Recently, I’ve updated over 30 of my extensions to support Visual Studio 2019 (16.0).

To make sure they work, I got my hands on a very early internal build of VS 2019 to test with (working on the Visual Studio team has its benefits). I’ve learned that the upgrade process is probably the easiest I’ve ever experienced.

I wanted to share that experience with you to show just how easy it is. Then you’ll know what to do once you get a copy of Visual Studio 2019.

Updates to .vsixmanifest

We need to make a couple of updates to the .vsixmanifest file. First, we must update the supported VS version range.


Here’s a version that support every major and minor versions of Visual Studio 14.0 (2015) and 15.0 (2017) all the way up to but not including version 16.0.

<Installation InstalledByMsi="false"> 
    <InstallationTarget Id="Microsoft.VisualStudio.Pro" Version="[14.0,16.0)" />

Simply change the upper bound of the version range from 16.0 to 17.0, like so:

<Installation InstalledByMsi="false"> 
    <InstallationTarget Id="Microsoft.VisualStudio.Pro" Version="[14.0,17.0)" />


Next, update the version ranges in the <Prerequisite> elements. Here’s what it looked like before:

    <Prerequisite Id="Microsoft.VisualStudio.Component.CoreEditor" Version="[15.0,16.0)" DisplayName="Visual Studio core editor" />

We must update the version ranges to have the same upper bound as before, but in this case we can make the upper bound open ended, like so:

    <Prerequisite Id="Microsoft.VisualStudio.Component.CoreEditor" Version="[15.0,)" DisplayName="Visual Studio core editor" />

This means that the Prerequisite needs version 15.0 or newer.

See the updated .vsixmanifest files for Markdown Editor, Bundler & Minifier, and Image Optimizer.

What else?

Nothing. That’s it. You’re done.

Well, there is one thing that may affect your extension. Extensions that autoload a package has to do so in the background as stated in this blog post. Check out this great walkthrough on how to make that change if you haven’t already since it’s been supported since Visual Studio 2015.

What about the references to Microsoft.VisualStudio.Shell and other such assemblies? As always with new version of Visual Studio, they are automatically being redirected to the 16.0 equivalent and there is backwards compatibility to ensure it will Just WorkTM.  And in my experience with the upgrade is that they in fact do just work.

I’m going to head back to adding VS 2019 support to the rest of my extensions. I’ve got about 40 left to go.

I’m often asked how to best learn to build Visual Studio extensions, so here is what I wished someone told me before I got started.

Don’t skip the introduction

It’s easy to create a new extensibility project in Visual Studio, but unless you understand the basics of how the extensibility system works, then you are setting yourself up for failure.

The best introduction I know of is a session from //build 2016 and it is as relevant today as it was then.

Know the resources

Where do you get more information about the various aspects of the Visual Studio APIs you wish to use? Here are some very helpful websites that are good to study.

Know how to search for help

Writing extensions is a bit of a niche activity so searching for help online doesn’t always return relevant results. However, there are ways we can optimize our search terms to generate better results.

  • Use the precise interface and class names as part of the search term
  • Try adding the words VSIX, VSSDK or Visual Studio to the search terms
  • Search directly on GitHub instead of Google/Bing when possible
  • Ask questions to other extenders on the chatroom

Use open source as a learning tool

You probably have ideas about what you want your extension to do and how it should work. But what APIs should you use and how do you hook it all up correctly? These are difficult questions and a lot of people give up when these go unanswered.

The best way I know of is to find extensions on the Marketplace that does similar things or uses similar elements as to what you want to do. Then find the source code for that extension and look at what they did and what APIs they used and go from there.

Additional tools

There is an open source extension for Visual Studio that provides additional features for extension authors that I can highly recommend. Grab the Extensibility Tools extension on the Marketplace.

Also, a NuGet package exist containing Roslyn Analyzers that will help you writing extensions. Add the Microsoft.VisualStudio.SDK.Analyzers package to your extension project.

I hope this will give you a better starting point for writing extensions. If I forgot to mention something, please let me know in the comments.