One of the most compelling reasons to use Microsoft Visual Studio as an integrated development environment (IDE) or code editor is the fact that it has a huge library of extensions you can download to add features and functionality to what is already a robust IDE. These extensions - available through the Visual Studio Marketplace - come in both free and paid versions, with many offering a free trial. We will be highlighting some of the top Visual Studio extensions for developers in this article.
The VS extensions from Marketplace listed in this article are not ranked in any particular order. Nor is this a complete list by any means. Visual Studio Marketplace has a ton of extensions, and covering them all would likely take an entire book. However, we have saved you the trouble as we will bring you some of the must-have developer extensions to up your coding skills and the productivity of your development team.
GitHub Extension for Visual Studio
One of the most important add-ons for the VS code editor is the GitHub Extension for Visual Studio. Allowing .Net developers to connect to both GitHub and GitHub Enterprise, this extension works for Visual Studio 2015 and newer versions. It adds the ability to create new repositories, clone existing ones, and collaborate with other developers.
GitHub Extension for Visual Studio has been downloaded over 2 million times, and it gets frequent updates. Some of the many features of the VS code editor add-on include:
- Connect to GitHub and GitHub Enterprise with 2FA.
- Create a locally connected repository that is connected to your GitHub repository.
- Clone all of your GitHub repositories.
- Publish your local work to GitHub.
- The ability to open GitHub repositories straight into Visual Studio IDE.
- Gist creation.
- Share links to GitHub code in your repository.
- Create and view Pull requests.
- Fork cloned repositories.
ReSharper from JetBrains
Jet Brains is a well-known company that creates developer tools that include IDEs, code editors, educators, code debuggers, and project management software. The ReSharper extension for Visual Studio is a productivity extension that helps automate code by finding compile errors, runtime errors, and redundancies while you type in your code, helping you correct issues on the fly.
- Continuous code quality analysis to help fix and find errors before you compile in a multitude of languages.
- Project dependency analysis.
- Advanced coding assistance to help you complete common coding tasks and increase productivity.
- Code navigation that lets you jump to any file, type, or member in your code.
- Over 50 refactorings to help streamline your code.
- Code generation for boilerplate code.
- Code templates for repetitive or frequent code tasks.
- Code formatting and code cleanup, which helps to remove redundant code and apply common coding conventions.
- Debugging and breakpoints assistance.
- Maintenance for local resources.
- Unit testing capabilities within Visual Studio.
Some of the features of the CodeMaid extension for Visual Studio include:
- Code cleanup that helps eliminate unnecessary white space and remove and sort using statements.
- Dig through code from a tree view hierarchy to get a better view of code, and then drag and drop to reorganize your C# and C++ files.
- Reorganize member layouts in C# files so that they match Microsoft's StyleCop conventions.
- Format comments.
- Join adjacent lines or highlighted code into a single line.
- View progress of builds residing in Visual Studio or the Windows taskbar.
Made by the folks at Whole Tomato Software, Visual Assist is a productivity tool that works with C, C++, and C# code. It adds improved functionality to IDE features of Visual Studio that helps with things such as refactoring, code generation, and coding assistance. It has well over a million downloads, and it was last updated was a month ago (at the time of this writing).
Some of the features of Visual Assist include:
- Support for Unreal Engine through UE4 specific tooling.
- Simpler code navigation makes it easier to jump to any file, method, symbol, or symbol reference in a project.
- Refactoring functions that let you improve code readability and extensibility without changing expected behaviors.
- Code generation for common methods, statements, variable declarations, and enums.
- Intuitive and clever coding assistance with tooltips that do not block code or get in the way.
- Information fields that help you better understand complicated or infrequently used code.
- Debugging assistance for C and C++.
- Correct code mistakes on the fly as you type them, in both code and comments.
SQLite and SQL Server Compact Toolbox
The SQLite and SQL Server Compact Toolbox extension for Visual Studio helps database developers connect more readily to databases. Embed databases, add scripting to tables and datasets, and import from both SQL Server and CVS files. This add-on is free and has a little more than a million downloads, which tends to indicate a) its usefulness and b) its support if things go awry.
Features of this extension include:
- Ability to connect to SQL Server Compact, SQL Server, and SQLite database files. Explore database objects, object properties, and copy database files.
- Import and migrate to and from SQL Server and SQLite databases.
- Query functions including the ability to parse SQL scripts, execute queries, filter/sort/group query results, and view table data as a report.
- Generate LINQ to SQL classes and SQLite code.
- Generate database documentation in HTML and XML format.
- Version management and database maintenance.
Microsoft Visual Studio Installer Projects
Provided by Microsoft, the Microsoft Visual Studio Installer Projects extension is a free tool that essentially adds the functionality of Visual Studio 2015 for Visual Studio Installer projects to the 2017 and 2019 versions of Visual Studio. This lets .Net developers open existing VS Installer projects.
More Top Visual Studio Extensions
Looking for more VS IDE extensions to help upgrade Visual Studio and Visual Studio Code's functionality? Check out our article for web developers: Visual Code Extensions for Web Developers.