Walkthrough: Saving User Settings on a Start Page By Using Automation

You can access the Automation model from a Start Page, and you can use the Automation model to persist user settings. By following this walkthrough, you can create a control that saves a setting to the registry when the user clicks a button, and then retrieves that setting every time the Start Page loads. Because the Start Page project template includes a customizable user control, and the default Start Page XAML calls that control, you do not have to modify the Start Page itself.

The settings store that is instantiated in this walkthrough is an instance of the IVsWritableSettingsStore interface, which reads and writes to the following registry location when it is called: HKCU\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\11.0\CollectionName

When it is running in the experimental instance of Visual Studio, the settings store reads and writes to HKCU\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\11.0Exp\CollectionName.

For more information about how to persist settings, see State Persistence and the Visual Studio IDE or Support for State Persistence. For more information about the Automation model, see Extending the Visual Studio Environment or Referencing Automation Assemblies and the DTE2 Object.

To complete this walkthrough, you must install the Visual Studio 2012 SDK. You must also install the Start Page project template.

Note Note

For more information about the Visual Studio SDK, see Extending Visual Studio Overview. To download the Visual Studio SDK, see Visual Studio Extensibility Developer Center on the MSDN Web site.

You can download the Start Page project template by using Extension Manager.

To configure the project for this walkthrough

  1. Create a Start Page project by using the Start Page project template, as described in Start Pages. Name the project SaveMySettings.

  2. In Solution Explorer, add the following assembly references to the StartPageControl project:

    • EnvDTE EnvDTE80

    • Microsoft.VisualStudio.OLE.Interop

    • Microsoft.VisualStudio.Shell.Interop.11.0

    The EnvDTE and EnvDTE80 assemblies provide the automation object model. The Interop assemblies provide access to specific objects in the Visual Studio shell.

  3. Open MyControl.xaml.

  4. From the XAML pane, in the top-level UserControl element definition, add the following event declaration after the namespace declarations.

  5. In the design pane, click the main area of the control, and then press DELETE.

    This removes the Border element and everything in it, and leaves only the top-level Grid element.

  6. From the Toolbox, drag a StackPanel control to the grid.

  7. Now drag a TextBlock, a TextBox, and a Button to the StackPanel.

  8. Add an x:Name attribute for the TextBox, and a Click event for the Button, as shown in the following example.

    <StackPanel Width="300" HorizontalAlignment="Center" VerticalAlignment="Center">
        <TextBlock Width="140" FontSize="14">Enter your setting</TextBlock>
        <TextBox x:Name="txtblk" Margin="0, 5, 0, 10" Width="140" />
        <Button Click="Button_Click" Width="100">Save My Setting</Button>

To implement the user control

  1. In the XAML pane, right-click the Click attribute of the Button element, and then click Navigate to Event Handler.

    This opens MyControl.xaml.cs, and creates a stub handler for the Button_Click event.

  2. Add the following using statements to the top of the file.

    using EnvDTE80;
    using Microsoft.VisualStudio.Shell;
    using Microsoft.VisualStudio.Shell.Interop;
    using System.ComponentModel;
  3. Add a private SettingsStore property, as shown in the following example.

    private IVsWritableSettingsStore _settingsStore = null;
    private IVsWritableSettingsStore SettingsStore
            if (_settingsStore == null)
                // Get a reference to the DTE from the DataContext. 
                var typeDescriptor = DataContext as ICustomTypeDescriptor;
                var propertyCollection = typeDescriptor.GetProperties();
                var dte = propertyCollection.Find("DTE", false).GetValue(
                    DataContext) as DTE2;
                // Get the settings manager from the DTE. 
                var serviceProvider = new ServiceProvider(
                var settingsManager = serviceProvider.GetService(
                    typeof(SVsSettingsManager)) as IVsSettingsManager;
                // Write the user settings to _settingsStore.
                    out _settingsStore);
            return _settingsStore;

    This property first gets a reference to the DTE2 interface, which contains the Automation object model, from the DataContext of the user control, and then uses the DTE to get an instance of the IVsSettingsManager interface. Then it uses that instance to return the current user settings.

  4. Fill in the Button_Click event as follows.

    private void Button_Click(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
        int exists = 0;
        SettingsStore.CollectionExists("MySettings", out exists);
        if (exists != 1)
        SettingsStore.SetString("MySettings", "MySetting", txtblk.Text);

    This writes the content of the text box to a "MySetting" field in a "MySettings" collection in the registry. If the collection does not exist, it is created.

  5. Add the following handler for the OnLoaded event of the user control.

    private void OnLoaded(Object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
        string value;
            "MySettings", "MySetting", "", out value);
        txtblk.Text = value;

    This sets the text of the text box to the current value of "MySetting".

  6. Build the user control.

  7. In Solution Explorer, open source.extension.vsixmanifest.

  8. In the manifest editor, set Product Name to Save My Settings Start Page.

    This sets the name of the Start Page as it is to appear in the Customize Start Page list in the Options dialog box.

  9. Build StartPage.xaml.

To test the user control

  1. Press F5.

    The experimental instance of Visual Studio opens.

  2. In the experimental instance, on the Tools menu, click Options.

  3. In the Environment node, click Startup, and then, in the Customize Start Page list, select [Installed Extension] Save My Settings Start Page.

    Click OK.

  4. Close the Start Page if it is open, and then, on the View menu, click Start Page.

  5. On the Start Page, click the MyControl tab.

  6. In the text box, type Cat, and then click Save My Setting.

  7. Close the Start Page and then open it again.

    The word "Cat" should be displayed in the text box.

  8. Replace the word "Cat" with the word "Dog". Do not click the button.

  9. Close the Start Page and then open it again.

    The word "Dog" should be displayed in the text box, even though the setting was not saved. This happens because Visual Studio keeps tool windows in memory, even if they are closed, until Visual Studio itself is closed.

  10. Close the experimental instance of Visual Studio.

  11. Press F5 to re-open the experimental instance.

  12. The word "Cat" should be displayed in the text box.

You can modify this user control to save and retrieve any number of custom settings by using different values from different event handlers to get and set the SettingsStore property. As long as you use a different propertyName parameter for each call to SetString, the values will not overwrite one another in the registry.