Learn about Solution Explorer

Applies to: yesVisual Studio noVisual Studio for Mac noVisual Studio Code

You can use Solution Explorer to create & manage your solutions and projects and to view & interact with your code. In this article, we'll cover how to open Solution Explorer if you inadvertently close it. Then, we'll describe the Solution Explorer user interface (UI) in detail.

Open Solution Explorer

By default, the Solution Explorer tool window appears as a pane in the upper-right side of the Visual Studio integrated development environment (IDE). If you don't see the Solution Explorer tool window, you can open it from the Visual Studio menu bar by using View > Solution Explorer, or by pressing Ctrl+Alt+L.

Screenshot of the Visual Studio IDE that shows where Solution Explorer is positioned.

Solution Explorer tool window

Let's take a look at the Solution Explorer tool window and its UI (user interface). We'll start with an annotated screenshot of an open C# console solution that has two projects.

An annotated screenshot of the Solution Explorer tool window in Visual Studio.

The following table is a text-equivalent of the annotated screenshot, but with a few handy links you can use to learn more.

UI element Action
Toolbar Control how your files appear
Search bar Search for specific files and file types
Main window View and manage your files, projects, & solutions
Solution node Manage your solution(s)
Project node Manage your project(s)
Dependencies node Manage your solution & project dependencies
Program node View, edit, and manage your program or application (app)
Git Changes tab Use Git & GitHub within Visual Studio to collaborate on projects with your team

Solution Explorer toolbar

To continue, let's take a closer look at the toolbar in Solution Explorer.

Screenshot of the Solution Explorer toolbar in Visual Studio.

The toolbar contains the following UI elements, from left to right:

UI element Action
Back button Toggle between search results
Forward button Toggle between search results
Home button Return to the default view
Switch Views button Switch between solutions and available views
Pending Changes Filter button & drop-down menu View open files or files with pending changes
Sync with Active Document button Locate a file from the code editor
Refresh button (conditional) Appears only when you select a dependency, such as a function or a package
Collapse All button Collapse the file view in the main window
Show All Files button View all files, including unloaded projects
Properties button View and change settings for specific files and components
Preview Selected Items button View a selected file or component in the code editor

Solution Explorer context menu

In Solution Explorer, there are several options that you can interact with by using the right-click context menu. The context-specific options that appear depend on whether you select a Solution node or a Project node.

Solution node context menu options

The following screenshot for a C# console app shows the context menu options that appear when you right-click the Solution node.

Screenshot of the right-click context menu from a solution node in Solution Explorer.

What you see in the context menu from the Solution node also depends on your project type, programming language, or platform. The following screenshot highlights the following extra options for a C# app: Project Dependencies, Project Build Order, Set Startup Projects, and a Git fly-out menu. These extra options typically appear when you add another project to a solution and then add it to a repo.

Screenshot of the right-click context menu from a solution node in Solution Explorer, which shows extra options.

Project node context menu options

The following screenshot for a C# console app shows the context menu options that appear when you right-click the Project node.

Screenshot of the right-click context menu from a project node in Solution Explorer.

What you see in the context menu from the Project node also depends on your project type, programming language, or platform. The following screenshot highlights the following extra option for a C# app: a Build Dependencies fly-out menu. Extra options typically appear when you add another project to a solution and then add it to a repo.

Screenshot of the right-click context menu from a project node in Solution Explorer, which shows an extra option.

The Add context menu fly-out

In the Solution Explorer context menu, one of the most useful options is the Add fly-out menu. From it, you can add another project to a solution. You can also add an item to a project, and more.

Screenshot of the Add fly-out menu from the right-click context menu in Solution Explorer.

You can view the Add fly-out menu from either the Solution node, the Project node, or the Dependencies node. The options vary, depending on which node you use.

For a tutorial that walks you through how to add items and projects by using the context menu in Solution Explorer, see the Introduction to projects and solutions page.

See also