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Extending the Output Window

The Output window is a set of read/write text panes. Visual Studio has these built-in panes: Build, in which projects communicate messages about builds, and General, in which Visual Studio communicates messages about the IDE. Projects get a reference to the Build pane automatically through the IVsBuildableProjectCfg interface methods, and Visual Studio offers direct access to the General pane through the SVsGeneralOutputWindowPane service. In addition to the built-in panes, you can create and manage your own custom panes.

You can control the Output window directly through the IVsOutputWindow and IVsOutputWindowPane interfaces. The IVsOutputWindow interface, which is offered by the SVsOutputWindow service, defines methods for creating, retrieving, and destroying Output window panes. The IVsOutputWindow interface defines methods for showing panes, hiding panes, and manipulating their text. An alternative way of controlling the Output window is through the OutputWindow and OutputWindowPane objects in the Visual Studio Automation object model. These objects encapsulate nearly all of the functionality of the IVsOutputWindow and IVsOutputWindowPane interfaces. In addition, the OutputWindow and OutputWindowPane objects add some higher-level functionality to make it easier to enumerate the Output window panes and to retrieve text from the panes.

You can make an extension that exercises different aspects of the Output pane.

  1. Create a VSIX project named TestOutput with a menu command named TestOutput. For more information, see Creating an Extension with a Menu Command.

  2. Add the following references:

    1. EnvDTE

    2. EnvDTE80

  3. In TestOutput.cs, add the following using statement:

    using EnvDTE;
    using EnvDTE80;
    
  4. In TestOutput.cs, delete the ShowMessageBox method. Add the following method stub:

    private void OutputCommandHandler(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
    }
    
  5. In the TestOutput constructor, change the command handler to OutputCommandHandler. Here is the part that adds the commands:

    OleMenuCommandService commandService = this.ServiceProvider.GetService(typeof(IMenuCommandService)) as OleMenuCommandService;
    if (commandService != null)
    {
        CommandID menuCommandID = new CommandID(MenuGroup, CommandId);
        EventHandler eventHandler = OutputCommandHandler;
        MenuCommand menuItem = new MenuCommand(eventHandler, menuCommandID);
        commandService.AddCommand(menuItem);
    }
    
  6. The sections below have different methods that show different ways of dealing with the Output pane. You can call these methods to body of the OutputCommandHandler() method. For example, the following code adds the CreatePane() method given in the next section.

    private void OutputCommandHandler(object sender, EventArgs e)
    {
        CreatePane(new Guid(), "Created Pane", true, false);
    }
    

This example shows how to create a new Output window pane by using the IVsOutputWindow interface.

void CreatePane(Guid paneGuid, string title, 
    bool visible, bool clearWithSolution)
{
    IVsOutputWindow output = 
        (IVsOutputWindow)GetService(typeof(SVsOutputWindow));
    IVsOutputWindowPane pane;

    // Create a new pane.
    output.CreatePane(
        ref paneGuid, 
        title, 
        Convert.ToInt32(visible), 
        Convert.ToInt32(clearWithSolution));
    
    // Retrieve the new pane.
    output.GetPane(ref paneGuid, out pane);

     pane.OutputString("This is the Created Pane \n");
}

If you add this method to the extension given in the preceding section, when you click the Invoke TestOutput command you should see the Output window with a header that says Show output from: CreatedPane and the words This is the Created Pane in the pane itself.

This example shows how to create an Output window pane by using the OutputWindow object.

void CreatePane(string title)
{
    DTE2 dte = (DTE2)GetService(typeof(DTE));
    OutputWindowPanes panes =
        dte.ToolWindows.OutputWindow.OutputWindowPanes;

    try
    {
        // If the pane exists already, write to it.
        panes.Item(title);
    }
    catch (ArgumentException)
    {
        // Create a new pane and write to it.
        return panes.Add(title);
    }
}

Although the OutputWindowPanes collection lets you retrieve an Output window pane by its title, pane titles are not guaranteed to be unique. When you doubt the uniqueness of a title, use the GetPane method to retrieve the correct pane by its GUID.

If you add this method to the extension given in the preceding section, when you click the Invoke TestOutput command you should see the Output window with a header that says Show output from: DTEPane and the words Added DTE Pane in the pane itself.

This example shows how to delete an Output window pane.

void DeletePane(Guid paneGuid)
{
    IVsOutputWindow output =
    (IVsOutputWindow)ServiceProvider.GetService(typeof(SVsOutputWindow));

    IVsOutputWindowPane pane;
    output.GetPane(ref paneGuid, out pane);

    if (pane == null)
    {
        CreatePane(paneGuid, "New Pane\n", true, true);
    }
     else
    {
        output.DeletePane(ref paneGuid);
    }
}

If you add this method to the extension given in the preceding section, when you click the Invoke TestOutput command you should see the Output window with a header that says Show output from: New Pane and the words Added Created Pane in the pane itself. If you click the Invoke TestOutput command again, the pane is deleted.

This example shows how to get the built-in General pane of the Output window.

void GetGeneralPane()
{
    return (IVsOutputWindowPane)GetService(
        typeof(SVsGeneralOutputWindowPane));
}

If you add this method to the extension given in the preceding section, when you click the Invoke TestOutput command you should see that the Output window shows the words Found General pane in the pane.

This example shows how to find the Build pane and write to it. Since the Build pane isn’t activated by default, it activates it also.

void OutputTaskItemStringExExample(string buildMessage)
{
    EnvDTE80.DTE2 dte = (EnvDTE80.DTE2)ServiceProvider.GetService(typeof(EnvDTE.DTE));

    EnvDTE.OutputWindowPanes panes =
        dte.ToolWindows.OutputWindow.OutputWindowPanes;
    foreach (EnvDTE.OutputWindowPane pane in panes)
        {
            if (pane.Name.Contains("Build"))
            {
                pane.OutputString(buildMessage + "\n");
                pane.Activate();
                return;
             }
        }
}
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