Managed Extensibility Framework in the Editor

The editor is built by using Managed Extensibility Framework (MEF) components. You can build your own MEF components to extend the editor, and your code can consume editor components as well.

The MEF is a .NET library that lets you add and modify features of an application or component that follows the MEF programming model. The Visual Studio editor can both provide and consume MEF component parts.

The MEF is contained in the .NET Framework version 4 System.ComponentModel.Composition.dll assembly.

For more information about MEF, see Managed Extensibility Framework Overview.

Component Parts and Composition Containers

A component part is a class or a member of a class that can do one (or both) of the following:

  • Consume another component

  • Be consumed by another component

For example, consider a shopping application that has an order entry component that depends on product availability data provided by a warehouse inventory component. In MEF terms, the inventory part can export product availability data, and the order entry part can import the data. The order entry part and the inventory part do not have to know about each other; the composition container (provided by the host application) is responsible for maintaining the set of exports, and resolving the exports and imports.

The composition container, CompositionContainer, is typically owned by the host. The composition container maintains a catalog of exported component parts.

Exporting and Importing Component Parts

You can export any functionality, as long as it is implemented as a public class or a public member of a class (property or method). You do not have to derive your component part from ComposablePart. Instead, you must add a ExportAttribute attribute to the class or class member that you want to export. This attribute specifies the contract by which another component part can import your functionality.

The Export Contract

The ExportAttribute defines the entity (class, interface, or structure) that is being exported. Typically, the export attribute takes a parameter that specifies the type of the export.

[Export(typeof(ContentTypeDefinition))]
class TestContentTypeDefinition : ContentTypeDefinition {   }

By default, the ExportAttribute attribute defines a contract that is the type of the exporting class.

[Export]
[Name("Structure")]
[Order(After = "Selection", Before = "Text")]
class TestAdornmentLayerDefinition : AdornmentLayerDefinition {   }

In the example, the default [Export] attribute is equivalent to [Export(typeof(TestAdornmentLayerDefinition))].

You can also export a property or method, as shown in the following example.

[Export]
[Name("Scarlet")]
[Order(After = "Selection", Before = "Text")]
public AdornmentLayerDefinition scarletLayerDefinition;

Importing a MEF Export

When you want to consume a MEF export, you must know the contract (typically the type) by which it was exported, and add a ImportAttribute attribute that has that value. By default, the import attribute takes one parameter, which is the type of the class that it modifies. The following lines of code import the IClassificationTypeRegistryService type.

[Import]
internal IClassificationTypeRegistryService ClassificationRegistry;

If your existing code is a MEF component part, you can use MEF metadata to consume editor component parts.

To consume editor functionality from a MEF component part

  1. Add references to System.Composition.ComponentModel.dll, which is in the global assembly cache (GAC), and to the editor assemblies.

  2. Add the relevant using statements.

    using System.ComponentModel.Composition;
    using Microsoft.VisualStudio.Text;
    
  3. Add the [Import] attribute to your service interface, as follows.

    [Import]
    ITextBufferFactoryService textBufferService;
    
  4. When you have obtained the service, you can consume any one of its components.

  5. When you have compiled your assembly, put it in the ..\Common7\IDE\Components\ folder of your Visual Studio installation.

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