Round tripping a VSIX project

Visual Studio 2012 introduced project file round tripping feature.  This lets developers edit the same project in Visual Studio 2010, 2012 and 2013 without the need to upgrade the project file or modify it in any way.  This was a highly requested feature by customers that allowed them to edit their project no matter what version of Visual Studio they had on their machine.  The previous forced upgrade model for new versions was a big adoption blocker.  Now customers can just grab the latest Visual Studio version and start hacking away

Unfortunately this feature does not work on all project types including VSIX projects.  This meant that Visual Studio Extension authors who wanted to developer extensions for all versions of Visual Studio were essentially locked into editing that code with 2010.   This is doubly unfortunate given that extension authors are the type of developers most likely to early adopt new versions of Visual Studio. 

The good news though is that it is possible to have a VSIX project be round tripped, it just requires a bit of special sauce to get working.  Once done though a VSIX project can be fully edited, F5’d, etc … in any version of Visual Studio. 

Originally this blog post was going to be a step by step process for getting a 2010 VSIX project into full round tripping mode.  However as I started to write the post it was looking rather dull.  Virtually every line was a variant of

  • Open File <…>
  • Paste <this odd snippet> on line <…>

After pasting some rather ugly MsBuild XML into my post I realized that there was a much better way to convey this information: actually demonstrating the transition from a 2010 extension to a fully round trippable one on a real project.  Essentially I decided the best way to do this was to speak in code. 

Hence I created a GitHub project that starts with a simple 2010 extension and step by step (or commit by commit) turns it into a fully round trippable one.  Every commit has detailed comments about why the edits were taken, what features they provide and what limitations remain. The full transition is available here

I hope that this speaks better to other extension developers out there and helps them get to a happy round trippable world.