Visual Studio is a great development environment with ever growing features, and getting better with each version.

But there is always that one niche feature that you need that would help improve your productivity in a project – a menu item to start a custom process, an improved IntelliSense for a custom language, or an editor for a custom file type. With Visual Studio, you can easily unlock additional features with extensions.

This post  will explain the basic steps needed to prepare your Visual Studio environment to create your own extensions.

Installing the SDK

Before you can start creating your own Visual Studio Extensions, you need to first install the Visual Studio SDK. The Visual Studio SDK is used to extend Visual Studio with new features.

Learn more about Visual Studio SDK from Microsoft here.

With Visual Studio 2015 the Visual Studio SDK is already included in the installer.
For Visual Studio versions before 2015 you will need to download the SDK as a separate update.
NOTE: The SDK is not included in the Express edition!

Installing SDK with a fresh Visual Studio 2015

If Visual Studio is not yet installed on your PC, you can simply add the Visual Studio SDK to your Visual Studio during the installation. Just make sure that you select the Visual Studio Extensibility Tools when installing Visual Studio 2015.

Installing SDK Visual Studio 2015 Extensibility Tools

After that just finish the installation process as normal.

Adding the feature to an existing Visual Studio 2015 installation

If you already have Visual Studio 2015 installed and you did not select the SDK when installing just go to the windows control panel.

Select Visual Studio 2015 and click on the “Change” Button.

Installing SDK Visual Studio 2015 Windows Control panel

When a Visual Studio Dialog appears on the Screen, Click on the “Modify” Button.

SDK Visual Studio 2015 Dialog Box

Now, select what you want to change about the Visual Studio installation on your PC.
Be sure to search for the Visual Studio Extensibility Tolls under the Common Tools branch and make sure it is checked.

Visual Studio 2015 Installation Features Window

To finish your changes and add the feature press the “Update” Button and wait for the update to finish.

Adding the feature to Visual Studio 2013/2012/2010

For Visual Studio versions before Visual Studio 2015, you will need to download the Visual Studio SDK from Microsoft.
You can find the SDK for Visual Studio 2013 here. Or simply do a Google search for Visual Studio 2013 SDK.

Download the file and execute it.

Visual Studio 2013 Installation

Visual Studio 2013 SDK Successful Installation

The steps should be the same for SDK in Visual Studio 2010, and 2012.

Making sure the installation worked

Once the setup is finished, all that’s left is to make sure it worked.
Start your Visual Studio and Create a new Project.
This is what you should see in Visual Studio:

Visual Studio SDK New Project

If you can find the VSIX Project in your Dialog, everything worked and you are ready to create your own Visual Studio Extensions.

In part 2 of this 2 part series, we will show you how to create a simple Visual Studio Extension.

If you want to learn more about Visual Studio or need assistance with customization, please feel free to reach out to us in the form below.