More Tools: The Power of Extensions

As you know, Visual Micro is no independent program, but an extension to Atmel Studio and Visual Studio.

Visual Micro and Atmel Studio are extensible with so-called add-ins and extensions (Visual Studio 2015 and newer only supports extensions, no Add-ins).

Both IDE offer a large choice of Add-Ins and extensions, written by Microsoft, Atmel and independent authors.

Note IconNote:

"Add-Ins" and "Extensions" are two different technologies for extending the IDEs. From a user's perspective, there is no difference.
Therefore, we refer to both as "extensions" from now on. Beginning with Visual Studio 2015, add-ins are not supported anymore. The current version of Visual Micro was rewritten as an extension. Therefore, it is fully compatible with Visual Studio 2015, but also with older versions of Visual Studio.

You can browse these catalogs either from the IDE or on the Web. Using the web variants is recommended, because they offer more information and search capabilities.

In Visual Studio:

  • Inside the IDE: Click on Tools > Extensions and Updates. The Extension Manager opens. Click on "Online" to see a list of available extensions
  • On the Web: Open Visual Studio Gallery in your browser

In Atmel Studio:

  • Inside the IDE: Click on Tools > Extension Manager. The Extension Manager opens and shows you the list of available downloads.
  • On the Web: Open Atmel Gallery in your browser

A Few General Words about Extensions

  • You can use the search function to find extensions that fit your needs
  • You can deinstall or deactivate unwanted extensions using the Extension Manager from the menu of your IDE, see above
  • Before installing an extension, make sure that the tool you have chosen matches your version of the IDE. Most popular add-Ins and extensions are offered for multiple IDE versions.
    Visual Studio Gallery also lets you filter the list by IDE version. To see these filter options, click on the magnifier symbol next to the search field.
  • After installing an extension, go to Tools > Options and navigate to the section regarding your extension. The tool's option dialog is a good start to learn about its capabilities and lets you play around with options to customize the tool to fit your needs. Most extensions offer multiple enhancement to the IDE, and if you don't like all of them, simply switch off what you don't want using the Tools > Options settings
  • Note that not all extensions are free. But there is a large number of excellent and free tools to choose from
  • Do not leave extensions installed in your IDE if you don't use them. These tools may slow down your IDE and clutter menus and toolbars with commands you don't need. Only leave those tools in your IDE that you really use.
    Remember that you can deinstall unwanted add-Ins and extensions using your IDEs Extension Manager.

Popular Extensions

Let us introduce a few useful and very popular extensions.

For Visual Studio: Productivity Power Tools

This tool is the "Swiss Army Knife" of tools. It offers enhancements for various areas of the IDE:

  • Code Formatting
  • Code Navigation
  • Project Management
  • Scrollbar Enhancements
  • Mouse Middle Click support
  • ...and much more

All functions of Productivity Power Tools can be customized and switched on/off using Tools > Options.

For Atmel Studio: XFeatures

XFeatures is a free extension for Atmel Studio. It offers a multitude of enhancements:

  • Highlight build output
  • Build Summary
  • Highlight Find Results
  • Triple Click Selection
  • Mouse Wheel Zoom
  • ...and much more

All functions of XFeatures can be customized using Tools > XFeatures.

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