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A Deep Dive Into The Guidance Automation Toolkit. Jelle Druyts Compuware .NET Consultant http://jelle.druyts.net. Have you ever needed. A 40-page document full of guidelines Architectural layers, solution/project structure Namespaces, class names, method names, ...

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a deep dive into the guidance automation toolkit

A Deep Dive Into TheGuidance Automation Toolkit

Jelle Druyts

Compuware .NET Consultant


have you ever needed
Have you ever needed...
  • A 40-page document full of guidelines
    • Architectural layers, solution/project structure
    • Namespaces, class names, method names, ...
    • Best practices, step-by-step instructions
  • Visual Studio customizations
    • Custom actions, menu items, toolbar buttons, ...
    • Custom “Add New” items (classes, projects, solutions)
  • Advanced automation
    • Wizards
    • Code generation
    • Quick-start solutions for development teams
    • Custom Software Factory development
  • More time to write interesting code?
  • You will learn
    • What GAT is, what it can and cannot do
    • Best practices for GAT development
    • How GAT fits into the Software Factories vision
  • You will be able to
    • Recognize opportunities for GAT
    • Implement solutions with GAT
    • Sit back while it does your work
  • Visual Studio Extensibility
  • Guidance Automation Toolkit
  • GAT Best Practices
  • GAT & Software Factories
visual studio templates
Visual Studio Templates
  • Project & Item templates
    • Reusable and customizable project and item stubs
    • “New Project” and “Add New Item” dialog boxes
    • Accelerate the development process
  • Easy deployment: just a .zip file
    • Content files: source code files, embedded resources, project files, ...
    • Metadata stored in a “.vstemplate” file (XML)
    • Copy to a predefined folder (local or on the network)
  • Capabilities are limited (templates are “dumb”)
visual studio sdk
Visual Studio SDK
  • Visual Studio has an object model
    • Call the Visual Studio API’s directly
    • Use EnvDTE.dll and EnvDTE80.dll
  • Powerful
    • Entire Visual Studio object model is exposed
  • Difficult
    • Registering custom packages in Visual Studio
    • COM interop with EnvDTE object model
guidance automation toolkit
Guidance Automation Toolkit
  • Guidance Automation
    • Make reusable code and pattern assets available in Visual Studio
    • Integrate reusable code into applications
    • Guide developers through complex procedures
    • Built upon Visual Studio SDK
  • Roadmap
    • Latest release: February 2007 CTP
    • Will be included in a future release of the Visual Studio
  • Built and used by Microsoft patterns & practices
    • Used extensively in their various “Software Factories”
  • Free download (source code not available)
guidance automation packages
Guidance Automation Packages
  • A Guidance Package is
    • Authored for a specific purpose
    • A unit of deployment and versioning
  • A Guidance Package consists of
    • Visual Studio Templates
    • Guidance Automation Recipes
  • The “Guidance Package” meta package
    • A quick-start solution for Guidance Packages
    • Generates project structure & sample code
    • Generates setup project to build MSI
visual studio templates1
Visual Studio Templates
  • Provide integration with Visual Studio
    • “Create New Project/Item” dialog box
    • Defined in .vstemplate files (XML)
    • Expanded by the Visual Studio template engine
  • Associate Visual Studio Templates with recipes
visual studio templates2
Visual Studio Templates

<VSTemplate Version="2.0" Type="ProjectGroup"



<Name>Application Block</Name>

<Description>Guidance Package that creates a new Application Block.</Description>






<ProjectTemplateLink ProjectName="$ApplicationBlockNamespace$.$ApplicationBlockName$">





<Assembly>Microsoft.Practices.RecipeFramework.VisualStudio, Version=1.0.51206.0,

Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=b03f5f7f11d50a3a</Assembly>





<Template xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/pag/gax-template" SchemaVersion="1.0"





guidance automation recipes
Guidance Automation Recipes
  • A recipe is a fancy word for a wizard
    • Automated activity as a series of instructions
    • Abstracts something a developer would need to do manually
      • E.g. create projects, add references, ...
    • Ensures that repetitive (error-prone) activities are performed in a consistent manner
    • Simplifies complex or repetitive development tasks
  • Defined in an XML file in the root of the project
  • Referenced by a Visual Studio Template
    • Recipe gets run when template is “unfolded”
guidance automation recipes1
Guidance Automation Recipes

<GuidancePackage xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/pag/gax-core"

Name="JelleDruyts.EnterpriseLibraryGuidance" Caption="Enterprise Library Guidance"

Description="Provides guidance around the creation of Application Blocks"

Guid="2cac5b9c-a04f-4a49-8a56-3ee5d63bd83f" SchemaVersion="1.0">


<Recipe Name="CreateApplicationBlock">

<Caption>Create a new Enterprise Library Application Block</Caption>


<Argument Name="ApplicationBlockName" Required="true">


CodeIdentifierStringConverter, Microsoft.Practices.RecipeFramework.Library" />


<Argument Name="ApplicationBlockNamespace" Required="true">

<Converter Type="Microsoft.Practices.RecipeFramework.Library.Converters.

NamespaceStringConverter,Microsoft.Practices.RecipeFramework.Library" />




<Wizard xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/pag/gax-wizards" SchemaVersion="1.0">



<Title>Application Block Information</Title>


<Field ValueName="ApplicationBlockName" Label="Application Block Name"

InvalidValueMessage="Must be a valid .NET identifier." />

<Field ValueName="ApplicationBlockNamespace" Label="Namespace"

InvalidValueMessage="Must be a valid .NET namespace identifier." />









  • Value gathering strategies
    • Gather values for recipe arguments
    • Walk the developer through one or more steps
  • Any recipe can have a wizard associated with it
value providers
Value Providers
  • Provide values for recipe arguments
    • Optionally dependant of other recipe arguments
    • Define project names, post-build commands, ...
    • Retrieve currently selected project, file, ...
  • Special guest: ExpressionEvaluatorValueProvider
  • Regular .NET classes (pre-built & custom)

<Argument Name="RuntimeProjectName">

<ValueProvider Type="Evaluator"


<MonitorArgument Name="ApplicationBlockNamespace" />

<MonitorArgument Name="ApplicationBlockName" />



type converters
Type Converters
  • Validate the value of a field
    • CodeIdentifierStringConverter
    • NamespaceStringConverter
    • ...
  • Convert UI fields to a type representation
  • Regular .NET classes (pre-built & custom)

<Argument Name="ApplicationBlockName" Required="true">



Microsoft.Practices.RecipeFramework.Library" />


  • Atomic units of work called in a defined sequence by recipes
    • E.g. add project references, generate classes, add project items, ...
  • Strongly-typed input and output arguments
    • Come from the recipe or from another action (chaining)
  • Typically use EnvDTE
  • Regular .NET classes (pre-built & custom)


<Action Name="GetRuntimeProject" Type="...RecipeFramework.Library.Actions.GetProjectAction">

<Input Name="ProjectName" RecipeArgument="RuntimeProjectName" />

<Output Name="Project" />


<Action Name="GetDesignTimeProject" Type="...RecipeFramework.Library.Actions.GetProjectAction">

<Input Name="ProjectName" RecipeArgument="DesignTimeProjectName" />

<Output Name="Project" />


<Action Name="AddProjectReference" Type="...Library.Solution.Actions.AddProjectReferenceAction">

<Input Name="ReferringProject" ActionOutput="GetDesignTimeProject.Project" />

<Input Name="ReferencedProject" ActionOutput="GetRuntimeProject.Project" />



code generation
Code Generation
  • T4 templates (Text Templates Transformation Toolkit)
    • Combination of text and scriptlets (C#/VB.NET expressions)
    • E.g. generate data access component from database, ...
  • ASP.NET-like syntax with full capabilities of .NET

<#@ template language="C#" #>

<#@ assembly name="System.dll" #>

<#@ property processor="PropertyProcessor" name="TargetNamespace" #>

<#@ property processor="PropertyProcessor" name="NodeName" #>

using System;

using Microsoft.Practices.EnterpriseLibrary.Common.Configuration;

using Microsoft.Practices.EnterpriseLibrary.Configuration.Design;

namespace <#= this.TargetNamespace #>


internal sealed class <#= this.NodeName #>: ConfigurationNode




continuous guidance
Continuous Guidance
  • Recipes stay “alive”
    • Recipes associated with project items
      • E.g. right-click data access project, choose “Add Data Access Component”
  • Adding more templates
    • New projects, e.g. data access project
    • New project items, e.g. data access component
  • Uses same mechanisms (wizards, actions, ...)
guidance navigator
Guidance Navigator
  • Separate window listing
    • Overview information
    • All the available recipes
    • History of executed recipes
    • Links to online help, documentation, ...
other gat artifacts
Other GAT Artifacts
  • Custom Wizard Pages
    • Add custom user controls to the wizard
  • Type Editors
    • Edit values in a wizard through a custom UI
  • Snippets
    • Visual Studio snippets that are automatically deployed
when not to use gat
When (Not) To Use GAT
  • Use GAT when
    • You have a specific problem with a specific solution that
      • Is automatable
      • Must be executed multiple times
      • Has a development time or risk that is too high to do manually
    • You can’t use “dumb” Visual Studio Templates
    • You want to prepare for building a Software Factory
  • Do not use GAT when
    • You will use the Guidance Package only once – ever
    • You can’t/don’t want to invest time in the learning curve
    • You just think it’s cool
authoring guidance packages
Authoring Guidance Packages
  • There is a learning curve
    • Do not involve everyone
    • Make 1 person/team responsible for GAT
    • Once the knowledge is there, investment pays off quickly
  • Don’t try to build everything at once
    • Start automating simple scenarios
    • Incrementally increase complexity
    • Add templates, logic and guidance along the way
gat source control
GAT & Source Control
  • Guidance Package “state” is kept in a .gpState file (XML) with the solution file (.sln)
    • Indicates which Guidance Packages are associated with the solution
    • Contains recipe references and some state
    • Can/should be checked in to Source Control
guidance package state
Guidance Package State
  • Guidance Packages are “stateless”
  • Recipe arguments (wizard fields) aren’t available after the wizard finished
    • Store values out-of-band (e.g. to disk, database, ...)
    • Lookup values dynamically in solution if possible (through Visual Studio SDK, e.g. default namespace)
  • The generated code is the “model”
    • DSLs can fill this gap
software factories
Software Factories
  • Initiative developed by Microsoft patterns & practices

Web Service SF - Web Client SF

Smart Client SF - Mobile Client SF

  • Current state: infancy
    • Written documentation + Guidance Packages + Reference Implementations
    • GAT mostly used for wizards & code generation
    • The code is the “model”
  • The road ahead: towards the Grand Vision
    • Domain Specific Languages (DSLs) capture and persist the model
    • Programming code becomes a “rendering” of the model
    • GAT guides developers through complex tasks
gat software factories1
GAT & Software Factories
  • Software Factory enabling technologies:
    • Visual Studio Extensibility Model
    • Visual Studio Modeling Tools (Designers)
    • Domain Specific Language Tools (DSLs)
      • Small, highly focused languages that model and solve clearly identifiable problems
    • Guidance Automation Toolkit
      • Generate initial solution structure
      • Wizards & code generation
      • Can be used to provide guidance and context to DSLs
        • Launch recipes from shapes in the DSLs
        • Enable DSLs in certain parts of the solution
key points
Key Points
  • GAT is the next step in Visual Studio automation
    • Builds on Visual Studio Templates & Visual Studio SDK
  • GAT can help you
    • Automate repetitive tasks and complex processes
    • Provide guidance right inside the Visual Studio solution
    • Generate code with the powerful T4 engine
    • Provide context and guidance continuously
    • Make sure guidelines and best practices are enforced
    • Be lazy 
  • GAT is a key part of Software Factories
    • Understand the present
    • Prepare for the future
  • Guidance Automation Toolkit
    • Home - http://msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/teamsystem/workshop/gat/
    • Forum - http://forums.microsoft.com/msdn/showforum.aspx?forumid=78&siteid=1
    • Community site - http://www.guidanceautomation.net/cs/default.aspx
    • My Guidance Automation series - http://jelle.druyts.net/CategoryView.aspx?category=Blog|Programming|.NET|GuidanceAutomation
  • Software Factories
    • Home - http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/teamsystem/aa718951.aspx
    • Guidance Automation Toolkit and Domain-Specific Language Tools for Visual Studio 2005: Integration Scenarios -http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa905334.aspx
    • EFx - http://msdn2.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa905331.aspx
    • Clarius Software Factories Toolkit - http://softwarefactoriestoolkit.net/
  • Microsoft
    • Microsoft patterns & practices: http://msdn.microsoft.com/practices/
    • Enterprise Library 2.0: http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/dnpag2/html/EntLib2.asp
thank you
Thank You!
  • Thanks for your attention
  • I'll be happy to answer all your questions
    • Right after the session
    • Compuware Booth
    • Community Booth: Ask-The-Experts
    • VISUG Booth