Working with Settings

In Visual Studio, customizations of the integrated development environment (IDE) are stored in groupings known as settings. Settings may be based on different kinds of development activities and also on your own customizations. You can customize and store settings such as tool window visibility, window layouts, placement of menu commands, menu names, template availability in the New Projects dialog box, and keyboard shortcuts.

By using settings, you can perform the following tasks:

  • Create a copy of your settings as a back-up or to import on another computer.

  • Share your settings with other developers.

  • Let all team members use the same settings for particular parts of the IDE without affecting individual customizations to other parts.

  • Migrate your settings to another version of Visual Studio.

What Are Settings?

Settings are customizations to parts of the IDE, for example, window layouts, editor behavior, IntelliSense code snippets, and dialog box options. You can save, export, import, or reset the settings to make the IDE easier to use.

Typically, an active settings file has two kinds of settings, predefined and custom. Predefined settings are installed when you start Visual Studio the first time. Custom settings are created whenever you change any of the predefined settings. By default, active settings are saved in Currentsettings.vssettings.

For more information about predefined settings in Visual Studio, see the following topics.

Topic Location
Visual Web Developer Settings Building ASP .NET Web Applications in Visual Studio
General Development Settings Visual Studio - Configuring the Development Environment
Visual Basic Settings Visual Basic Concepts
Visual C++ Settings Getting Started with Visual C++

How Do Settings Work?

When you first start Visual Studio, you must select one of the predefined settings collections. Every predefined collection is designed to match a particular development style. If you are upgrading from an earlier edition of Visual Studio, you can apply your current settings by selecting My Previous Settings.

The predefined collection is the first version of your active settings. Every time that you adjust a setting that is tracked by Visual Studio, for example, change the color of commented code in the editor, the adjustment is automatically saved. Visual Studio applies your active settings automatically every time that you start Visual Studio.

You can change most of the settings in a predefined collection. For example, if a settings collection hides pages in the Options dialog box, you can display those pages manually by selecting Show all settings. However, you cannot override some predefined settings unless you apply a different collection. For more information about how to apply different settings collections, see How to: Change Select Settings.

You can replace all your active settings or just some of them. By importing a .vssettings file that contains all possible settings categories or by applying another settings collection, you can replace all your active settings. By importing a .vssettings file that contains just a subset of settings categories or by clearing settings categories in an imported .vssettings file, you can replace only those settings that are selected and leave your other active settings intact.

Migrating Settings

You can migrate your settings from an earlier release of Visual Studio.


Some settings may not migrate. For example, if you try to migrate settings from a Visual Studio Application Lifecyle Management edition to a Visual Studio Ultimate edition, not all of them would migrate because the Visual Studio Ultimate edition does not have the same features. Similarly, if a settings category has changed between releases, those settings may not migrate correctly.

Automatic Migration

If you have different versions of Visual Studio installed on the same computer, you be able to have your settings migrated automatically from one to the other. The first time that you start Visual Studio, the following option may be displayed: Migrate my eligible settings from a previous version and apply them in addition to the default settings selected below. Select this option to automatically migrate your settings such as custom IntelliSense code snippet paths and snippets that are located in the \Code Snippets\ folder. For more information, see Choose Default Environment Settings Dialog Box.


Team settings cannot be migrated.

You can also manually migrate your settings.

Manual Migration

You can use the Import and Export Settings wizard to import and apply settings from one version to another. For more information, see How to: Share Settings Between Computers or Visual Studio Versions.

Settings and Security

Some settings categories may contain information about you or your computer. For example, if you have customized the IDE to save projects to a network share, the path of that share is tracked in your settings file. If you export this file to share with others, anyone who imported your settings would also be pointed to this network share. That could pose a risk to your intellectual property. Conversely, if you plan to import settings from others, be careful about risky categories in the imported file.

An icon is displayed next to the settings categories that may be risky. The categories include these:

  • External Tools Lists

  • Command Window Aliases

See Also

Other Resources

Visual Studio Settings