext_ConnectMode, ByVal addInInst As Object, ByRef custom As Array) Implements IDTExtensibility2.OnConnection

      _applicationObject = CType(application, DTE2)
      _addInInstance = CType(addInInst, AddIn)

      Select Case connectMode

         Case ext_ConnectMode.ext_cm_AfterStartup

         Case ext_ConnectMode.ext_cm_Startup
            ' OnStartupComplete will be called

      End Select

   End Sub

   Public Sub OnStartupComplete(ByRef custom As Array) Implements IDTExtensibility2.OnStartupComplete
   End Sub

   Private Sub InitializeAddIn()

      Dim commandBars As CommandBars


         commandBars = CType(_applicationObject.CommandBars(), CommandBars)

         If MessageBox.Show("Create toolbar before menu?", "", MessageBoxButtons.YesNo) = DialogResult.Yes Then

            ' This hangs VS 2010 Beta 2


            ' This causes nested menus but doesn’t hang VS 2010 Beta 2

         End If

      Catch ex As Exception
      End Try

   End Sub

   Private Sub CreateToolbar(ByVal commandBars As CommandBars)

      _commandBarToolbar = commandBars.Add(Name:="My toolbar", Position:=MsoBarPosition.msoBarTop, Temporary:=True)
      _commandBarPopupOnToolbar = AddCommandBarPopupToCommandBar(_commandBarToolbar, "MyPopupOnToolbar", "My Popup On Toolbar")
      _commandBarToolbar.Visible = True

   End Sub

   Private Sub CreateMenu(ByVal commandBars As CommandBars)

      Dim menuCommandBar As CommandBar

      menuCommandBar = commandBars.Item("MenuBar")

      _commandBarPopupMenu = AddCommandBarPopupToCommandBar(menuCommandBar, "MyPopupMenu", "My Menu")
      _commandBarPopupOnMenu = AddCommandBarPopupToCommandBar(_commandBarPopupMenu.CommandBar, "MyPopupOnMenu", "My Popup On Menu")
      _commandBarPopupMenu.Visible = True

   End Sub

   Public Sub OnDisconnection(ByVal disconnectMode As ext_DisconnectMode, ByRef custom As Array) Implements IDTExtensibility2.OnDisconnection


         If Not _commandBarPopupOnMenu Is Nothing Then
         End If

         If Not _commandBarPopupOnToolbar Is Nothing Then
         End If

         If Not _commandBarPopupMenu Is Nothing Then
         End If

         If Not _commandBarToolbar Is Nothing Then
         End If

      Catch ex As Exception
      End Try

   End Sub

   Public Sub OnAddInsUpdate(ByRef custom As Array) Implements IDTExtensibility2.OnAddInsUpdate
   End Sub

   Public Sub OnBeginShutdown(ByRef custom As Array) Implements IDTExtensibility2.OnBeginShutdown
   End Sub

   Friend Shared Function AddCommandBarPopupToCommandBar(ByVal objParentCommandBar As CommandBar, _
   ByVal sCommandBarName As String, ByVal sCaption As String) As CommandBarPopup

      Dim objCommandBarPopup As CommandBarPopup = Nothing
      Dim objCommandBar As CommandBar
      Dim objCommandBarControl As CommandBarControl
      Dim iPosition As Integer

      If Not (objParentCommandBar Is Nothing) Then

         iPosition = objParentCommandBar.Controls.Count + 1

         objCommandBarControl = objParentCommandBar.Controls.Add(Type:=MsoControlType.msoControlPopup, Before:=iPosition)

         objCommandBarPopup = CType(objCommandBarControl, CommandBarPopup)

         objCommandBar = objCommandBarPopup.CommandBar

         If Not (objCommandBar Is Nothing) Then

            objCommandBar.Name = sCommandBarName

            objCommandBarPopup.Caption = sCaption

         End If

      End If

      Return objCommandBarPopup

   End Function

End Class

More on CommandBarButton.Mask property deprecated in VS 2010

In the post CommandBarButton.Mask property deprecated in VS 2010 I mentioned that VS 2010 will deprecate the Mask property of CommandBarButton to specify bitmap transparency, accepting 32-bit bitmaps with transparency in the alpha channel in the CommandBarButton.Picture property instead.

The VS team told me some weeks ago that the CommandBarButton.Picture would accept also in next VS 2010 builds 24-bit bitmaps with RGB=0,254,0 (almost pure green) as transparent color (as VS has always accepted for commands). I have verified this week that VS 2010 Beta 2 accepts that possibility correctly.

Bottom line: VS 2010 will accept both in Commands (AddNamedCommand) and CommandBarButton.Picture:

  • 32-bit bitmaps with transparency in the alpha channel
  • 24-bit bitmaps with RGB=0,254,0 (almost pure green) as transparent color