Open a dynamic tool window

Tool windows are typically opened from a command on a menu, or an equivalent keyboard shortcut. At times, however, you might need a tool window that opens whenever a specific UI context applies, and closes when the UI context no longer applies. These types of tool windows are called dynamic or auto-visible.


For a list of predefined UI contexts, see VSConstants.UICONTEXT.

If you want to open a dynamic tool window at startup, and it is possible for the creation to fail, you must implement the IVsPackageDynamicToolOwnerEx interface and test the failure conditions in the QueryShowTool method. In order for the shell to know that you have a dynamic tool window that should be opened at startup, you must add the SupportsDynamicToolOwner value (set to 1) to your package registration. This value is not part of the standard PackageRegistrationAttribute, so you must create a custom attribute to add it. For more information about custom attributes, see Use a custom registration attribute to register an extension.

Use FindToolWindow to open a tool window. The tool window is created as needed.


A dynamic tool window can be closed by the user. If you want to create a menu command so the user can reopen the tool window, the menu command should be enabled in the same UI context that opens the tool window, and disabled otherwise.

To open a dynamic tool window

  1. Create a VSIX project named DynamicToolWindow and add a tool window item template named DynamicWindowPane.cs. For more information, see Create an extension with a tool window.

  2. In the DynamicWindowPanePackage.cs file, find the DynamicWindowPanePackage declaration. Add the ProvideToolWindowAttribute and ProvideToolWindowVisibilityAttribute attributes to register the tool window.

    [ProvideToolWindowVisibility(typeof(DynamicWindowPane), VSConstants.UICONTEXT.SolutionExists_string)]
    [PackageRegistration(UseManagedResourcesOnly = true)]
    [InstalledProductRegistration("#110", "#112", "1.0", IconResourceID = 400)] // Info on this package for Help/About
    [ProvideMenuResource("Menus.ctmenu", 1)]
    public sealed class DynamicWindowPanePackage : Package
    {. . .}

    The attributes above register the tool window named DynamicWindowPane as a transient window that is not persisted when Visual Studio is closed and reopened. DynamicWindowPane is opened whenever SolutionExists_string applies, and closed otherwise.

  3. Build the project and start debugging. The experimental instance should appear. You should not see the tool window.

  4. Open a project in the experimental instance. The tool window should appear.