Visual Studio SDK

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.

Starting in Visual Studio 2015, you do not install the Visual Studio SDK from the download center. It is included as an optional feature in Visual Studio setup. You can also install the VS SDK later on, as described below.

  • 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 also learn how to make your extension look great on high DPI devices with our Addressing DPI Issues topic.

Take advantage of the Image Service and Catalog for great image management and support for high DPI and theming.

You can find Visual Studio extensions in the Extensions and Updates dialog on the Tools menu. For more information, see Finding and Using Visual Studio Extensions. You can also find extensions in the Visual Studio Gallery

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.

If you have questions about the VSSDK or want to share your experiences developing extensions, you can use the Visual Studio Extensibility Forum or the ExtendVS Group Chat.

You can find more information in the VSX Arcana blog and an number of blogs written by Microsoft MVPs:

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