Friday, March 30, 2012

Missing Macros in VS11 getting you down? John Robbins shows us how to use NuGet and PowerShell as an replacement

John Robbins' Blog - Using NuGet PowerShell to Replace Missing Macros in Dev 11

"When I first heard that macros were being dropped from Dev 11 I was gobsmacked. (I just love that world!) While the macro story up to Visual Studio 2010 wasn’t great because we couldn’t write macros in our .NET language of choice, I expected the situation would start getting better and was saddened when the fix was to remove the easy customizability all together.

People at Microsoft said that the code behind macros was too brittle to update and their telemetry said macros are feature no one was using. My theory is the reason people skipped macros are because you had to do it in a different language. (VB people: I’m not criticizing VB but most of the developers who would write macros are C#/C++ developers). By dropping macros, the argument was that there was still a valid way to extend the development environment with .VSX files. That’s great but like I really want to install an SDK, write a VSX and have Dev 11 debugging Dev 11 just to enumerate my projects and add a new define to debug build configurations.

Readers of this blog know I’ve written many macros (examples here) that make debugging in particular easier. I use my macros on a daily basis so was not looking forward to porting them to an extension and all the junk that entails. As I was navigating the file system using the now built in NuGet Package Manager Console window, why not use PowerShell as the macro language? While this works, I’ll still be pestering Microsoft a lot during the Dev 12 development cycle for a real macro system that lets me program in any .NET language.

To use PowerShell as the macro language, you need access to the Visual Studio automation model. In macros and extensions the root of life is the DTE interface. A quick look at the variables defined in the Package Manager Console shows a $dte variable so once you have that, you’ve got everything! That’s nice when things are easy.

My goal was to port all my macros over to PowerShell and you can see the results of my porting efforts at the bottom of this blog entry. For the most part, it was simply a matter of porting VB to PowerShell, which wasn’t too onerous if you know PowerShell. The main drawback I encountered is that to debug any functions you write you have to use the old PowerShell 1.0 way of debugging with Set-PSDebug and all the fun of command line debugging. It’s a bit painful, but it does work.



I don't know if I knew that macro's have been killing in VS11 and l if I did, I forgot. So seeing John's mention of them being nuked was a pretty big surprise to me. That said, I can't remember when the last time I used one, so I guess I'm one of those use cases Microsoft is using as justification...

I thought this mix of VS, NuGet and PowerShell pretty awesome and a great example of bending a program to our will.

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