15+ Free Visual Studio Add-Ins

By | September 25, 2007

Update:
Check out the sequel to this post, “15+ FREE Visual Studio Add-Ins – Part 2

After some extensive researching (Googling), I’ve compiled this list of 15+ FREE Add-ins for Visual Studio 2005. Some of these add-ins will help improve the quality of your code, while others will help you code faster, however, none are guaranteed to help you get with the ladies.

If there’s an add-in that I’ve missed and you think that it should be added to this list, just post a comment with the name, URL, and a brief description. But before doing so, make sure that it meets the following strict requirements: a) It must run within Visual Studio 2005. b) It must be free.

So without further ado, here’s my list of 15+ Free Visual Studio 2005 Add-Ins …

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Update – September 25, 2007:
The images for the Add-ins have been temporarily removed.

AnkhSVN

This is an Add-in for the the Subversion version control system, which will allow you to perform most of the common version control operations from within Visual Studio.

 

C# SortCode Macro

This nifty little macro will alphabetically sort all members of a type (class or struct), grouped by their member type. I think this is a great little tool, however, I’m not a big fan of its sort order, but I’m sure that this can easily be modified in the macro. This will run in VS2005, even though the title says that it is for Visual Studio.NET 2003. When you load the macro, you will receive a warning saying that it was created in VS2002. Just click on ‘Yes’.

 

CodeKeep Add-in

This is an add-in for CodeKeep.net, that will allow you to manage your snippets of code, and also search for other snippets all from within Visual Studio. Before installing, you will need to create an account on the CodeKeep.net web site. After you have installed the ad-in, make sure to read the Readme.txt file. There are three files that need to be copied over to the Add-ins folder.

 

Code Style Enforcer

Need a proof reader for your code? If yes, then this is the add-in for you. What it does, is it checks your code in real time against IDesign’s C# coding standards and best practices. When it finds something that it doesn’t agree with, it will underline it with what looks like a red pen. It is really picky, however, the rules can be modified. For example, you may want to change some rules to allow the variable names "e" for EventArgs and "ex" for Exceptions. Before installing Code Style Enforcer, you will first need to install DXCore from Developer Express.

 

CopySourceAsHtml

I’ll give you three guesses as to what this add-in does. Give up? Well, CopySourceAsHtml does exactly what it says. This add-in it will allow you to copy your source code along with the syntax highlighting and line numbers, to HTML. As their site says, "If Visual Studio can highlight it, CSAH can copy it …".

I did have one small issue with this plug-in. It seems that when I pasted my code, it forgot to close of a <span>, and another <span> was out of place. However, I’m sure that I’ll be using this tool a few times for some future posts.

 

EncapsulateAllNonPrivateFields macro

Here’s another little macro from Reflection IT. This macro generates private fields, and public properties. To use it, all you have to do is declare a few public variables, highlight them, then run the macro, and VOILA! You now have a property and a private field for each variable that you highlighted.

If you plan on using this macro, and have their C# SortCode macro loaded, you must unload it first.

 

GhostDoc 2.1.1

According to its site, GhostDoc "automatically generates XML documentation comments for C#. Either by using existing documentation inherited from base classes or implemented interfaces, or by deducing comments from name and type of e.g. methods, properties or parameters." I couldn’t have said it any better.

 

Koders

This add-in, like CodeKeep, allows you to search for code from within Visual Studio. From what I can tell, that is where the similarities end. I was unable to find any way to save my snippets of code, without upgrading to the Pro version, which is $9.99/month or $99/year.

 

Microsoft Popfly Explorer Alpha

This add-in allows you create, modify, and share Visual Studio solutions from your Popfly Space. You must be a registered user to access Popfly.

 

Modeling Power Toys

If you use the Class Designer in Visual Studio, then I suggest that you download and install this add-in.

From their web site, here is a partial list of enhancements that it provides:
Design Tools Enhancements
- Diagram Search
- Formatting Commands
- Floating Property Grid
- Pan/Zoom Window
- Design Surface Scrolling Improvements
- Create Comments with Double-Click
- Design Surface Grid

Class Designer Enhancements
- Export Diagrams for Web
- Display Xml Comment Command
- Documentation Tool Window
- Filtering Appearance
- Filtering Lines
- Filtering Members
- MSDN Help on System Types
- Fast Navigation
- Interface Lollipop Labels Commands
- Inheritance Visualization Commands
- Show Type Command
- Association and Inheritance Line Dongles
- Create Tests Command
- Type Creation Commands
- Add Member Commands
- Synchronization with Code Definition Window
- View Class Diagram Command Improvements
- Creating Custom Add-ins

 

NHibernate

This is a .Net port of the popular Hibernate Core for Java. Since I can’t clearly explain what it is, I’ll give you their explanation from their own site.

 

NHibernate handles persisting your .NET objects to and from an underlying relational database. Rather than you having to write SQL to get your objects in and out of the database, NHibernate takes care of this for you. Your code only needs to be concerned with your objects, NHibernate generates the SQL and makes sure that things end up in the correct tables and columns.

 

Pinvoke.Net Addin

This add-in, owned by Red Gate, is similar to CodeKeep, but instead of searching and adding snippets of code, Pinvoke.Net allows developers to find, edit and add PInvoke signatures, user-defined types, and any other information related to calling Win32 and other unmanaged APIs from managed code (written in languages such as C# or VB.NET).

 

Refactor!™ for ASP.NET

Looking for a real time saving add-in? Well look no further. Refactor! comes with 29 time saving refactorings, with 10 of those just for ASP.Net.

 

Regular Expression Visualizers

Visual Studio already has a Text Visualizer, an XML Visualizer and an HTML Visualizer built in. But now you can also visualize Regular expressions. It allows you to visualize System.String, RegularExpressions.Regex, RegularExpresions.Match and RegularExpressions.MatchCollection.

 

Regions Add-In

This add-in makes creating and managing regions a lot easier. To download the source code and/or installer for Visual Studio 2005, go to http://janyou.bokee.com/index.html.

If you’ve never used regions before, check out this short posting: http://trackerrealm.com/blogs/2007/04/make-use-of-regions-when-developing-c.html

 

SlickEdit® Gadgets

The gadgets are a collection of several utilities, some a bit more useless than others.

- Editor Gadgets: This, in my opinion, is the most useless set of utilities that SlickEdit Gadgets offers.

Included is a "ruler", which highlights the line that your cursor is on. Not sure why you would need a ruler to measure your code. Each tick mark on the ruler represents your editor’s tab space.

Also, there’s a vertical dashed line that shows you indentation level of the line that your cursor is on.

Thirdly, they have what they call "Auto-copy selection", which is similar to mIrc’s copying feature. If this is enabled, every time you highlight something, it automatically gets copied. To do paste, you would click on your mouse’s middle button (scroll wheel).

This has to be the most useless feature of the useless set of features, the "Editor Graphic". By enabling this feature, you can select a graphic from your personal collection, and it will be shown in your editor, like below. In the settings, there’s an option to enable animated graphics, however, I tried two different animated GIFs, and neither worked for me.

- The Command Spy: This little utility won’t improve your coding, but it will help you become more familiar with Visual Studio’s shortcuts. When ever you perform an action, such as Save, Copy, File Open, Build, or pretty much anything else that you can click on through the toolbars or menu, Command Spy will capture that event and display it, along with it’s shortcut if there is one.

- File Explorer: Windows Explorer for Visual Studio ….

- The Data Object Analyzer: Ever wanted to add clipboard or drag-and-drop integration into your application? If yes, then this utility might be for you.

Data Object Analyzer inspects the contents of any clipboard operation, or drag-and-drop operation, from any other application, and then can be used to automatically generate functions to handle any clipboard or drag-and-drop data.

- The SLOC Report: Now, if you’re going to brag that your code is bigger than someone else’s (why else would they include a ruler?), you better use the SLOC Report. What it does is it breaks your code down into three categories, Whitespace, Comments, and Code, and displays it in a pie graph..

 

Smart Paster 1.1

Smart Paster is a simple little tool, that will give you the option to paste copied text as either a Comment, String, StringBuilder, or a region.

A perfect example where this could save a lot of time would be if you copied a chuck of JavaScript code that you need to paste into your own VB.Net or C# code. Instead of doing the usual paste, then manually wrapping each line in a StringBuilder.AppendLine(), or in quotes for a regular String, you could just use the "Paste as StringBuilder", or "Paste as String" option, and let it do the dirty work for you.

 

SonicFileFinder

This add-in allows you to quickly search for files within a solution, by either using the full name (MyClass.cs), part of it (*Class), or even initials (MC). The search is done while you type, just like Mac OS X’s Spotlight, Vista’s search.

 

Update – September 25, 2007:

Regionerate

This add-in (pronounced ri-jeh-neh-rate), is an open-source tool that will quickly apply layout rules to your code. With two clicks of a mouse, it will sort your code, and break it up into regions, such as Fields, Constructors, and Properties.

One of the things that I liked about this tool, is that it allows you to create your own layouts, something I wish the Sort Code macro did (but I’m sure you can modify the macro yourself to suit your needs).

One of the things I didn’t like about it however, is that you can’t place code into customized regions (like the Regions Add-In does). So say I wanted to create a region called Overloads, or Ajax Methods. If I created these two regions, it doesn’t give me the option to place code into them, and, if I run the Regionerate, it will remove the regions, and place the code into its own regions, such as Methods.

 

Resource Refactoring Tool

Resource Refactoring Tool provides developers an easy way to extract hard coded strings from the code to resource files.

I installed it, and tried it out on an .aspx page, but didn’t have any luck.

 

HyperAddin

This cool util allows you to place hyperlinks into your code, to other parts of your code, or files

 

Update – September 28, 2007:

DPack

DPack is a free collection of Visual Studio .NET 2003 and 2005 tools, which were designed to greatly increase developer’s productivity, automate repetitive processes and expand upon some of the Visual Studio features.

If I had to choose just one Add-in from this list, so far it would be between Refactor! and DPack.

DPack’s features include: Code Browser, File Browser, Solution Browser, Framework Browser, Numbered Bookmarks, Surround With, Code Navigation, Solution Statistics, and a Solution Backup

 

Well, that’s all for now folks. This list, with all of the images is getting a bit too long for one page, so I’ve decided to stop adding to this list.

However, with that being said, I have already started compiling Part 2, which will feature a new list of some of the best FREE Visual Studio 2005 Add-ins. If this list had some things in it that you never knew about, but wish that you did, I can almost guarantee that the next one will have even more.

Thanks to everyone who made some suggestions, they haven’t been ignored.

P.S. If you know of any addins that aren’t on the list, feel free to suggest them.

60 thoughts on “15+ Free Visual Studio Add-Ins

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  2. Billy

    Very nice collection and summary of addins. I will be installing some of these soon..

  3. carlj Post author

    Hey John, thanks for suggesting CoolCommands and Regionerate. I came across CoolCommands a few times while searching for Add-Ins, but didn’t have the time to try it out.

    I will be updating this post soon and adding a few more add-ins that I came across, and will add those two to the list.

    As for Visual SVN and Dispatch, I’ll check them out and will most likely add them to a future “Comercial Addins for Visual Studio” post.

    Thanks,
    Carl J

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  5. Damon Carr

    Well done! I discovered some nuggets here that I had missed (and I am nearly obsessive in this area)..

    My only comment is this… If you are not using ReSharper for a cost of what, $100? then from a productivity/investment perspective I would not even consider anything else until that is done.

    I mean, would you rather save 20-30% (perhaps more if you are constantly refactoring as you really should be, and if not this tool gives you no excuse not to) of your time eliminating valuleless and mundane tasks?

    How many times do you need to perform ‘Extract Method’? If you have no idea what I am talking about, well this should tell you there is a serious problem.

    For the ‘copy and paste’ crowd this will not resonate I know…

    It it utterly transformative when people see what it does (and actually care about quality and productivity, a condition then I wish I didn’t have to add).

    Thanks,
    Damon

  6. carlj Post author

    Thanks nuwanda, I’ll check it out as soon as I can.

    GMac, thanks for the heads up.

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  8. Paul Kohler

    One of my favorites is NCoverExplorer (http://www.kiwidude.com/blog/).
    It’s really useful way of ‘seeing’ line by line the code that has been (or not been) executed – for example by unit tests.

    Also, (you could call this a shameless plug but) I have had alot of good feedback about my Behaviour to Unit Test tool that I released a few weeks ago.
    You type ‘stuff’ you think your class should be doing in phrases etc and the tool converts it to a basic unit test stub.
    It’s geared towards C# but also has VB templates…

  9. carlj Post author

    Korayem, don’t you worry, I still have at least another 20 add-ins to test out, and possibly add to the list.

    Paul Kohler, I’ll check them both out, thanks.

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  12. carlj Post author

    Fabrice, I was going to install Sharp toolbox last night, but you need .Net 1.1 for it.

    There are lots of neat features in it, as well as the plugins for it.

  13. Fabrice

    > “I was going to install Sharp toolbox”

    What do you mean install? SharpToolbox.com is a web site! It’s standard HTML and does not require anything special.
    I guess you mix up the name with something else.

  14. PBZ

    My favorite free add-in is DPack (http://www.usysware.com/dpack/). It has quite a few features, but the ones I can’t live without are numbered bookmarks and code browser. The first feature allows me to press Ctrl+Shit+0..9 to set a bookmark and then Ctrl+0..9 to go back to that bookmark. Code browser allows me to press Alt+G and see a list of all the functions/properties/etc defined in the current file. As soon as I type something the list is filtered and a simple enter takes me there.

  15. carlj Post author

    PBZ, I just found DPack late last night, but I haven’t gotten around to installing and testing it yet.

    Hopefully I’ll get around to it tonight. :)

  16. Scott

    There is also the MZ-Tools add-in (http://www.mztools.com/index.aspx) that has a lot of features, including the ability to sort code and customize the sort order. I’ve been using it for almost 10 years now and it’s one of the first add-ins I install on a new development system.

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  19. Tim

    Why didn’t you use GIF format for your screenshots? It produces much more readable text and reduces the size

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  21. carlj Post author

    Tim, to be honest, I have no idea.
    You’ll be happy to know, that all of the images are now GIFs.

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  27. Paul Kohler

    Sorry! I realized after mentioning the tools above that the whole point of the post was VS IDE add-ins and the tools I mentioned were not!!

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  30. azizkap

    Do you know any addins or free utility for VS 2005 to generate Context sensitive help and User Manual with Screen Shots

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  32. Alex Blokha

    Thank you for the list. It is very interesting.

    But I have a little bit complicated situation.

    I’ve created classes (Business Entitities) with Data Access Guidance package. But all fileds and properties, classes names are created in lower case. I need a tool for renaming
    classes and properties with first letter in Upper case. Do you know such tool?

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  36. digitalsuperman

    hi guys, do you know any visual studio add in that will display the gridlines on my visual studio 2005 IDE?

  37. carlj Post author

    digitalsuperman, I haven’t came across any that will do that. May I ask why you would want gridlines in Visual Studio? I’m assuming you’d need it for the design view.

    Under Tools > Options > Windows Forms Designer there’s a ‘ShowGrid’ option.

    However, according to this link http://forums.asp.net/p/1150756/1877458.aspx, “GridLines was not carried over from 2003 to 2005″.

  38. digitalsuperman

    hi carl,
    thanks for your reply.

    i would like to show the gridlines because i think it will help me in tracing the code. i wanna know how much it helps specially when you had to look code by code.

    anyways, thank you again carl. i appreciate it.

    also, thanks to your great post.

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  41. carlj Post author

    Because this post is attracting a lot of spam (over 1100 posts so far), I’ve decided to disable comments.

    Thanks to everyone who left a comment, and especially to those who suggested add-ins.

    Please check back sometime this week (or the following), for part 2 of the list. I promise that it’ll be a good one.

    Carl J

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