Scott Hanselman

The Best Visual Studio 2010 Productivity Power Tools, Power Commands and Extensions

June 9, '10 Comments [33] Posted in VS2010
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One of the things I'm digging about VS2010 is its extensibility model. I'm collecting add-ins in VS like I collect Add-Ins in FireFox. Here's my current of the best Visual Studio 2010 Extensions I'm using.

Visual Studio Color Theme Editor

I've blogged before about the Visual Studio Color Theme Editor. It's great and lets you make VS look like whatever OS you want. Some crazy people try to make Visual Studio 2010 look like Visual Studio 2008! ;)

PowerCommands for Visual Studio 2010

This crazy add-in adds 25 additional commands to Visual Studio! It's a collection of really convenient little improvements like Open Containing Folder and Open Command Prompt. But it's also subtle things like Undo Close that will reopen the most recent tab with the cursor just where it was. There's a lot of Copy/Paste improvements, letting you copy and paste a whole class, or copy and paste references between projects. It even adds "Format Document on Save" that will tidy up your whitespace every time you save your document. Lovely.


Visual Studio 2010 Pro Power Tools

Where PowerCommands adds lots of little commands in subtle ways, Pro Power Tools changes UI things in much bigger ways.


Two of the big changes are the "Document Well" that changes how tabs behave. It'll color tabs based on what project they came from, which is nice for large solutions. It also introduces optional tab recycling that will close old tabs as you open new ones. If you prefer a pile of tabs, you can get multiple rows or columns of tabs.

You can also Highlight Current Line, nice for large monitors. It adds HTML Copy that puts code in the clipboard as in the HTML format if if you like, but most of all, it adds a new Searchable Add Reference Dialog. Magic.

New Add Reference Dialog


I'm a fan of BeyondCompare from Scooter Software, but I like integrated stuff as well. CodeCompare is a free Diff tool that runs inside VS itself. It's nice because it's using the VS editor so it has the features you're used to like Ctrl-Scroll to change the font sizes. I wish the two panes changed sizes in sync though, and I've seen one or two crashes. Still, an excellent free compare tool, and I like that I can drag the second file in.

Diff Tool

tangible T4 Editor

T4 (Text Template Transformation Toolkit) Code Generation is Visual Studio's best kept secret. It's built in and it's yummy. However, there's no syntax highlighting and opening .tt files in Visual Studio directly is a smidge scary, as it's hard to tell what's code generating code and what's the code you're generating. With the free tangibile T4 editor you get coloring and Intellisense. - Microsoft Visual Studio (2)

What are your favorites, Dear Reader?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010 7:56:38 AM UTC
Waldek Mastykarz (SharePoint MVP) has been publishing numerous extensions for SharePoint to extend VS 2010's SharePoint packaging capabilities. Most of them are really excellent for a SharePoint developer and should be part of the toolbox.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 7:58:49 AM UTC
Nice to see that we use the same tools :D

+ Visual Studio Color Theme Editor
+ PowerCommands for Visual Studio 2010
+ Visual Studio 2010 Pro Power Tools

I have also a license of Beyond Compare and I really like it, but thank for the suggestion of integrated compare. I will give it a try!
Marco Ragogna
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 7:58:50 AM UTC
That last one looks good, T4 is a bit of a pain in the ***. I often get compile errors.

But they all look good :) Thanks for sharing!
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 7:58:59 AM UTC
Great list, Scott.
Some of the ones I like, in addition to your list:


Team Foundation Sidekicks (includes 2010 add-in)

Open Data Protocol Visualizer
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 8:05:38 AM UTC
that's great ,if I install all the plug-in ,maybe the vs will run slowly
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 9:19:07 AM UTC
Yesterday I was browsing the Visual Studio Gallery myself. Things that I liked besides the plugins mentioned above are the VS10x tools by Michael Kiss, especially:

VS10x Method Block Highlighter
VS10x Code Marker
VS10x Editor View Enhancer

I must admit: I did not have a chance to test them myself.

PS: I'm not connected in any way whatsoever to Michael Kiss or AxTools.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 9:33:56 AM UTC
Very useful infos , Thank's again Scott :))
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 10:13:22 AM UTC
I already pretty much require Highlighterr for C++ now, even if it does need a lot more work.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 10:47:52 AM UTC
Dude, you know that something called Windows Live Spaces exists, right???

If MS folks don't feel it is good enough, do you think others will?

How soon before it is axed?
Saddumal Bhasodia
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 11:39:51 AM UTC
VsVim is worth a mention, release your inner nerd :)
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 12:32:56 PM UTC
They pretty much look like mine. I also mentioned the snippet designer.
Here is my list.

BTW: I prefer the Expression look of Visual Studio.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 1:10:38 PM UTC
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 1:55:37 PM UTC
I'm surprised you didn't mention PEX! Pex is one of the most useful things I've used in a while. Really helps tighten up my defensive coding.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 1:59:23 PM UTC
Tangible T4 editor?

You're kidding, right?

There does not exist a T4 editor that doesn't utterly suck. Please vote this feedback item up:
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 2:20:48 PM UTC
Will: I guess you did not try the full Pro edition of Clarius Visual T4 for VS2008, right? ( The VS2010 will be equally awesome (it's in the works).

For Add Reference, I prefer the traditional classic dialog with Search enabled:
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 2:45:23 PM UTC
Pex and Moles.
Code Contracts.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 3:26:29 PM UTC
Spell Checker by Noah Richards
cory cissell
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 3:49:33 PM UTC
RockScroll is my favorite...
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 3:53:05 PM UTC
I like power command, but it just makes my editor flicker while i select something in the editor when working on c++ project.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 4:15:49 PM UTC
This isn't exactly a Visual Studio extension, but it's worth mentioning in the context of this conversation. I just recently released cc2vs in order to proxy the numerous JavaScript errors and warnings that Google's excellent Closure Compiler can detect into Visual Studio at build time.

I'm obviously incredibly biased, but I think cc2vs is a must-have if you write lots of JavaScript in Visual Studio. I mean, who wouldn't want to catch compile-time errors in their code?
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 7:33:04 PM UTC
BeyondCompare is easy to integrate into Visual Studio and TFS.

1. Go to Tools -> Options -> Source Control -> Visual Studio Team Foundation Server, and click the "Configure User Tools" button, then click the Add button in the Configure User Tools dialog.

2. In the Configure Tool dialog:
In the "Command" text box enter the path to BC2.exe. On a 64bit default install this should be C:\Program Files (x86)\Beyond Compare 2\BC2.exe

In the "Arguments" text box enter "%1 %2 /title1=%6 /title2=%7" without quotes.
Save your way out of there.
Ed Stegman
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 8:04:18 PM UTC
I really liked metal scroll for VS 2008. Too bad there is nothing like that for VS 2010.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 8:13:29 PM UTC
The AllMargins Extension is PRETTY DARN close.
Wednesday, June 09, 2010 9:01:33 PM UTC
Thanks for the tools. A friend turned me on to PowerCommands a few months ago and it has come in really handy. I look forward to trying out the pro version. Ironically, I posted my favorite list of .NET dev tools this week on my blog and included PowerCommands as well. Its a list of tools I have collected over the past year of coding. I had no idea how many tools I use...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010 9:27:31 PM UTC
I'm working on a custom extension that allows embedding any external window in visual studio: screenshot.

Oh wait, productivity *enhancing*?
Thursday, June 10, 2010 3:53:09 AM UTC
Thanks! I'll look into AllMargins. I was unaware of it. Looks promising.
Thursday, June 10, 2010 5:35:25 AM UTC
You have to be kidding. Resharper is the only reason I use VS at all.
Thursday, June 10, 2010 9:41:17 AM UTC
I'm with Adam - Resharper or bust! :)
Marcel Popescu
Thursday, June 10, 2010 5:30:47 PM UTC
Higthight current line should have been in the first version of VS. R# has it built in.
Friday, June 11, 2010 8:48:59 AM UTC
have you guys tried vscommands?
It's got some really cool features like attach to local IIS or ability to group items together (like when you have a designer and code begind)
Friday, June 11, 2010 7:47:30 PM UTC
Source Code Outliner PowerToy
It was released for VS2010 but didn't work and is now unavailable.
Coding without it is not an option.
Thursday, August 12, 2010 9:15:18 PM UTC
Is there anything like this for Visual Studio 2008?
Saturday, September 04, 2010 1:36:35 AM UTC
I think it's time for a new version of this article now that some time has been given for more extensions to develop.

I'm going to have to shamelessly promote my 2 extensions. But I do think they are absolutely awesome and use them more than any other ones... - Noah Richards wrote a similar extension which is distributed with the Productivity Power Tools, but mine is like that, but on steroids. I've written a big description on the extension page. - Allows for easy maintenance of the solution explorer. It allows you to collapse everything except your current document. And it allows for a less coupled track active item - it doesn't track it automatically but hit 1 button and it selects it.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.