Delivering on a promise – the essential extension pack

Mads Kristensen

During Microsoft Build 2020 in May, developers watching the live stream asked me to make it easy to acquire the basic extensions all Visual Studio users would benefit from. What a great idea, so of course I said yes. The wait is now over, get the The Essentials extension pack today!

Image madsk 2020 build session

During my Visual Studio 2019 (remote dev) tips & tricks session at the Build conference, I showed off a few extensions. I’m a big fan of Visual Studio extensions and write quite a few of them when I have the time. So, when asked several times for a quick and easy way to install the most useful extensions, I said “sure, I’ll make an extension pack”.

An extension pack is a single extension that asks Visual Studio to install one or more other extensions. They are super easy to make and both Web Essentials and Extensibility Essentials are examples of extension packs. Those are two extension packs targeting very specific types of development and not relevant for any other.

It takes longer to come up with a name for an extension pack than to build one

This new extension pack has two requirements:

  1. Must only contain extensions relevant to all developers
  2. Its name must end with the word Essentials (my rule)

First, I needed to identify the extensions I can’t live without and then remove ones that aren’t useful for all developers. That gives me this list of extensions:

Second, I had to come up with a good name. Something that describes a set of extensions that are generally useful, performant, reliable, and of high quality. I couldn’t think of anything clever, so the name I came up with is:

Basic The Essentials

Can you do better?

Is this the best list of extensions and could the name need some improvement? Let me know in the comments below.

If you want to create your own extension pack, then check out the walkthrough and the source code of Basic The Essentials. That’s a bit misleading, because no code is required to create an extension pack. It’s just a JSON file built in a certain way.


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  • Vaclav Elias 1

    I have been using Web Essentials since day 1 and they are for me Dev Life Support Essentials 🙂 Great we/Microsoft have you Mads!

  • Shimmy Weitzhandler 1

    Thank you Mads.
    Your extensions are can’t live withouts.

  • Fellipe Borges 1

    Since you asked for other name ideas, I’ll drop one:

    All Dev Essentials

    It basically has the two requirements you defined.
    Thanks for your work.
    Greetings from Brazil.

    • Mads KristensenMicrosoft employee 1

      That is a great name!! Only problem is that “Dev Essentials” is being used for something else

      • Yann Duran 0

        How about “Developer Essentials“? It applies to all developers and succinctly explains what the extension is for.

  • Martin Thornalley 1

    Surely there can be only one name, the Essential Essentials!

    • Mads KristensenMicrosoft employee 1

      Haha, good one. I just thought about just calling it The Essentials. What do you think?

    • Mads KristensenMicrosoft employee 1


      How did I miss that one. I just added it and it will feature in the next update of Basic Essentials

      • Yann Duran 0

        Another great one for all developers is Build Vision.

  • Kirk Larkin 0

    I’d really like to see your Open Command Line extension in here.

    • Mads KristensenMicrosoft employee 1

      I thought about it, but now that Visual Studio has a built in terminal window, is it really still an essential extension?

      • Kirk Larkin 0

        Yes, you’re right, of course. I must retrain my brain to use CTRL + ‘ instead of ALT + SPACE.

  • saint4eva 0

    Nice one, Mads. However, the File Icons should be modernised to look modern like that of vs code. Other than that, thank you very much.

    • Mads KristensenMicrosoft employee 1

      The vast majority of the icons used in File Icons are coming from Visual Studio itself (it ships with ~4000 icons). I cannot modernize those icons from an extension.

  • Mike Diack 1

    Could some more specific extension packs be created?


    A C++ Extension Pack – Of the best free extensions for us C/C++ developers?
    A C# Extension Pack – For the C# guys?

    • Mads KristensenMicrosoft employee 1

      That’s a great idea.

  • Cynthia Z E MacLeod 0

    Excellent – I would add Power Commands for Visual Studio and possibly call it Dev Essentials, as Basic Essentials makes it sound like MS is actually supporting VB.Net rather than trying to kill it. 😉

    • Michel Renaud 0

      Indeed. I almost didn’t click on the link, thinking it was about VB.

  • Mads KristensenMicrosoft employee 1

    I renamed it to The Essentials.

  • Larry Smith 0

    Any chance you could write an extension that lets you enter comments in Markdown format, perhaps within a comment block that starts with, say, “//**” or some such. And reflow the text when the window is resized?

  • Anthony Rosati 0

    I can’t seem to install the extension packs (none of the ones mentioned)! I download them, open up Visual Studio 2019 for the Mac, open up the extension manager, and click “Install from file” and apparently the *.vsix file extension is not recognized (the files do NOT show up when “extension packages” are selected for the filter; instead, they show up when “All files: is selected). When I do select one using the “all files” filter, and click “Open” … NOTHING HAPPENS! HELP!!! (FYI< I can and have installed numerous extensions from the library listings in the extensions manager, but none of the ones mentioned in the Blog include the three specifically mentioned, which are the three I wanted most!)

  • Davide Curioni 0

    Mads, I desperately need you to update your js bundler/minifier. This fundamental tool has various bugs with modern js syntax (all reported) and is abandoned, with no alternatives. Thanks.

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