Visual Studio Shell

Applies to: yesVisual Studio noVisual Studio for Mac noVisual Studio Code

The Visual Studio shell is the primary agent of integration in Visual Studio. The shell provides necessary functionality to enable VSPackages to share common services. Because the architectural goal of Visual Studio is to vest primary functionality in the VSPackages, the shell is a framework to provide basic functionality and support cross-communication among its component VSPackages.

Shell Responsibilities

The shell has the following key responsibilities:

  • Supporting (through COM interfaces) basic elements of the user interface (UI). These include default menus and toolbars, document window frames or multi-document interface (MDI) child windows, and tool window frames, and docking support.

  • Maintaining a running list of all currently open documents in a running document table (RDT) in order to coordinate the persistence of documents and to guarantee that one document cannot be opened in more than one way, or in incompatible ways.

  • Supporting the command-routing and command-handling interface, IOleCommandTarget.

  • Loading VSPackages at appropriate times. Delay-loading a VSPackage is necessary to improving performance of the shell.

  • Managing certain shared services, such as SVsShell, which provides basic shell functionality, and SVsUIShell, which supplies basic windowing functionality.

  • Managing the solution (.sln) files. Solutions contain groups of related projects, similar to workspace (.dsw) files in Visual C++ 6.0.

  • Tracking shell-wide selection, context, and currency. The shell tracks the following types of items:

    • The current project

    • The current project item or ItemID the current IVsHierarchy

    • The current selection for the Properties window or SelectionContainer

    • The UI context IDs or CmdUIGuids that control the visibility of commands, menus, and toolbars

    • The currently active elements such as the active window, document, and undo manager

    • The User Context attributes that drive Dynamic Help

    The shell also mediates communication among installed VSPackages and current services. It supports the core features of the shell and makes them available to all VSPackages integrated in Visual Studio. These core features include the following items:

  • About dialog box and splash screen

  • Add New and Add Existing Item dialog boxes

  • Class View window and Object Browser

  • References dialog box

  • Document Outline window

  • Dynamic Help window

  • Find and Replace

  • Open Project and Open File dialog boxes on the New menu

  • Options dialog box on the Tools menu

  • Properties window

  • Solution Explorer

  • Task List window

  • Toolbox

See also