Visual Studio SDK
This article applies to Visual Studio 2015. If you're looking for the latest Visual Studio documentation, use the version selector at the top left. We recommend upgrading to Visual Studio 2019. Download it here
The Visual Studio SDK helps you extend Visual Studio features or integrate new features into Visual Studio. You can distribute your extensions to other users, as well as to the Visual Studio Gallery. The following are some of the ways in which you can extend Visual Studio:
Add commands, buttons, menus, and other UI elements to the IDE
Add tool windows for new functionality
Extend IntelliSense for a given language, or provide IntelliSense for new programming languages
Use light bulbs to provide hints and suggestions that help developers write better code
Enable support for a new language
Add a custom project type
Reach millions of developers via the Visual Studio Marketplace
If you’ve never written a Visual Studio extension before, you should find more information about these features and at Starting to Develop Visual Studio Extensions.
Installing the Visual Studio SDK
Starting in Visual Studio 2015, you do not install the Visual Studio SDK from the download center. It is included as an optional feature in Visual Studio setup. You can also install the VS SDK later on. For more information, see Installing the Visual Studio SDK.
What’s New in the Visual Studio 2015 SDK
The Visual Studio SDK has some new features, including light bulbs and new project items that allow you to create menu commands, tool windows, and editor extensions using a VSIX package. For more information, see What's New in the Visual Studio 2015 SDK.
Visual Studio User Experience Guidelines
Get great tips for designing the UI for your extension in Visual Studio User Experience Guidelines.
You can also learn how to make your extension look great on high DPI devices with our Addressing DPI Issues topic.
Take advantage of the Image Service and Catalog for great image management and support for high DPI and theming.
Finding and Installing Existing Visual Studio Extensions
You can find Visual Studio extensions in the Extensions and Updates dialog on the Tools menu. For more information, see Finding and Using Visual Studio Extensions. You can also find extensions in the Visual Studio Marketplace
Visual Studio SDK Reference
You can find the Visual Studio SDK API reference at Visual Studio SDK Reference.
Visual Studio SDK Samples
You can find open source examples of VS SDK extensions on GitHub at Visual Studio Samples. This GitHub repo contains samples that illustrate various extensible features in Visual Studio.
Other Visual Studio SDK Resources
You can find more information in the VSX Arcana blog and an number of blogs written by Microsoft MVPs:
Creating an Extension with a Menu Command
How to: Migrate Extensibility Projects to Visual Studio 2015
FAQ: Converting Add-ins to VSPackage Extensions
Managing Multiple Threads in Managed Code
Extending Menus and Commands
Adding Commands to Toolbars
Extending and Customizing Tool Windows
Editor and Language Service Extensions
Extending User Settings and Options
Creating Custom Project and Item Templates
Extending Properties and the Property Window
Extending Other Parts of Visual Studio
Using and Providing Services
Extending Connected Services
Visual Studio Isolated Shell
Shipping Visual Studio Extensions
Inside the Visual Studio SDK
Support for the Visual Studio SDK
Visual Studio SDK Reference