Microsoft Aims For Better Visual Studio Extensions
Written by Kay Ewbank   
Friday, 30 October 2020

Microsoft says it is creating a new extensibility model for the Visual Studio IDE. The aim is to make extensions more reliable, easier to write, and supported locally and in the cloud.

Visual Studio has taken something of a back seat over recent years as Microsoft seems more interested in Visual Studio Code, Microsoft's free online source-code editor. There are far more extensions available for Visual Studio Code than there are for 'full' Visual Studio, and the most popular have been downloaded many more times for VS Code.

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Writing about the new model, Leslie Richardson, Program Manager for Visual Studio Debugging and Diagnostics, said that because in-proc extensions have minimal restrictions over how they can influence the IDE and other extensions, they are free to corrupt Visual Studio if the extension experiences an error or crash. 

To avoid this, one of the main changes to the Visual Studio extension model is that extensions will from now on be out-of-proc. This will help ensure increased isolation between internal and external extension APIs, where a buggy extension can crash without causing other extensions or the entire IDE to crash, hang, or slow down along with it.

Alongside this change, the Visual Studio Extension APIs have been completely redesigned to make them easier to discover and use, with and overall goal of more uniform, discoverable APIs and continually updated documentation. 

The final change is that essential extensions will be available both locally and remotely. Richardson said that part of GitHub Codespaces’ appeal is the ability to have a customized dev environment accessible via the cloud across machines, and that many developers think a customized environment is incomplete without extensions. 

"The current model’s unrestricted access to the IDE and lack of asynchronous APIs don’t make it ideal for a seamless, crash-less, and responsive client/server experience for Codespaces. To round out our new extensibility model goals, we will make your essential extensions available both locally and remotely."

The changes to the extension model are described as "still in the conceptual phases", and interested developers have been asked to complete a survey to give their views.

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More Information

Visual Studio Extensions Survey

Visual Studio Homepage

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Last Updated ( Friday, 30 October 2020 )