Top 3 Tools and Extensions for Visual Studio

Many people use Visual Studio in their everyday work but for one reason or another they do not use its full potential. What Microsoft does is building and releasing versions (2010, 2012, 2013) and later releasing Visual Studio Update packages, which fix bugs but also improve the functionality. I have worked with a lot of developers and am still surprised some pay for plug-ins that are already covered by open source extensions. Please don’t be one of them and use the free ones.

In parallel to that process the development community builds tools and extensions for the IDE that make our life easier. Much easier! But devs need to hear about them or dedicate a few hours a month looking for those extensions. Luckily, there are tools for that too.Visual Studio Tools and Extensions

VS already has a facility to download, update, and manage such extensions. Go to Tools > Extensions and Updates… and it will open for you a new screen with search capabilities, listing thousands of tools you way want to use.

But, you need to know what are the things you need, so that’s why I am here:

1. Web Essentials –

If you don’t know what Web Essentials is, you may want to look for a different job. In case you just started exploring VS then you are excused. What this extension has is a ton of  features that will expand your capabilities to work on a web code. From minification and bundling of CSS and JS files to MAP And LESS functionality – all comes with a click of a button. Every time you update any of those files, the IDE will auto-update the rest.

Web Essentials also contain nice features to recommend code optimizations and validation against W3C rules using JSHint.


Key feature for me is Intellisence for JS files as well as Find All References to get where is your function used.

This one is a must have but be aware that there are different versions for each VS version and update.

2. CodeMaid –

CodeMaid is probably the 2nd most downloaded extension for Visual Studio. It is a great code clean-up tool, especially for code you will have to show to other people. Do you work in a team? Then – yes – it’s for you. A very customizable set of rules on how the code show look like. I would not use it across the board on all files as some times it will “fix” intentionally formatted lines and comments. But, I recommend it  to all my devs and make sure they understand its rules so later they create the pretty code without the need of running the automated tool.

Codemaid McCabe scoreThe key feature for me is that it shows McCabe complexity scores for each C# and VB file and adds informative tool-tips. That is where refactoring comes into play during code review.

3. Productivity Power Tools

The Productivity Power Tools is developed by a team at Microsoft but it listens to the needs of developers and often features in it go into the VS IDE in later releases. If you don’t want to wait for these features to become part of the next IDE version, you should download the Power Tools.

Each version contains different set of features, which you can switch on or off. Personally, I do not use all of them so I customize them. A few of the ones I like a lot are the power search, the color coding of tabs and in-code, and error and warning integration inside the Solution Explorer.

Power Tools SearchThe powerful search allows you to type any name of a setting you need to find and it will give you a link to it. No more navigating through countless tabs looking for something you used 6 months ago. It will also group the results by location – pretty nice!

If I have to list all colorification and outlining aspects of the extension, this article will be 10 pages long. So, I am going to leave this the authors who did a great job listing them here and also making a video presentation about it. Watch it here.

As I said, there are thousands of extensions and I hope once you check these three out, you will be looking for more that will make your work easier, pleasant,  and less stressful.