HOWTO: Getting information about Visual Studio windows from an add-in

Author: Carlos J. Quintero (Microsoft MVP) Applies to: Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2002
Date: May 2009   Microsoft Visual Studio .NET 2003
Updated: March 2013   Microsoft Visual Studio 2005
      Microsoft Visual Studio 2008
      Microsoft Visual Studio 2010
      Microsoft Visual Studio 2012

Visual Studio provides three kinds of windows, all of them modeled as an EnvDTE.Window class:

  • The main IDE window, which can be retrieved through EnvDTE.DTE.MainWindow.
  • Document windows, which are always tabbed and belong to documents. You can get the open documents with the EnvDTE.DTE.Documents collection, and the active document with the EnvDTE.DTE.ActiveDocument property. Each document can have one or more windows opened belonging to it (a code window and a designer window, for example). You can get the windows of a document with the EnvDTE.Document.Windows collection, and the active window of a document with the EnvDTE.Document.ActiveWindow property. Given an EnvDTE.Window, you can get its document with the EnvDTE.Window.Document property. If the document is a text document, you can cast the EnvDTE.Document to EnvDTE.TextDocument to get new functionality available only for text documents.
  • Toolwindows, which can be tabbed, docked or floating. See HOWTO: Understanding toolwindow states in Visual Studio.

You can get the windows of the IDE (toolwindows or document windows) using the EnvDTE.DTE.Windows collection, and the active window (either toolwindow or document window) using the EnvDTE.DTE.ActiveWindow. Notice that EnvDTE.ActiveDocument.ActiveWindow may be different from EnvDTE.DTE.ActiveWindow (if a toolwindow is active, or if there is no active document).

More Information

Given an EnvDTE.Window, you can use several properties to get information about it:

  • The hidden EnvDTE.Window.Type property (in the Object Browser you need to check the "Show Hidden Types and Member" option in the dropdown button of the toolbar to show it) returns an enum of the hidden EnvDTE.vsWindowType type. However, you shouldn't use this property (it is hidden for a good reason): new Visual Studio versions or 3rd party packages can provide new window types that are not included in the EnvDTE.vsWindowType enum. For example, the Error List toolwindow type introduced by Visual Studio 2005 is not included. You should use this property only to check if the value of EnvDTE.Window.Type is vsWindowType.vsWindowTypeMainWindow (the IDE window) or vsWindowType.vsWindowTypeDocument (a document window). Otherwise it is a toolwindow and you can use the following property to identify which one.
  • The EnvDTE.Window.ObjectKind property returns a Guid that identifies the kind:
    • For a toolwindow the automation model provides the following classes with constants that are the Guids of most window kinds:
      • EnvDTE.Constants.vsext_wk_XXX: do not use. Use the following ones instead.
      • EnvDTE.Constants.vsWindowKindXXX: vsWindowKindClassView, vsWindowKindLocals, etc.
      • EnvDTE80.WindowKinds.vsWindowKindXXX: new toolwindows introduced by Visual Studio 2005.
    • For a document window you can get the editor type used in that window. You can get the list of editor Guids registered for Visual Studio using the following registry key:


      where m.n is:
      • 7.0 for Visual Studio .NET 2002
      • 7.1 for Visual Studio .NET 2003
      • 8.0 for Visual Studio 2005
      • 9.0 for Visual Studio 2008
      • 10.0 for Visual Studio 2010
      • 11.0 for Visual Studio 2012
  • The EnvDTE.Window.Kind property returns "Tool" for toolwindows and "Document" for document windows, so it is quite useless.
  • The EnvDTE.Window.Object property returns the underlying object hosted in the window (see HOWTO: Know the actual type behind a System.__ComObject type returned by an .Object property):
  • The EnvDTE.Window.Caption returns the caption, but you should avoid to use this property to identify a toolwindow because it is localized.

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