You may have heard about a few new community integration features we’ve been working on for the release of Visual Studio 2005 (Whidbey) Beta 2. We finally have an story end to end for a finding, installing and using VS components such as Starter Kits (which can include Project Templates, Item Templates, Snippets) and Code Snippets, Controls and Add-Ins. Craig Skibo posted on exporting and installing Starter Kits. Here’s the full story for searching for and installing a project template from the community…

In the New Project dialog, you’ll see a list of Project Templates that ship that ship in the box which you can use to create a new project. You may just not find the Project Template that you need, or maybe you hope there’s one out there that brings you a littler closer to your goal. You try “Search Online Templates…”

New Project dialog with “Search Online Templates…” selected.

Double-clicking on this icon now launches MyHelp Search with all the filters predefined to retrieve only Starter Kits when you type a search string. From the Code Wise Community tab you find Starter Kits created and rated by the community. You can sort your result in order of rating to find the most popular items.

MyHelp Search with Search Settings preset to “Starter Kits”

The search results show the description, the source community site, the author of the content, and the rating the item has been given in that community.

When you double-click on the search result of the item you’re interested in, the download location for that item on the source community site is launched. Now you can find out more information about that community, and the content itself. If you decide you trust the content, you can download it from this location.

Community source site page.

When you click on the link to download the file, if the file is in the new .vsi format (described further down), you can just click on the “Open” button in the IE File Download dialog.

IE File Download Dialog ready to download a .vsi file.

Clicking Open launches the VS Content Installer. The first page of the Content Installer displays the content and the Publisher information. If the .vsi is not Authenticode signed, the publisher will show as “Unknown”.

Content Installer first page.

If you click on the “Review” button, you can look at the files expanded on disk in a temporary location to inspect the raw contents of the .vsi.

The .vsi file on disk, expanded. Notice the Starter Kit zip and .vscontent meta file

If you decide to install the content, click through the installer and it will put the content in the right place for Visual Studio to detect, display, and use the content.

Installer final page after completed installation.

Now the Project Template is available to use for creating an New Project. All installed Project Templates are listed under “My Templates” in the New Project dialog.

New Project dialog with installed template selected.


VSI File Format

A .vsi file is just a .zip file with the extension renamed. Within the zip, you have a .vscontent meta file that describes the content items included.


New Community Menu

Another access point for community content going live in Beta 2 is the Community Menu which provides links to a Developer Center based on the settings you have selected. It also gives access to Community Search for the content types listed previously.