Visual Studio SDK
The Visual Studio SDK helps you extend Visual Studio features or integrate new features into Visual Studio. You can distribute your extensions to other users, as well as to the Visual Studio Gallery. The following are some of the ways in which you can extend Visual Studio:
Add commands, buttons, menus, and other UI elements to the IDE
Add tool windows for new functionality
Extend IntelliSense for a given language, or provide IntelliSense for new programming languages
Use light bulbs to provide hints and suggestions that help developers write better code
Enable support for a new language
Add a custom project type
Reach millions of developers via the Visual Studio Gallery
If you’ve never written a Visual Studio extension before, you should find more information about these features and at Starting to Develop Visual Studio Extensions.
The Visual Studio Extensibility Tools (VS SDK and templates) are included as an optional feature in Visual Studio setup.
If you’d like to include the Extensibility Tools with your custom Visual Studio installation, you can find them under Features / Common Tools / Visual Studio Extensibility Tools.
You can install the Extensibility Tools at a later time by opening the New Project dialog and selecting the Install Visual Studio Extensibility Tools item under Visual C# / Extensibility.
If you open a solution with an extensibility project without first installing the Extensibility Tools, you will be prompted by a highlighted information bar above the Solution Explorer. Click on the Visual Studio Extensibility Tools link to install the Extensibility Tools.
You can still install the Extensibility Tools via command line by using the /InstallSelectedItems switch with the Visual Studio installer. See Installing Visual Studio for details on using command-line parameters and installing selectable items.
To install just the Extensibility Tools you can run the Visual Studio installer passing “/InstallSelectableItems VS_SDK_GROUPV1” on the command line.
Note that you must run the Visual Studio installer which matches your installed version of Visual Studio. For example if you have Visual Studio Enterprise installed on your computer, you must run the Visual Studio Enterprise installer (vs_enterprise.exe) with the /InstallSelectableItems command line switch.
The Visual Studio SDK has some new features, including light bulbs and new project items that allow you to create menu commands, tool windows, and editor extensions using a VSIX package. For more information, see What's New in the Visual Studio 2015 SDK.
Get great tips for designing the UI for your extension in Visual Studio User Experience Guidelines.
You can find the Visual Studio SDK API reference at Visual Studio SDK Reference.
You can find open source examples of VS SDK extensions on GitHub at Visual Studio Samples. This GitHub repo contains samples that illustrate various extensible features in Visual Studio.
You can find more information in the VSX Arcana blog and an number of blogs written by Microsoft MVPs:
Creating an Extension with a Menu Command
How to: Migrate Extensibility Projects to Visual Studio 2015
FAQ: Converting Add-ins to VSPackage Extensions
Managing Multiple Threads in Managed Code
Extending Menus and Commands
Adding Commands to Toolbars
Extending and Customizing Tool Windows
Extending and Customizing Editors
Extending User Settings and Options
Extending Properties and the Property Window
Extending Other Parts of Visual Studio
Using and Providing Services
Visual Studio Isolated Shell
Shipping Visual Studio Extensions
Inside the Visual Studio SDK
Support for the Visual Studio SDK
Visual Studio SDK Reference