Visual Studio 2013 Database Project: Item Templates with VSIX

Visual Studio 2013 Database Project: Database Item Templates with VSIX


Strictly speaking VSIX is not a database project or related in kind, but by virtue of Item Templates.  With VSIX projects and the TemplateBuilder (NuGet) package, templates can be built from the contents of an ItemsTemplates folder.  The latter (if not created by TemplateBuilder) should be manually created as ItemTemplates folder as an item of the VSIX project.

NOTE: SQL Server (database) templates are not supported in Visual Studio 2013 VSIX and requires a manual effort to install on a developer’s IDE.  As indicated by the error item below, if the database files added to a VSIX project are changed to have a vstemplate file extension the compiler (on build) should issue this error saying that only CSharp and VBasic templates. Similarly if a Reference is added in the Asset tab of the manifest, the error The targer “TemplateProjectOuputGroup” does not exist in the project” is presented.

VS Database Template Support

VS Database Template Support

VSIX Template

The VSIX project template is available from the Visual Studio 2013 SDK and found under the menu: [Visual C#] >> Extensibility >> VSIX Project.

Template Builder

The TemplateBuilder package is installed from the Package Manager console or from Visual Studio: Tools >> NuGet Package Manager >> Package Manger Console.  Once installed, template are built to the folder: <Drive:>:\Users\<User>\Documents\Visual Studio 2013\Templates\ItemTemplates and <Drive:>\Users\<User>\Documents\Visual Studio 2013\Templates\ProjectTemplates.

NuGet Package Manager

Download and install the NuGet Package Manager for Visual Studio 2013.  It has a VSIX extension but installs by double-click and run.


SideWaffle is a template pack that adds a selection of project and item templates to Visual Studio, including enabling templates to use for creating new ones. A VSIX project generates an experimental invocation of Visual Studio in which to test these templates so that the real instance is not affected.  To configure templates require a work-flow that is enabled by a separate application (that you create) to populate template and custom parameters when creating a new item.  This article, for now, mentions it but is not using it to create templates.

Create a New VSIX Project for Template Deployment

In order to author customised solutions, projects, code-snippets, and templates, a VSIX project is required.  Depending on the user-environment set-up for Visual Studio, file paths may vary slightly.

Create a new project:

  1. Follow the path: File >> New Project >> [Custom Path] >> [Visual C#] >> extensibility >> VSIX Project
  2. Provide a name for the project and check the solution details
  3. Fill out the VS VSIX Manifest with the appropriate details (reference)
  4. Install the TemplateBuilder package.
VS VSIX Manifest

VS VSIX Manifest

Installing TemplateBuilder

This installation requires the Package Manager Console (NuGet):

  • Follow the path: Tools >> NuGet Package Manager >> Package Manager Console.
  • Type Install-Package TemplateBuilder -Pre at the PM> prompt and hit [Enter].  NOTE: Internet access to is required.
VS Package Manager Console

VS Package Manager Console

The TemplateManager installation responds favourably on completion of the install, if it succeeds.  NOTE: The NuGet package is downloaded into the file location: <Drive>:\Users\<user name>\AppData\Local\NuGet\Cache and in the event of not having the default Internet location ( available, Visual Studio looks here for whatever the package is being installed.

VS NuGet Installation of TemplateBuilder

VS NuGet Installation of TemplateBuilder

The installation process deposits an example template into: <Drive:>\Users\<User>\Documents\Visual Studio 2013\Templates\ProjectTemplates.  NOTE: there may not actually be an example template in this folder.

Create a Template Solution and Project

The Visual Studio Solution should contain the VSIX project as well as other projects, i.e. those used in which to create the templates.  For example, to create database templates a database project is added to the solution and the corresponding templates with parameters created in there.  This article uses the template created in a previous post (Visual Studio 2013 Database Project: Create a Stored Procedure Item Template) to illustrate how the VSIX project functions in this respect.

There are two methods:

  1. Exporting and importing a template (zip file)
  2. Referencing the template source project from the VSIX project where they are in the same solution

The latter (point 2) does not work for database templates

Exporting the Template

The template (or stored procedure created in the templates project) is created by exporting the necessary file (the actual stored procedure and any referenced files in the case of a project or c# type template) to the folder: <Drive:>\Users\<User>\Documents\Visual Studio 2013\My Exported Templates.  Follow the next steps to affect this:

  • Create, for example a stored procedure template (reference the above link on how to do that) an File >> Export Template >> Item Template, select the correct project, i.e. the database project containing the stored procedure created.
  • Select the correct stored procedure and complete the wizard.  The output template is locatable in the folder: <Drive:>\Users\<User>\Documents\Visual Studio 2013\My Exported Templates in a file called: <Template Name>.zip.

NOTE: Edit the MyTemplate.vstemplate file (contained inside the zip file) in Visual Studio and add an element TemplateGroupID (depicted in the code below) between the templateData tags to help with the filtering of template in the New Item dialog (reference).

VS Template Projects and Item Template

VS Template Projects and Item Template


The Item Template (Stored Procedure) is added to the VSIX project.  Use the .vsixmanifest file and add an Itemtemplate item to the Assets tab. Add a:

  • New item,
  • Pick ItemTemplate and
  • Point the File Location to the folder where the copied template zip file has been placed.

NOTE: The path could be: :\Users\\Documents\Visual Studio 2013\Templates\ItemTemplates\\Database\Programmability, but it is up to choice.  However, Visual Studio, on starting up, reads from this location on a user-instance, i.e. local machine.  The project is appended with a new folder, i.e. ItemTemplates and the zip file is appended.

On the  the property of the newly added template (zip) file, set the property Copy to Output Directory is set tot Copy Always.

NOTE: To inspect the XML code of the project file: right-click >> Remove and then right-click >> edit) reveals this setting in its XML structure, as depicted below.

    "packages.config" />
    "Properties\template-builder.props" />

NOTE: Turn off the Build and Deploy options in the Configuration Manager for the VSIX project.

Using a Reference to the Template Project in the same Solution

A reference to the template project (the one where the stored procedure is authored) is added to the Reference of the VSIX project by using the source.extension.vsixmanifest file’s Assets tab, as before.  But, in this case, the reference is to a project in the same solution.  The fields [Type],

[Source], and [Project] are completed, with project being the name of the said template project.  This adds a reference to the VSIX project.

Set the Properties of the reference (see how), especially the VSIX Sub Path that determines where the template is installed on the menu-tree of the New Item menu function.

NOTE: Visual Studio does not provide a project template for creating database objects, so it seems the export method is the only way in which to get the zip file into the VSIX for deployment.  This aspect may be resolvable by creating the zipped files in a database project and let the project zip them like the wizard and place in the appropriate folder.  Not yet sure how to do this.

Build the Project and Install the Templates

The VSIX project is built and it copies the template zip file to the output folder: \Users\\Documents\Visual Studio 2013\Projects\\\bin\Debug as a .vsix (installable) file along with a TemplateBuilder.dll and the folder structure (Visual Studio) that contains the actual template file.

NOTE: For developer projects, this installation file should be made available on a network shared drive and installed as updates are made, or from a Private Gallery reference) that notifies users via RSS feeds of new extensions.  Alternatively the same file can be uploaded to the Visual Studio Gallery for community consumption and addition.

file in the VSIX project to set the [Assets] by creating a new reference to an ItemTemplate of a project (the one containing the stored procedure template) that also adds it to the References of the VSIX project. Here the Properties of the added assembly can be altered to achieve a variety of things. See the screen image (below) for a visual explanation of what is described.

VS VSIX Template Database Item Folder Location Reference

VS VSIX Template Database Item Folder Location Reference

Executing the <Name>.vsix (installable) file invokes all the things that were set in the manifest to install the template(s).  These are available in Visual Studio and can be inspected via: Tools >> Extensions & Updates >> Templates
, illustrated below.

VS Extensions and Updates Templates folder

VS Extensions and Updates Templates folder

Using the newly installed Templates

After installing the VSIX template package and verifying the extension is in Visual Studio, the template can be used from which to create Projects or Items.  During the installation the templates are deployed to a random folder: %LocalAppData%\Microsoft\VisualStudio\12.0\Extensions and by virtue of %LocalAppData% it only applies to the current user.  Alternatively, setting the manifest to AllUsers=true the extension is installed under Common7\IDE\Extensions (where VS is installed) and appears to all users on the computer (reference).

Visual Studio 2013 Database Project: Working the Project LocalDbs

Visual Studio 2013 Database Project: Working the Project LocalDbs


Visual Studio (VS) has evolved much to what it is capable of today for database development and deployment.  With the addition of a much better table create facility Visual Studio is the development tool of choice for the database developer.  SQL Server Management Studio still has its place as a light free tool, but for serious database development with Team Foundation Integration, Visual Studio is the tool of choice.

Using Local Databases

Visual Studio creates local databases when a database project is created, viz.

  1. MSSQLLocalDb — SQL 2014 local db
  2. ProjectsV12 — created by SQL Server Data Tools (SSDT)
  3. V11.0 — SQL 2013 local db
VS SQL Server Object Explorer

VS SQL Server Object Explorer

These local database instances are located on a file location on the local drive of the computer that runs Visual Studio at: C:\Users\hendriekusr\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Microsoft SQL Server Local DB\Instances.

The server name consequently is: (localdb)\ProjectV12.  Details about these installed databases can be obtained by running the SQlLocalBD.exe (located in C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\110\Tools\Binn\) against the name of the database, e.g. info ProjectsV12.

VS Local Database Information

VS Local Database Information

Use the Instance pipe name (from above execution) to connect to a local database from SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS), as depicted below.

SSMS Local Db Connection Dialog

SSMS Local Db Connection Dialog

A connection (to view database objects) is possible from VS and SSMS with the latter using the pipe connection string.  The SSMS screen (below) illustrates how the connection is made to the localDB as well as a Stored Procedure created from a SSMS template that was added to the database.  The next article [Create a Stored Procedure Item Template] illustrates how this same SSMS Stored Procedure template is created for Visual Studio.

SSMS Connection to LocalDB with Stored Procedure from Template

SSMS Connection to LocalDB with Stored Procedure from Template

Previous Article (2) [Create Database Project Folders]. . . Next Article (4) [Create a Stored Procedure Item Template]

Visual Studio 2013 and Database Projects: Create a Database Project with Folder Structure

Visual Studio 2013 and Database Projects: Create a Database Project with Folder Structure


Data base projects in Visual Studio is a bit of an after thought on application development.  It started with Gert Drapers (the data dude) and became SSDT (SQL Server Data Tools) that had to be installed (as an add-on) to Visual Studio.  This had some varying function over the years, but was aimed at reducing the difficulty of database development in Visual Studio and keep database changes in synch across a solution (matching database and application versions) and multiple server environments through the application life-cycle.

Creating a Database Project

This is quite easy using Visual Studio 2013.  On the first landing page (can be turned off) a Start section has the option from which to create a new project, or the traditional FILE menu is just as simple.

Visual Studio for Database Development First Screen

Visual Studio for Database Development First Screen

VS Create New Database Project Dialog

VS Create New Database Project Dialog

Be mindful that if a project is created and Team Foundation Server (TFS) is being used to take care of how the solution and projects contained by the solution are demarcated.  It is not in the scope of this article to explain how to do this, but suffice to say that where solutions are stored separately from projects, to first create an empty solution and check it in.  Then the projects that are added back to the solution so that all are checked into TFS in their correct locations.

Further take not of the Visual Studio boxes, viz. Solution Explorer, SQL Server Object Explorer, and Properties for example.  These should be orientated (docked) in positions that make sense, I.e. for easy reference.  Below is an example of an instance that contains a Solution with three projects.

VS Database Project Screen

VS Database Project Screen

The two most important boxes are the Solution Explorer and the SQL Server Object Explorer.  The former depicts the Solutions and the database projects.  Where no database actually exists (this is where you create it) SQL Server Objects can be created/ added to the project, or (where a database already exists) imported by a few means.  The first is using a DACPAC (SQL Server Data-tier application extract file), or connecting directly to a SQL Server database, or create one using a script file containing all the object definitions.

Choosing a Folder Structure

Importing a database allows for the folder structure in the project to be changed.  The project folder structure should allow for ease of maintenance and readability.  The folder structure does not influence deployment.

VS Database Project Import Dialog Folder Structure

VS Database Project Import Dialog Folder Structure

An import of an existing database (where no structure is chosen, or defined dumps all files in the root of the project, which is moderately messy, so it must be carefully considered.  A folder is not created where an imported database does not have objects, e.g. Stored Procedures.  If subsequent objects are required, the folder will first have to be created.

Organising the database advances readability, consequently also maintenance, because developers are able to find things quicker.  Any database objects without any discernable grouping are dumped in the root of the project on import.

NOTE:Things that impact the display of objects and what access rights are differentiated in practice, bears on the configuration of the naming scheme.  Making use of database schemas (to group objects and assign login permissions) is an effective strategy for data architecture over using prefixes on objects like sp or pr for a Stored Procedure (source).  The folder structure in Visual Studio and SQL Server Management Studio already informs the object type and with an added schema denotes an organisational name space for such objects.  SQL Server uses a four-part naming scheme: Server.Database.DatabaseSchema.DatabaseObject.  Objects in a schema are owned by the security principle that owns the schema and a schema can contain objects owned by different users.  Any predefined schema (dbo, sys, etc) can be dropped from the model database if not required consequently preventing them from being created in new databases.  A schema owner can be changed without breaking the code, but if an object owner, say Tommy.Object is removed, an ownership change must first be performed before Tommy’s account can be deleted.  However, any fully qualified references will break in the code, e.g.  Server.Database.[tommy[.DatabaseObject. The default dbo schema is owned by the dbo user. Users assigned to the dbo schema do not inherit dbo user account permissions, but the database objects contained in the schema (source).  Using dbo as the owner of all object can greatly simplify managing objects (source).

Previous article (1) [Installation]. . . Next Article (3) [Working the Project]

Visual Studio 2013 and Database Projects: Installation

Visual Studio 2013 and Database Projects–Installation

This installation is for Visual Studio Premium.  Once the image is mounted, the folder contains the installation file for the install, i.e. vs_premium.

VS Premium Folder

VS Premium Folder

Execute the vs_premium file and agree to the License Terms and Privacy Policy, and the location of the installation. Two options are quite important:

  1. Light Switch
  2. Microsoft SQL Server Data Tools

Light Switch is a technology to shorten the development time on business applications and data services for data-centric business applications.  SQL Server Data Tools are the add-on previously (VS 2012) downloaded and installed separately, but now part of the install.  It provides database schema modelling and support for querying live databases.

The other default option is Blend, a visual user-interface design tool using XAML (web) and WYSIWYG (desktop), before part of the Microsoft Expression Studio toolset.  This is not a database specific tool.

Once installed (it takes a while) the Microsoft Account Login dialog is presented for which you are required to have credentials.  Either use an existing account or create one (reference) and then associate an MSDN subscription (licenses that your company pays for) to this identity. Note: a licence key may also be used if you don’t have an MSDN subscription to activate the software (see how).

Microsoft Account Login

Microsoft Account Login

Once logged in access your account details to find the MSDN section where the Subscriber ID and company email are used to link the MSDN profile to the Microsoft User Identity.

Once the subscription is activated the software is licensed.

MSDN Subscription Activation Dialog

MSDN Subscription Activation Dialog

Visual Studio starts with an environment set-up that can be changed at a later stage also.  Here the Database environment (as that is the purpose of this instance) is selected and the colour scheme of your choice.

VS Environment Set-up Dialog

VS Environment Set-up Dialog

This is the installation process and you have arrived at the first screen.

Visual Studio for Database Development First Screen

Visual Studio for Database Development First Screen

Next article in series. . . 2 [coming soon]

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