Visual Studio Productivity Power Tools Updated

Brian Harry

We’ve just released an update the the very popular Visual Studio Productivity Power Tools.  We’ve incorporated bug fixes, some key user feedback and some cool new features.

The first key user feedback worth mentioning is the ability to independently turn off extensions that might conflict with something you already have.  You can get to this through Tools –> Options.


One of the cool new features is a new window that can act as a replacement for “Solution Explorer” called “Solution Navigator”.  It looks a lot like Solution Explorer and includes all that capability and more.  You can see the simple filtering buttons under the solution “All”, “Open”, “Unsaved” and “Edited” (files edited at some point since the solution was last opened).


In addition to filtering, you can use Solution Navigator to easily search for files in your solution.


You can also drill down through files into a class browser like experience.


Note that the tool window doesn’t (yet) support everything that Solution Explorer supports, such as multiselect and drag-and-drop.

Solution Navigator also provides interactive tooltips in C# and VB code (replacing the default “quick info” tooltips) that give you the same kind of data, but right at your fingertips.  In addition to getting the tooltips on hover, you can:

  • Press Ctrl+1 to open a relevant tooltip at the current cursor location
  • Press Ctrl+2 to quickly navigate to any class/member in the current source file

Another cool new feature is “Quick Access”. 

Quick Access is a new tool window that allows users to search for and execute common tasks within the Visual Studio IDE.  Not sure where a particular menu command is located?  Want a quick way to create a new Silverlight project? By using Quick Access, you can efficiently find and execute common VS operations without taking your hands off the keyboard.  Quick Access allows users to:

  • Execute Main Menu and Context Menu commands
  • Open the New Project Dialog with a specific Project Template selected
  • Show a tool window
  • Jump to a Visual Studio Options page
  • Navigate to an open document in your Tab Well
  • Create and execute a series of actions (task

To use, press Ctrl+3 to launch Quick Access, type in your search term (e.g., “debug”), and press Enter on the desired result.  If your search term returns too many results, continue pressing Ctrl+3 to cycle through each category of results.


Some nifty typing improvements are also included:

Automatic Brace Completion improves the productivity of writing code by automatically inserting the closing code construct when the opening construct is typed for VB & C#.  More specifically, this extension:

  • Supports the following constructs: (), {}, [], <>, “”, and ‘’. 
  • Allows you to press <TAB> to navigate past the next enclosing brace
  • Allows you to automatically complete a statement and place the caret on the next line with SHIFT + ENTER (also adds a semicolon in C#)

And there have been a bunch of improvements and bug fixes to pre-existing features:

Searchable Add Reference

  • Fixed: HintPaths were not added for non-Framework, browsed assembly references
  • Fixed: Projects tab is the default.  Subsequently the last used tab is shown per VS session.
  • Fixed: Exception dialog is shown when an assembly with an invalid AssemblyCulture attribute is found.
  • Fixed: Exception dialog is shown for some missing references or invalid type library references
  • Fixed: Browsed references not being added to the Recent tab.

Fixed: Trying to fix an unresolved reference reported that it is already present in the project.  Now it updates the reference with the correct path.

  • Fixed: Incomplete Assembly Name was being used to construct resolved reference identities
  • Added: Context menu on the Recent tab to allow for clearing of the recent references list.
  • Added: Browse now defaults to the solution folder. Subsequent uses of the dialog remember the previous folder.

Colorized Parameter Help

  • There are now specific Fonts & Colors settings to allow you to configure the display of items in Parameter Help.  This will allow users with dark backgrounds to be able to customize these to readable.

Column Guides

  • Fixed: Adding & Removing guidelines from a split window occurred based on the caret position in the wrong window.
  • Fixed: Guideline could not be added to first column
  • Fixed: Guideline is placed incorrectly when added to a trailing tab
  • Moved: Guidelines are now a fly-out to reduce the clutter on the Editor context menu.

Ctrl Click Go To Definition

  • Fixed: Navigation now happens on mouse up which reduces conflict with drag & drop operations and word selection.

Document Tab Well settings

  • Added: Show/Hide pin button in unpinned tabs

We received feedback that the pin button was taking too much space or was too easy to click accidentally. You can now configure whether the pin button appears in unpinned tabs or not. In the options dialog page, just uncheck “Show pin button in unpinned tabs”, in the “Tab UI” section.

Showing pin button in unpinned tabs

Hidden pin button in unpinned tabs



  • Make selected tab more distinguishable when using custom colors

We received feedback about the currently selected tab not being easily distinguishable when using custom colors. We now use a gradient for the selected tab that fades from the custom color to the default VS selected tab color:

Selected tab when using custom colors in previous version:

Selected tab when using custom colors in current version:




  • Configure text color for selected and unselected tabs

We received feedback about text being unreadable in some of the darker colors we use when coloring by project. We no allow you to configure the text color for selected and unselected tabs, for all custom colors:



  • Command for closing all unpinned tabs

Many of our users have asked for this command. It will close all unpinned document well tabs.



  • Moved: Options for this extension are now found under Productivity Power Tools -> Document Tab Well(or by typing Document Tab Well into Quick Access).
  • Fixed: Vertical tabs would float when a new toolbar row appeared as a result of selecting a tab.

HTML Cut/Copy

  • Added: Cut as HTML is now supported

Installation on Windows XP

  • Fixed: Unable to install Productivity Power Tools on Windows XP if user name is too long.  Note: We’ve reduced the number of characters considerably but this still may be an issue if your user name is extremely long.



Please let us know what you think!



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