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Development Instructions for the PowerShell Extension

Development Setup

You'll need to clone two repositories and set up your development environment to before you can proceed.

  1. Fork and clone the vscode-powershell repository

  2. Fork and clone the PowerShell Editor Services (PSES) repository

    The vscode-powershell folder and the PowerShellEditorServices folder should be next to each other on the file system. Code in vscode-powershell looks for PSES at ../PowerShellEditorServices if you're building locally so PSES must be in that location.

  3. Follow the development instructions for PowerShell Editor Services. You will need to complete this step before proceeding.

  4. Install the latest Visual Studio Code Insiders release

    You can also use the standard Visual Studio Code release. Both will work, but using VSCode Insiders means the extension can be developed ready for new features and changes in the next VSCode release.

  5. Install Node.js 16.x or higher.

Building the Code

From Visual Studio Code

Press Ctrl+P and type task build

This will compile the TypeScript files in the project to JavaScript files.

From a PowerShell prompt

Invoke-Build Build

As a developer, you may want to use Invoke-Build LinkEditorServices to setup a symbolic link to its modules instead of copying the files. This will mean the built extension will always have the latest version of your PowerShell Editor Services build, but this cannot be used to package the extension into a VSIX. So it is a manual step.

Launching the extension

From Visual Studio Code

To debug the extension, press F5. To run the extension without debugging, press Ctrl+F5 or Cmd+F5 on macOS.

From a command prompt

code --extensionDevelopmentPath="c:\path\to\vscode-powershell" .

Contributing Snippets

For more information on contributing snippets please read our snippet requirements.

Creating a Release

These are the current steps for creating a release for both the editor services and the extension. ADO access is restricted to Microsoft employees and is used to sign and validate the produced binaries before publishing on behalf of Microsoft. The comments are manual steps.

Import-Module ./tools/ReleaseTools.psm1
New-Release -PsesVersion <version> -VsceVersion <version>
# Amend changelog as necessary
# Push release branches to ADO
# Permit both pipelines to draft GitHub releases
# Download and test assets
# Check telemetry for stability before releasing
# Publish draft releases and merge (don't squash!) branches
# Permit vscode-extension pipeline to publish to marketplace


For both our repositories we use Git tags in the form vX.Y.Z to mark the releases in the codebase. We use the GitHub Release feature to create these tags. The ephemeral branch release is used in the process of creating a release for each repository, primarily for the Pull Requests and for Azure DevOps triggers. Once the release PRs are merged, the branch is deleted until used again to prepare the next release. This branch does not mark any specific release, that is the point of the tags.

For PowerShellEditor Services, we simply follow semantic versioning, e.g. vX.Y.Z. We do not release previews frequently because this dependency is not generally used directly: it's a library consumed by other projects which themselves use preview releases for beta testing.

For the VS Code PowerShell Extension, our version follows vYYYY.M.X, that is: current year, current month, and patch version (not day). This is not semantic versioning because of issues with how the VS Code marketplace and extension hosting API itself uses our version number. This scheme does not mean we release on a chronological schedule: we release based on completed work. If the month has changed over since the last release, the patch version resets to 0. Each subsequent release that month increments the patch version.

Before releasing a "stable" release we should almost always first release a "preview" of the same code. The exception to this is "hotfix" releases where we need to push only bug fixes out as soon as possible, and these should be built off the last release's codebase (found from the Git tag). The preview release is uploaded separately to the marketplace as the "PowerShell Preview" extension. It should not significantly diverge from the stable release ("PowerShell" extension), but is used for public beta testing. The preview version should match the upcoming stable version, but with -preview appended. When multiple previews are needed, the patch version is incremented, and the last preview's version is used for the stable release. (So the stable version may jump a few patch versions in between releases.)

For example, the date is May 7, 2022. The last release was in April, and its version was v2022.4.3. Some significant work has been completed and we want to release the extension. First we create a preview release with version v2022.5.0-preview (the patch reset to 0 because the month changed, and -preview was appended). After publishing, some issues were identified and we decided we needed a second preview release. Its version is v2022.5.1-preview. User feedback indicates that preview is working well, so to create a stable release we use the same code (but with an updated changelog etc.) and use version v2022.5.1, the first stable release for May (as v2022.5.0 was skipped due to those identified issues in the preview). All of these releases may consume the same or different version of PowerShell Editor Services, say v3.2.4. It may update between preview versions or stable versions (but should not change between a preview and its associated stable release, as they should use the same code which includes dependencies).

Pending Improvements

  • Update-Changelog should verify the version is in the correct format
  • Update-Changelog could be faster by not downloading every PR