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Posted 13 May 2004

ZipStudio - A versatile Visual Studio add-in to zip up Visual Studio solutions and projects

, 14 Jun 2004
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Zip up a Visual Studio solution, project(s), or all selected project items directly from the Visual Studio Solution Explorer window.

Table of Contents


This article presents a versatile way to zip up Visual Studio (VS) solutions, projects, and/or any selected items in the Visual Studio Solution Explorer window, directly to a zip archive. The approach used is, in general, different from that provided by other solutions to this problem. This addin uses the Visual Studio automation object (EnvDTE namespace) to enable it to decide what project items are to be included in the resulting Zip file. This approach has the following advantages:

  • Only the selected items in the Solution Explorer window will be added. So, the solution and/or individual projects can be zipped, or individual folders in those projects, or right down to individual project items. The rule for this works as follows: if the solution is selected, all files will be added to the Zip files, if a project is selected, all files for the project will be added. If a project item is selected, and its parent project and the solution is not selected, only the item itself will be added. If the selected item is a folder, all the items in the folder will be added.
  • It works with ALL projects tested in the VS environment, as it uses VS itself to decide what the individual projects consist of. It has been tested with all C#, VB, C++, Deployment (.vdproj), and also the InfoPath SP1 Preview (.ipproj) projects. Furthermore, it works correctly with the Solution Items folder and all project folders in the projects themselves. It also correctly resolves item dependencies, such as a form item consisting of a .cs and .resx file (in the C# case).
  • If the 'Show All Files' option is chosen for a project in the Solution Explorer window, any shown item(s) may be selected to be added as well, even though they are not seen by VS to be part of the project.
  • If a new project type is added to the VS environment, the should still continue working, as it makes no assumptions about any type of project, other than the project hierarchies exposed by the DTE automation object itself.
  • Lastly, but most importantly, the code is relatively simple and concise (once you understand the DTE object model), and does not require the parsing of XML-encoded project files which at a minimum is tedious and the code is mostly fairly convoluted. Instead, this addin spends a lot of time navigating collections of objects provided by the DTE automation object.

The downside to this approach is:

  • The Zip file can only be created inside Visual Studio, and the implementation is not available (currently) as a standalone executable, or a File Explorer shell extension.
  • It works ONLY for the Visual Studio .NET 2002 (7.0) and 2003 (7.1) environments. It does not work for any releases of VS which do not have the .NET badge. Sorry for you, VS6 users...


Being in the contracting game requires us to program on client sites, and often to work with the same code off-site. One way to backup the code efficiently is to provide Zip file functionality directly in the VS IDE, and the obvious way to do this is to implement the addin which works directly with the VS automation object and the EnvDTE.Solution, EnvDTE.Project, and EnvDTE.ProjectItem objects for the currently-loaded solution.

There are essentially two components to this addin:

  • A VS wizard generated C# component, suitably modified and implemented as described below, and
  • The actual Zip file implementation code. For this, I used the implementation provided by #ziplib, a library written by Mike Krueger at ic#code. The library is written in C# (which makes it 'clean' and easy to incorporate in this addin), and it is available as source-code, if required. The #ziplib (or SharpZipLib) may be downloaded here.

To use #ziplib in your application, simply add a project reference to the .NET module ICSharpCode.SharpZipLib.dll in your VS.NET project and start hooking up the #ziplib objects.

Installing the Addin

The Windows Installer provides a standard Windows MSI module to install the ZipStudio addin for Visual Studio. Simply extract the files from to a folder and run setup.exe. When you run VS, a menu for the addin will appear in the Visual Studio 'Tools' menu. The addin menu will contain an icon and the menu text ‘Add to Zip file..’. Initially, the menu is disabled until a solution is loaded (or created) in VS. Select some items in the VS Solution Explorer and click the menu item. The Zip Studio window shown in Figure 1 below will appear.

Please note that if the addin is repeatedly installed/un-installed, it may be not appear to be installed and the addin menu may not appear even though the installation executed successfully. In this case, quit all running instances of Visual Studio and execute the file RecreateCommands.reg which is included in the ZipStudio project. The file consists of the following text:


If you now run Visual Studio the menu should appear. The registry setting in the file ensures that the addin is preloaded when Visual Studio starts up.

How it works

Figure 1 below shows the ZipStudio window as it appears in the Visual Studio IDE.

Figure 1: The ZipStudio Addin window as it appears in Visual Studio

The following user-interface controls can be seen:

Zip File Path

This text box provides the file path of the Zip file that will be created (or updated). The default is the same path as the current solution file (obviously with a .zip instead of a .sln extension). This name can be set to whatever valid file path you like. The '..' button to the immediate right of the file path text box can be clicked to browse for the Zip file.

Included Files Options

Included File List View

The list view shows all the files that will be included in the Zip file. The list can be sorted by any of the ‘Filename’, ‘Filepath’, or ‘Date Modified’ columns by clicking on the respective column headers.

Save Full Path Info

Setting this option works similar to the WinZip option with the same name – The full paths of the files are saved but does not include the actual drive letters. The full path ‘D:\ZipStudio\ZipStudio.cs’ is stored as ‘\ZipStudio\ZipStudio.cs’.

If this option is not set, the addin will attempt to save the file paths relative to a common root directory for all the files in the list. In the following set of files with file paths:

  • C:\InetPub\wwwroot\Website\Webform1.cs
  • D:\ZipStudio\ZipStudio.sln
  • D:\ZipStudio\ZipStudio\ZipStudio.cs

the addin will attempt to find a root path for the files and because the files are on different drives, the full paths for the files will in fact be saved. If only the second and third file are part of the list, the common root path will be ‘D:\ZipStudio’, so the path for the solution file will be ‘ZipStudio.sln’ and ‘ZipStudio\ZipStudio.cs’ for the C# file.

Save Settings

If this option is set, the Zip filepath, and the Zip file group options (described below) are saved as part of the VS solution file. This may be a problem if the solution is shared by multiple users or is controlled by a source-control system such as Visual Source-Safe. To ensure that this does not occur, keep this option un-selected.

Add Only Modified Files

When the addin is started up Visual Studio, it flags the current date/time. During the session, as files are edited, their modified date/time stamps are more recent than the addin startup time. Setting this option allows only these recently modified files to appear in the included file list.

Add Miscellaneous Files

Visual Studio maintains a list of files open in the editors in an internal project with the UniqueName ’<MiscFiles>’. This project does not have a file path and is not saved. By setting this option, all files that are open in VS that are not part of any project or solution files can also be included in the Zip file. Setting this option unchecked will ensure that only files which are required for the VS Solution to load and build successfully are included.

Reset File List

Any files manually removed in the ‘Remove Selected Items’ function below, are added back into the list of files included in the Zip file by clicking this push-button.

Remove Selected Items

The user has the opportunity to remove any files from the included list, by selecting them and then clicking this push-button. Any files so removed can be re-added by clicking the ‘Reset File List’ push-button.

Zip File Options

Open Folder After Creation

Setting this option will open the containing folder for the Zip file in the File Explorer and set the file selection to the Zip file after the file is created.

Shell Open Zip File

Setting this option will open the Zip file with the application associated with the .zip extension.

Create Zip File

Clicking this push-button creates the actual Zip file.

Using the code

The source-code for this addin is provided in the file Extract the files to a folder of your choice, ensuring that the 'Use folder names' option is set (assuming that you are using WinZip). To build the , open ZipStudio.sln in VS. Please note that the addin was originally built in VS.NET 2003 and that the Setup project ZipStudioSetup.vdproj has registry settings which will only work for VS.NET 2003.

The following is provided to assist your understanding when working through the source code.

In the DTE object, the Solution object consists of a Projects object, which is a collection of Project objects. In turn, a Project object consists of a ProjectItems object, which is a collection of ProjectItem objects. A ProjectItem object provides a set of file paths associated with the project item. As far as can be ascertained, a single file path is used for every project item.

The basic code for starting the file selection for inclusion in the Zip file is as follows:

if(this.DTE.SelectedItems.Count > 0)
    for(int i = 1; i <= this.DTE.SelectedItems.Count; i++)
        SelectedItem item = this.DTE.SelectedItems.Item(i);
        if(item.Project == null)
            if(item.ProjectItem == null)
                Solution solution = this.DTE.Solution;
                // Get the solution files...
                // Get the project item files...
            if(item.ProjectItem == null)
                // Get the project files...

A file path for every possible item can be found as follows:

string filePath = null;
if(Item is Solution) 
    filePath = ((Solution)Item).FullName;
    if(Item is Project)
        filePath = this.GetProjectFullName((Project)Item);
        if(Item is ProjectItem) 
            filePath = ((ProjectItem)Item).get_FileNames(1);

In the code above, special handling was required to get the correct file path for the Project object: a combination of the Project.FullName and Project.UniqueName had to be used. The reason is that every project type except the Deployment project (.vdproj) correctly reports the file path in the FullName member. The deployment project does not specify the file extension. However, it does so in the UniqueName member, but this value seems to be either a URI or a relative path. The following method fixes that bug by combining the two members to provide the correct value:

private string GetProjectFullName(Project Project)
    string filePath = Project.FullName;
    // Find the file extension of the project FullName.
    int extIndex = filePath.LastIndexOf('.');
    string filePathExt = 
      (extIndex > 0) ? filePath.Substring(extIndex + 1) : "";
    // Find the file extension of the project UniqueName.
    extIndex = Project.UniqueName.LastIndexOf('.');
    string uniqueExt = 
      (extIndex > 0) ? Project.UniqueName.Substring(extIndex + 1) : "";
    // If different use the UniqueName extension.
    if(filePathExt != uniqueExt)
        // If the FullName does not have an extension,
        // add the one from UniqueName.
        if(filePathExt == "") filePath += "." + uniqueExt;
        // Else replace it.
        else filePath = filePath.Replace(filePathExt, uniqueExt);
    return filePath;

The following code snippet shows the method used to open File Explorer, navigate to the folder containing Zip file, and select the Zip file:

string cmdLine = "/select,\"" + ZipFilePath + "\"";
Process.Start("explorer.exe", cmdLine);

The following code snippet shows the method used to open the Zip file using the application associated with the Zip file extension:


If you follow the source-code, you will realize that it is relatively simple. The most difficult part was to code for the exceptions (bugs?) that the different projects exhibited. The InfoPath project (.ipproj) does not appear to implement the ProjectItem.SubProject or the Project.UniqueName members, and any attempt to address these member results in an exception being thrown. The way around this is to place a try..catch block around the code that uses those constructs.

A Hashtable object was used to collect the include files and is keyed by the file paths. This allows 'no-brainer' adding of items while ensuring that all items are added once only. If you recall the rule-set that is applied in adding files to the Zip file, it is obvious that implicitly many items can be selected more than once.

The performance of the addin is very good, allowing the addin to actually run the method that collects the files every time the menu has to be updated. In the case where no files are effectively included, the menu item is disabled in the QueryStatus method of the addin.

Points of Interest

This article does not discuss the infra-structure code required to get the addin to behave correctly or appear presentable in the VS environment. The addin implements the following features which are not discussed in this article:

  • A custom icon for the menu item. The way to do this is adequately handled in this article.
  • The addin can save the last settings for the Zip file path and the other Zip File options. It was decided not to use the Windows registry to do this, as it would be a useful feature to have the settings saved uniquely for every VS solution. Another option is to use a separate file (probably XML) to save the settings, but this adds another file to the solution directory, and can easily be deleted outside the VS environment. An elegant solution is to save the settings in the solution file itself! This is done using the Solution.Globals member. The excellent Code Project article: Blog Reader for Visual Studio .NET describes this in detail.

The following are regarded as useful modifications to this addin:

  • Recreate the VS DTE object outside the VS environment and thus provide a separate application or a File Explorer shell extension to directly zip up VS solutions or projects.
  • Allow the Zip file to be opened from VS. A nice feature here would be to not only extract the files directly from VS, but also to re-root the files to a new root folder(s) of the users choice.


  • Version 1.10: 13 June 2004: Second release.
    • Fixed and improved relative/absolute filepath saving for included files. The addin now attempts to save relative file paths rooted from a common folder for all included files.
    • Included the option to add only files updated in the current VS session by testing each file modified date/time stamp with the date/time the addin was loaded by VS.
    • Included option to selectively removed files from the included file list.
    • Included option to include files in the VS <MiscFiles> internal project.
    • Included option to dis-/-allow saving of Zip file path and Zip file options in the VS Solution file.
    • Included help information tool-tips on all user input controls.
  • Version 1.00: 13 May 2004: First release.


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Willem Fourie
Web Developer
South Africa South Africa
I spend most of my time in the .NET world. I am a Systems Analyst/Consultant and Software Developer by trade. I cut my programming teeth with HPUX/C++ way back in the late '80's, but have since dabbled in most software technologies and languages since then.

I run my own company in South Africa, providing mainly software development services on a contractual basis, but I'm game for just about anything in the software development space.

I am not a Microsoft bigot, but they have to be commended for the whole .NET initiative. I think they hit a six (for the cricket players out there), or a home-run (if you prefer baseball)...

Check out my little website - there's a whole bunch of .NET goodies there...

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Comments and Discussions

QuestionVisual Studio 2010 Pin
N3tM4n19-Jul-11 2:18
memberN3tM4n19-Jul-11 2:18 
GeneralVisual Studio 2008 Pin
Cory R Stein13-Oct-09 3:12
memberCory R Stein13-Oct-09 3:12 
GeneralVS2005 installation Pin
piotr_fe1-Jan-07 14:20
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GeneralThanks and suggestions Pin
peterchen19-Nov-06 11:01
memberpeterchen19-Nov-06 11:01 
QuestionHow do I add referenced DLLs to the zip [modified] Pin
blackbirdway23-Aug-06 6:19
memberblackbirdway23-Aug-06 6:19 
GeneralZipStudio 2005 available - for Visual Studio 2005! Pin
Willem Fourie24-Nov-05 8:11
memberWillem Fourie24-Nov-05 8:11 
QuestionDeployment project not included Pin
CBoland15-Nov-05 9:11
memberCBoland15-Nov-05 9:11 
AnswerRe: Deployment project not included Pin
Willem Fourie15-Nov-05 21:25
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GeneralRe: Deployment project not included Pin
CBoland16-Nov-05 4:42
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GeneralRe: Deployment project not included Pin
Willem Fourie16-Nov-05 17:13
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GeneralUpdate for VS2005 Pin
staceyw22-Aug-05 15:00
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GeneralRe: Update for VS2005 Pin
Willem Fourie22-Aug-05 21:29
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Generalroot folder determination bug Pin
DLKJ5-Oct-04 19:42
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GeneralRe: root folder determination bug Pin
Willem Fourie7-Oct-04 0:50
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GeneralRe: root folder determination bug Pin
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GeneralSUO Files Pin
Shawn Carroll22-Jun-04 2:33
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GeneralRe: SUO Files Pin
Willem Fourie23-Jun-04 3:59
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GeneralVisual Assist X + ZipStudio Pin
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GeneralRe: Visual Assist X + ZipStudio Pin
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GeneralZip Studio Version 1.10 Pin
Willem Fourie15-Jun-04 2:33
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GeneralRe: Zip Studio Version 1.10 Pin
larry_beck17-Jun-04 18:04
susslarry_beck17-Jun-04 18:04 
GeneralRe: Zip Studio Version 1.10 Pin
Willem Fourie17-Jun-04 23:13
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GeneralRelative vs. Explicit Paths Pin
Patrick DellEra15-May-04 7:25
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GeneralRe: Relative vs. Explicit Paths Pin
Willem Fourie15-May-04 10:09
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GeneralRe: Relative vs. Explicit Paths Pin
Patrick DellEra17-May-04 10:24
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