One of the most exciting projects I’ve been involved in over the past year has been the start of the VS Powertoys program.  I first wrote pieces of what became the VSTweak project as sample code because I was constantly being asked how enable certain changes in the VS IDE and I was tired explaining the ugly registry hacks required to unlock the hidden potentials customers were seeking.  I never had massive distribution pictured, but I figured I could give it to people that asked me about these operations.  When I started showing my sample project around internally I got a lot of positive feedback from people who believed customers would love this stuff. 

After finding some more tools and customer requested enhancements to polish we decided to create the gotdotnet workspaces.  I really liked this idea because it had the potential to enable VS team members to work closely with their customers on projects that would benefit both. (IMO, the more our team members have quality interaction with customers the better understanding they would have of the problems faced by real word developers.)  It also meant the tools would benefit from the open source model and serve as good samples for other people looking to extend the shell. 

We released the initial set of Powertoys early April.  Since then there have been over 36k combined download requests (I’ll note that we lost our ability to count towards the end of the first month when we switched to issuing releases on the workspaces themselves.), over 125 requests have been made by people wanting to be a part of the projects, I’ve been forwarded countless positive blogs and reviews from around the globe, and (most importantly) a community has started to grow around these projects!  All of the released tools have seen improvements and/or new features added from these communities. 

Has the program been successful?  Well, here are the initial vision/goals I had in mind:
PowerToys Vision
To help customers get more out of current releases of VS .NET through the release of cool tools from Microsoft that unblock requested scenarios or otherwise make life with VS .NET easier. 
Additional Goals
• All tools will release source code that conforms to common coding conventions and allows customers to additionally enhance the tools or just use as sample code.  
• To support the Power Toys community by participating in the official forum and help with ongoing development. 
• Use feedback from customers about power tools to support feature additions for future versions of Visual Studio or decisions for future power toy releases.

The high download count and positive reviews lead me to believe that we have helped customers get more out of VS.  Customers have been able to understand the code we’ve provided enough to enhance/further the tools over time.  It’s hard to measure our support success, but I think we’ve done well at helping people with any problems they’ve encountered.  I am disappointed we had to provide the amount of initial support we did, but I guess that’s what happens when you go from 10 users to a thousand. :-) I’ve seen some great ideas for new Powertoys come out of the project and I’ve also been involved in some great discussions about some of the other frustrations customers have had with VS, however I believe that our success with the last goal is something you (and I to some extent) will have to wait and see on. 

I’ve enjoyed the project because it’s been my chance to be part of something that’s a little different for Microsoft to be involved in.  I’ve also met some of our best influencers and customers through their participation in these projects.  These guys know who they are, have made some great contributions to the project, and are just exciting to work with because of the passion they bring with them. 

It may sound as if I’m ready to just call this program a success, but I don’t think that’s something I’m ready to say.  We’ve seen some success to date, but I think to be really successful there is a lot of effort yet to be made including the final releases of the VSCmdShell and Transparency tool (which looks really cool BTW).   After these milestones are reached the next step may be to re-evaluate what achieving truly ongoing success means for this project.  If anyone has any suggestions on where we should take this let me know.  So far these are just my thoughts to date and I wanted to get them out there. 
Thanks for Reading,
josh

PS: Thanks again to everyone that has contributed so far to make my vision a reality.