Visual Studio Tip: Create Your Own Project Templates

Save yourself some work by using templates in Visual Studio.

You've probably found that there are a bunch of changes you make automatically whenever you open one of the Visual Studio project or item templates: integrating with your organization's standards, deleting/adding default files or code, adding references you use much of the time -- things you do almost every time you use a particular template. After you've made those changes, why not save your modified project or item as a template so you don't have to do it again?

To create a template, open a project, make your changes and then select File | Export template to bring up the Export Template Wizard. The Wizard will first ask you if you want to create an Item template (e.g., for a single class) or a Project template (for the whole project). You'll also need to specify the project you want to use (if you're creating a project template, the wizard will turn that project into a template; if you're creating an item template, the wizard will let you select the the item you want to become your template). If you're creating a project template, the wizard will let you pick and choose which items will go into your template.

After that step, you just need to work through the wizard. The wizard will give you the opportunity to select additional references to support code you've added to the project. One page of the wizard is devoted to documentation (the name, description, and what icon you want to have displayed with the template in the New Project or Add Item dialogs).

When you're done with the wizard it will create your template (really, a zip file) and import it into Visual Studio. By default, the wizard also opens Windows Explorer to show you where your template  was put in your file system. I don't find that option particularly useful, and there's an option at the bottom of the documentation page in the wizard that lets you skip that step.

About the Author

Peter Vogel is a system architect and principal in PH&V Information Services. PH&V provides full-stack consulting from UX design through object modeling to database design. Peter tweets about his VSM columns with the hashtag #vogelarticles. His blog posts on user experience design can be found at

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