Creating project templates for Visual Studio

7 08 2010

Creating project templates for Visual Studio

Reusability though heard thousands of times, ranges from a small code snippet to the entire enterprise level framework. This article will demonstrate the word reusable in terms of – Reusing the company framework or code through a fantastic feature of Visual Studio called Templates.

Templates

A group of packaged files that help to accelerate the development process by eliminating the need to start the project from scratch. Templates are divided into two parts

Project Templates : This category appears into “New Project” dialog box when one is starting a fresh new project. It is further divided into Project Templates and Website Templates.

Item Templates : This category appears into “Add Item” dialog box when one wants to add a new item to the project.

Ways to create template: There are two ways in which one can create the desired template manually or by using the export template wizard of Visual Studio.

I will stick to the process of manually creating a Website Template.
Steps to create a new website template.
1)Create a new Web site.

2)Prepare the framework (files to be included in your website template)

3)Create a file with .vstemplate as extension in the same directory of your project.

4)Alter the .vstemplate file to provide template metadata as given below.


<VSTemplate Version="2.0.0" Type="Project" xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/developer/vstemplate/2005">
    <TemplateData>
      <Name>MyFirstWebProjectTemplate</Name>
      <Description>A simple Web template</Description>
      <Icon>icon.ico</Icon>
      <ProjectType>Web</ProjectType>
      <ProjectSubType>CSharp</ProjectSubType>
      <DefaultName>WebSite</DefaultName>
    </TemplateData>
    <TemplateContent>
      <Project File="MyFirstWebProjectTemplate.webproj" TargetFileName="MyFirstWebProjectTemplate.webproj">
        <ProjectItem>web.config</ProjectItem>
        <ProjectItem OpenInEditor="true">Default.aspx</ProjectItem>
        <ProjectItem>Default.aspx.cs</ProjectItem>
        <Folder Name="App_Code"  TargetFolderName="App_Code">
          <Folder Name="BAL"  TargetFolderName="BAL">
          </Folder>
          <Folder Name="DAL"  TargetFolderName="DAL">
            <ProjectItem>DataAccess.cs</ProjectItem>
          </Folder>
        </Folder>
        <Folder Name="App_Data"  TargetFolderName="App_Data">
        </Folder>
      </Project>
    </TemplateContent>
</VSTemplate>

The above vstemplate XML file includes three major sections

VSTemplate: Identifies the template as a project or item template and provides the template version number

Template Data: Includes all the metadata that defines the display characteristics related to the Add New Website Screen.

Name: Name of the template that appear under the My Template section

Description: Small description that is depicted in the status bar of the New website screen.

Icon: Name of the Icon file that is shown as the preview icon for the newly created template.

Project Type: Type of the project template. This is one of the main attributes as it decides under which section the template will appear. Specifically mention “Web” for creating web site project template.

Project Sub Type: Type of the language for the template. It can be CSharp, VisualBasic, JSharp etc.

DefaultName: The default name of the website

Template Content: Includes the definition for all the files and folder structure that would be created when the template is imported.

Project File: This is the name of the project file that is used internally by visual studio to refer files while extracting the template. So incase of project template it will be the name of the projet file Eg “MyFirstWebProjectTemplate.csproj”
As website donot produce project files just create a file with .webproj extension Eg MyFirstWebProjectTemplate.webproj

ProjectItem: This attributes includes all the files that need to be extracted.

Folder: Used to organize files into specific folder structure just incase. In the above example template will create App_Code foler, BAL and DAL folder under App_Code folder and place DataAccess.cs file into DAL folder.

5)Now navigate to the project folder. Select all the files to be included in your template (including the .vstemplate file) and compress it to prepare a standard zip file. In above case it will produce MyFirstWebProjectTemplate.zip.

6)Now simply move the zip file to My Documents\Visual Studio 2005\Templates\ProjectTemplates folder.

7)To validate Open Visual Studio and goto File >> New >> Website. The newly created template will appear into My Templates section of the “New Website Screen”. That’s it you have created your own first template.

Conclusion
To save time with scratch projects prepare template with a framework including UI aspects like Basic Layout(Login.aspx,DefaultMaster.aspx, etc), Architectural aspects like Authentication,Authorization,Security,Utility classes etc
and save your time and money.

Templates can be used locally as well as can be distributed to others users. To prepare a .vsi deployment package for your template refer

Packing and Deploying Custom Templates in Visual Studio.

Note: Though the template creation seems to be easy but in reality its not. Above was the simplest type of the template that we have created. Visual Studio has great amount of flexibility to produce different types of templates like, project templates, website templates (the one above), item templates and wizard base templates.

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2 responses

7 08 2010
Packing and Deploying Custom Templates in Visual Studio. « Dhaval Upadhyaya

[…] you have created your own template (Creating project templates for Visual Studio) its time for its distribution. To make the template appear into the “New Project” window it is […]

28 11 2011
Bypass megavideo

I agree completely…

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