Nuget Project Extensions

Nuget has slowly grown from a simple package dependency management of references to build processes and content. As a avid supporter of all things Nuget I have found myself yearning for more flexibility with the packages. One area I would like to test the feasibility of is the ability for nuget packages to contain project types. Nuget already handles the use of custom msbuild projects, this feature lets a project reference a custom build step. I have been playing around with this in another of my projects Doc.Net and it does not quite do what I want it to.

Getting every developer in an organisation to add the same extensions, installers, sdk and frameworks has always been a hassle. There is also the debate of what do you install onto a build server which has resulted in us often stripping project such as Wix and Code analysis away from their tools and reference target files in build directories checked into source control. I have often thought there could be some sort of system to allow all instances of visual studio on a domain to automatically get extensions but the logistics are just too great.

Project extensions have always been difficult to setup but recently the entry barrier has been lowered with the new VS Project System Extensibility: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/visualstudio/archive/2015/06/02/introducing-the-project-system-extensibility-sdk-preview.aspx

So the plan is to modify the visual studio nuget extension so that it can load project types directly from nuget packages. Nuget packages can be added to the solution level and the extension could look at these and provide them in the new project dialog. There are some limitations which may make this impossible such as needing to know the project type guids at startup and package restore not occurring until build. Possible solutions to these is to project a ‘Nuget’ level project type which is blank and populated by the msbuild include only. This would miss out on many features of project configuration but it is better than nothing.

The benefits of this system would be huge:

  • Allow 3rd party systems like WIX and Monogame to use a nuget package instead of an install.
  • No one needs to install a collection of vs extensions, installers, etc.
  • Allow side by side copies of projects, such as one project building with wix 3.8 and another with the pre-released 4.0.

So I will test the waters and see what is possible. Stay tuned.

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