Introduction to Solutions, Projects, and Items

Visual Studio provides two containers to help you efficiently manage the items that are required by your development effort, such as references, data connections, folders, and files. These containers are called solutions and projects. Also, Visual Studio provides Solution Folders to organize related projects into groups and then perform actions on those groups of projects. Solution Explorer, an interface for viewing and managing these containers and their associated items, is part of the integrated development environment (IDE). For more information about project types, see Default Project Templates in Visual Studio.

Containers: Solutions and Projects

Solutions and projects contain items that represent the references, data connections, folders, and files that you need to create your application. A solution can contain multiple projects and a project typically contains multiple items. These containers enable you to take advantage of the IDE in the following ways:

  • Manage settings for your solution as a whole or for individual projects.

  • Use Solution Explorer to handle the details of file management while you focus on items that make up your development effort.

  • Add items that are useful to multiple projects in the solution or to the solution without referencing the item in each project.

  • Work on miscellaneous files that are independent from solutions or projects.

Items: Files, References, Data Connections

Items can be files and other parts of your project such as references, data connections, or folders. In Solution Explorer, items can be organized in the following ways:

  • As project items, which are items that compose your project, such as forms, source files, and classes within a project in Solution Explorer. The organization and display depends on the project template you select as well as any modifications you make.

  • As solution items for files that are applicable to your solution as a whole in the Solution Items folder of Solution Explorer.

  • As miscellaneous files for files that are not associated with either a project or a solution and that can be displayed in a Miscellaneous Files folder.

For more detailed information or to learn to use Solution Explorer, see the following topics:

For more information about


Solutions and projects

Solutions as Containers

Projects as Containers

Performing common file management tasks

Managing Solutions, Projects, and Files

Solutions and directory structures

How to: Create Directories for Solutions

Solution Explorer in the integrated development environment (IDE)

Solutions, User Interface Elements

Managing multiple projects in a solution

Multi-Project Solutions

Project-independent items that are referenced by multiple projects and included in solution builds

Solution Items

Solution-related user interface elements in the IDE

Solutions, User Interface Elements

Working outside projects and solutions

Miscellaneous Files

Web Projects

Web Application Projects versus Web Site Projects

See Also


Solutions, User Interface Elements

Solution Folders

What's New in Visual Studio 2010

Other Resources

Managing Solutions, Projects, and Files