Top 10 Best free Visual Studio Extensions for 2014

As a full time developer, one of the first things I do right after installing Visual Studio is to go and get all of my favourite extensions. This is my list of the top 10 free Visual Studio Extensions that I use and that make my life easier and my work faster for Visual Studio 2013.

Top free Visual Studio extensions

1. Web Essentials

Web Essentials Logo
Web Essentials

For anyone that does any amount of web development Mads Kristensen’s Web Essentials is an absolute mandatory extension. Besides editing features like additional Intellisense for JavaScript/CSS/HTML/JSON it also does a ton of other features like zen codingJSHint, LESS/Sass/CoffeeScript compilers, code linters, Markdown, image optimization, image sprite creation, AngularJS tags and a lot more. I can’t recommend this extension enough.

Web Essentials features  - free visual studio extensions
Web Essentials features

Download: Web Essentials in the VS Gallery

2. VSCommands

VSCommands Logo

VsCommands adds what is probably my most used feature ever, the Locate in Solution Explorer tab context menu. Another feature that I use a lot is the Auto-Hide for the Main Menu that gives me more space to work with. And the Edit Project File option is pretty awesome. Plus it shows the current branch name in the title of your Visual studio window. You can check these and many other available features here.

VsCommands Features  - free visual studio extensions
VsCommands Features

Download: VsCommands in the VS Gallery

3. Productivity Power Tools

Productivity Power Tools Logo
Productivity Power Tools

Another excelent extension coming from Microsoft. This extension adds some pretty useful features that help you navigate through the IDE faster. Features like Peek Help and Ctrl + Click to Peek Definition allow you to view help and code definitions without leaving your current file. The Custom Document Well allows you to change the behavior of your document tabs like having custom Color tabs according to their project and one of my favourites, the Solution Explorer Errors which show yout which files are not compiling directly on the Solution Explorer. Very helpfull stuff. Have a look at the video that explains some of these features.

Productivity Power Tools  - free visual studio extensions
Productivity Power Tools – Solution Errors

Download: Productivity Power Tools in the VS Gallery

4. Ghost Doc

Ghost Doc logo
Ghost Doc

How can you not love an extension that when you press the shortcut keys [shift + ctrl + D] makes comments appear magically on your code? This extension is the work of gnomes inside your computer that read your code and write the appropriate comments. Now truthfully, this extension helps you to document your methods and properties based on their type, parameters, name, and other contextual information. It’s pretty awesome.

Ghost Doc Example - free visual studio extensions
Ghost Doc Example

Download: Ghost Doc in the VS Gallery

5. Code Alignment

Code alignment
Code Alignment

Code alignment is an extension that does just that, it aligns your code. It’s an extension for programmers who are obsessive about code formating, like me. Code alignment gives extra meaning to your code by lining up similar code parts into columns. In my humble opinion it makes code reading easier on the eyes and that helps a lot. However keep in mind that if you have large batches of code like this you should probably consider using a tool like the awesome Automapper.

Code Alignment Example - free visual studio extensions
Code Alignment Example

Download: Code Alignment in the VS Gallery

6. File Nesting

File Nesting
File Nesting

This is just a nifty utility extension that automatically nest files based on filename and enables you to nest and unnest any file manually. This way you can easily organize the files on your solution explorer and make it seem less cluttered, whitch is always a plus on my book.

File Nesting Example - free visual studio extensions
File Nesting Example

Download: File Nesting in the VS Gallery

7. AutoHistory

This is a very recent extension that has already saved my life a couple of times. Basically it lets you see the history of all files you edit in Visual Studio on your local machine. Altough in my opinion the user interface is not the most intuitive, it does the job and may help you recover that piece of code that you though you were never going to see again.

AutoHistory - free visual studio extensions

Download: AutoHistory in the VS Gallery

8. Microsoft CodeLens Code Health Indicator

Code Health Indicator
Code Health Indicator

This last extension is more of a cool addition to the CodeLens feature in VS 2013 that provides a measure of code maintainability that is updated in realtime as you type. Basically it helps you write clean code by allowing you to see if the changes you’ve made to a given method make it more or less maintainable. Keep in mind that to get it to work on Visual Studio 2013 Ultimate you must first download the extension vsix file, then change extension to zip, edit the .vsixmanifest and change to the following line:

 <InstallationTarget Id="Microsoft.VisualStudio.Ultimate" Version="[12.0,13.0]" />

Code Health Indicator Example  - free visual studio extensions
Code Health Indicator Example

Download: Code Health Indicator in the VS Gallery

9. Bing Code Search for C#

This extension adds a very interesting feature to Visual Studio 2013. It allows you to search for code samples in several comunity websites like MSDN, StackOverflow, Dotnetperls and CSharp411, all without ever leaving your code editor. You only need to write three dashes (“///”) followed by your question and the tab key for it to show you the search results. This extension improves developer productivity and speed by bringing the experience of searching for reusable C# code into Visual Studio IDE.

Bing Code Search - free visual studio extensions
Bing Code Search for C#

Download: Bing Code Search for C# in the VS Gallery

10. SideWaffle Template Pack

And to end this list, we could only have another wonderfull extension from Mads Kristensen. This one is basically a template pack for the various kind of project and file items in Visual Studio. This extension adds the templates suitable for building websites, Windows apps, Windows Phone apps, WPF, Visual Studio extensibilty projects and a lot more. Dont forget to check the awesome list of supported templates on the Sidewaffle website. It’s definitely impressive.

SideWaffle Angular Example - free visual studio extensions
SideWaffle Angular Example

Download: SideWaffle Template Pack in the VS Gallery

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