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VisibilityConstraints example

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Applies to Visual Studio 2015 and newer

This sample shows how to use the <VisibilityConstraints> element in a Visual Studio extension to remove the need to use the ProvideAutoload attribute on a package class.

Clone the repo to test out the sample in Visual Studio 2017 yourself.

What is VisibilityConstraints?

Often a package is being loaded to run a BeforeQueryStatus method for a button to determine its visibility. With <VisibilityConstraints> we can determine the visibility of a button without running BeforeQueryStatus and therefore don't need to load the package before the user clicks the button.

It is a best practice to never load a package before it is needed, and <VisibilityConstraints> allow us to load the package only when requested and not before.

Limit use of ProvideAutoload

It is very common to autoload a package when Visual Studio starts up or when a solution is being loaded. It is done by putting an attribute on the Package or AsyncPackage class like so:


This is often a bad practice because the features in the package usually only applies to certain file or project types. It is much better to only load the package when those files or projects are loaded and not before.

The general rule of thumb is to only load the package when aboslutely needed and never before. There is great documentation on how to specify auto loading rules that causes loading to happen only when needed.

Some extensions that today use the ProvideAutoload attribute don't actually need it at all, since <VisibilityConstraints> can toggle the visibility of commands/buttons without loading the package.

If you have to use ProvideAutoload, make sure you do so in the background using an AsyncPackage as documented here.

Let's get started

First we must specify a rule for when a button should be visible. In this example, the rule is that the button should be visible when the user right-clicks a .cs or .vb file in Solution Explorer. We can express that in an attribute on the Package or AsyncPackage class like so:

    name: "Supported Files",
    expression: "CSharp | VisualBasic",
    termNames: new[] { "CSharp", "VisualBasic" },
    termValues: new[] { "HierSingleSelectionName:.cs$", "HierSingleSelectionName:.vb$" })]

See sample package class and more info about using the ProvideUXContextRule attribute.

Then we must register a <VisibilityConstraint> based on that rule in the .vsct file like so:

  <VisibilityItem guid="guidPackageCmdSet" id="MyButtonId" context="uiContextSupportedFiles" />

...and remember to mark the button itself as dynamic visible:


See sample .vsct file

That's it. The project in the /src/ folder shows a working example of how this all fits together.

Further reading

Read the docs for all the details surrounding these scenarios.