Preview of Project System Extensibility SDK for Visual Studio 2015

Project System Extensibility SDK improves upon Visual Studio Managed Package Framework for Projects' process for project system plug-in development.

The Visual Studio team is previewing a new software development kit that shortens the process for developing project system plug-ins, called the Project System Extensibility SDK. What is does is allow for development of plug-ins based on the Common Project System in Visual Studio 2015.

Prior to the PSE SDK, developers using C++, JavaScript and ASP.NET had to create plug-ins with all the necessary baggage of a project system containing hundreds of lines of code. In most cases, project systems were forked from the Visual Studio Managed Package Framework for Projects, or MPFproj, which meant making sure whatever code was developed against it continued to maintain compatibility with MPFproj code. As MPFproj code might be updated, any extensions had to be updated as well.

As a shortcut, Visual Studio now uses a Common Project System for project system development, and that's where the PSE SDK comes in handy. Instead of building to a forked project system, developers build plug-ins to the CPS. "Specifically, you don't develop an entire project system any more," writes Andrew Arnott, a Principal Software Engineer working on the Visual Studio IDE. "Rather, you simply compile your project system extensions against our reference assemblies and then ship your extension."

The shortcut also allows extension developers to not have to worry about internal changes to the project system. So, anytime developers make any incremental changes to their extensions, it's just a matter of recompiling to the CPS instead of having to make sure any code behaviors aren't affected or affecting code within the CPS.

Arnott writes in the blog that the PSE SDK preview will maintain stability as Visual Studio 2015 ships so that the team can work out any new issues with it, but "in the next major release of Visual Studio after 2015, breaking changes will be made one final time." 

The PSE SDK preview is an open source project, and can be downloaded from GitHub here.

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