PowerShell Extension Roadmap

Sydney Smith

Over the last year we have committed to making the PowerShell editing experience in Visual Studio Code a rich and productive cross-platform alternative for the PowerShell ISE. To that end, we have focused on two primary areas: bringing the PSReadLine experience to the Integrated Console, and improving the stability of the extension while editing and debugging. The goal of this blog post is to walk through how we have made efforts in these key areas, and what our next steps are to follow through on these efforts.

Investments in the reliability of PowerShell in Visual Studio Code

Our number one user request for the PowerShell editing experience in Visual Studio Code is to improve the stability of the editor and debugger. Long-standing constraints in the original design of the PowerShell extension made it difficult to improve its robustness through incremental changes. Instead, over the last six months we prioritized work to re-architect the extension with an emphasis on stability.

Using the Omnisharp Project’s Common Language Server Protocol

Based on the maturity of OmniSharp we took advantage of the project’s common language server protocol implementation which is a .NET library. It is important to note that Omnisharp’s common LSP server library is distinct from Omnisharp which is largely synonymous with the C# LSP backend. While we do hope this Omnisharp port will improve your editing experience, do not expect it to provide additional .NET completions. Omnisharp’s architecture is more robust meaning that bugs that might once have been crashes will now be caught and logged. By leveraging this library we were able to greatly simplify our code and are now more compliant with language server protocol. Ultimately, we believe that these changes will significantly reduce the number crashes of the extension and improve the performance overall. These changes shipped in the November 2019 release of the PowerShell Preview extension and will ship with the January 2020 release of the PowerShell extension.

Other features of the Omnisharp Port

  • Asynchronous message handling for increase in performance
  • CodeLens requests no longer depend on running PowerShell so IntelliSense hangs should reduce
  • Formatting is now handled directly by the language server

Hosted PSScriptAnalyzer

PSScriptAnalyser (PSSA) is a static code checker for PowerShell modules and scripts, which provides services like script diagnostics and formatting in the PowerShell extension. In our analysis of the PowerShell extension we found that PSScriptAnalyzer had a major impact on the performance of the extension overall so we have been investing in changes to how PSSA integrates with the PowerShell extension. In the current architecture, the PowerShell extension must interface with PSSA through its cmdlets, which re-instantiate the PSSA engine on every invocation. Further, because we must use PowerShell cmdlet invocation for this, the PowerShell extension is forced to manage the overhead of PowerShell runspace management and command resolution to run PSSA. In scenarios like real-time diagnostics and formatting, this overhead has become a significant bottleneck for the extension. Instead, since PSSA is .NET code at heart, we are moving toward a model allowing direct hosting of PSSA in .NET, with management and invocation of the PSSA engine performed through a set of suitable public .NET APIs. Work on these APIs has entered into a validation and integration phase and we expect this improvement to ship with the January 2020 release of the PowerShell extension.

PSReadLine support in the Integrated Console

Full PSReadLine support has long been at the top of our list for feature requests. It has also been among our most difficult problems to solve because at its core it also required architectural changes in how the PowerShell extension manages threading and runspaces. The additional challenge of trying to support both legacy versions of PowerShell and a range of platform distributions has caused this problem to continually be delayed. In January of 2019 we released a Preview version of the PowerShell extension which was built on .NET Standard thereby enabling us to support PSReadLine in the integrated console for Windows users on PowerShell Version 5.1 and above.

With PowerShell 7 delivering a fix in .NET Core 3.0 for the way POSIX terminal APIs are handled when starting new processes, we are finally able to move the PSReadLine support currently available in the PowerShell Preview extension into the stable PowerShell extension with support across platform distributions. We expect to ship this update in the same time frame as PowerShell 7 (targeted for January 2020).

Dropping support for PowerShell Versions 3 and 4

Support for PSReadLine in the PowerShell extension Integrated Console depends on changes made in PSReadLine since it moved to version 2.0, where it dropped support for PowerShell versions 3 and 4. In turn, we also made the difficult decision to no longer support PowerShell 3 and 4 in future updates of the extension. In making this decision we analyzed the use of these PowerShell versions and found that approximately 1% of PowerShell session in VSCode use one of these versions. In order to accommodate these use cases we will ship a final stable version of the extension with PowerShell version 3 and 4 support which can continue to be used. To use this version of the extension the user will still install the PowerShell extension through the VSCode marketplace. They will then need to use the extension settings to select their desired version.

We plan to release a “release candidate” for this version as our November release of the PowerShell extension and make any necessary bug fixes before our January 2020 release of the extension.

Summarized Release Plan for the VSCode Extension

Please note that this is the currently targeted timeline for release but it subject to change:

  • Novemeber 2019: PowerShell Preview Extension ships with increased stability from the Omnisharp library
  • November 2019: PowerShell Extension ships as a release candidate for the last version supporting PowerShell 3.0 and 4.0
  • December 2019: PowerShell Extension ships with any necessary bug fixes as the last version supporting PowerShell 3.0 and 4.0
  • January 2020: The PowerShell Extension ships with full PSReadLine support, Omnisharp integration, and hosted PowerShell Script Analyzer (and drops support for PowerShell 3.0 and 4.0)

We will then be able to address other outstanding issues in the extension, and use the PowerShell Preview extension as a means of increasing our release cadence.

What’s Next and Providing Feedback

Once we make these releases we will continue to make investments in the PowerShell editing experience. If you encounter any issues with the PowerShell extension in Visual Studio Code or have feature requests, the best place to get support is through our GitHub repository.

Sydney Smith, Robert Holt, Tyler Leonhardt PowerShell Team


Discussion is closed. Login to edit/delete existing comments.

  • Justin Grote 0

    Thanks for your hard work on a tremendous undertaking that’s always hard to sell both internally and externally, which is no new whiz-bang “features” but making the existing environment robust. As one of the many daily drivers who spends at least half his day in vscode powershell, it is much appreciated.

  • Mystery Man 0

    I’m glad to see the PowerShell team is still awesome. Please keep up the good work. 👍

    Oh, and thanks for posting an actual video instead of an animated GIF. Those were annoying.

  • Darrick West 0

    Sounds delicious!

    The PoSh team’s efforts are much appreciated!

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