Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Creating Visual Studio Templates

One of the really nice features of Visual Studio is the ability to very easily create projects templates from existing projects. This is a great feature to create a base project that contains some default functionality you always need.

One thing that you probably want to do with your templates however is change the namespace for source files. You can use a host of template parameters within your project’s text files to replace text when the template is created. The one that I use the most is SafeProjectName which looks like this:

   1:  namespace $safeprojectname$
   2:  {
   3:      public class Sample
   4:      {  
   5:      }
   6:  }

When the project is created SafeProjectName is turned into the actual project name with spaces and punctuation stripped which then effectively becomes the base namespace for your project. Once you’ve set up the template project the way you want it you can export it and this really is the easy part. Find the project in the Solution Tree and then go to File| Export Template:


You’ll be asked a couple of questions starting with the type of template to export – choose project:


and for the name of the template file and a description.

The description is what shows up in Visual Studio. I recommend you use a descriptive name in the filename because that’s what the project item will actually use:


Once you do this the template is exported to the location specified, which is just a holding location. The output from the template generation is a simple .Zip file which contains your project files plus a VS Content file that describes each of the items in the project.

Once installed the template can be used inside of Visual Studio. This puts the template into a generic project location so it shows up in the New Project dialog. The project only shows in the generic Visual C# project tree because that’s where the template was actually created. If you go to the Web project types you’ll find that the template doesn’t show up there unfortunately.

To get it to show up in the Web folder you can move the template from the default location to:

C:\Users\BaWu\Documents\Visual Studio 2010\Templates\ProjectTemplates\Visual C#\Web

which puts it in the more predictable location.

Remark: It’s possible to call a custom wizard when running the template. But you have to install the wizard DLL in the following location: %programfiles%\Microsoft Visual Studio 10.0\Common7\IDE\PrivateAssemblies

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