The Visual Studio Shell enables Visual Studio Partners to build tools and applications on top of the Visual Studio IDE. Using integrated mode, you can release a Visual Studio extension for use by customers who have not installed Visual Studio. In isolated mode, you can release a custom application that makes use of a subset of Visual Studio IDE features. The Visual Studio Shell does not provide development tools or features on its own. For a feature-rich version of Visual Studio that is free for many purposes, see Visual Studio Community.
The Visual Studio Shell is available to Visual Studio Partners as a benefit of the Visual Studio Partner Program. Learn more about joining the Visual Studio Partner Program.
If you are already a member of the Visual Studio Partner Program, you can access the Visual Studio Shell benefit via the Benefits tab.
Integrated mode enables you to deliver a standard Visual Studio extension to users who haven’t installed Visual Studio. The integrated shell is intended primarily for hosting programming languages and software development tools. If users already have Visual Studio, or if they install Visual Studio later, your extension will be integrated into the full Visual Studio experience. (Note that the Visual Studio shell does not integrate with the Express editions.)
The integrated shell has reduced functionality; in particular, it does not include Microsoft programming languages and the features that support their respective project systems.
Isolated mode allows you to create custom tools that make use of Visual Studio IDE features and services but that are not intended to be integrated into a Visual Studio developer experience. You can customize the appearance of applications built on the Visual Studio isolated shell. You can easily turn off the features and menu command groups that you do not wish to appear together with your application.
Microsoft offers the Integrated and Isolated Shells only for Visual Studio 2015, Visual Studio 2013, Visual Studio 2012, and Visual Studio 2010. It is not available for Visual Studio 2017.
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