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How to Make a VS Code Extension Using TypeScript: A Step-by-Step Guide

Visual Studio Code (VS Code) has become one of the most popular code editors among developers, thanks to its powerful features, customizability, and extensive extension ecosystem. Creating your own VS Code extension allows you to enhance the coding experience by adding new functionalities, integrating with other tools, or tailoring the editor to your specific needs. In this step-by-step guide, we'll walk you through the process of building a VS Code extension using TypeScript.

Why TypeScript for VS Code Extensions?

TypeScript, a typed superset of JavaScript, is an excellent choice for developing VS Code extensions. It offers several advantages:

  1. Static typing: TypeScript's static typing helps catch errors early in the development process, improving code quality and maintainability.
  2. Enhanced tooling: VS Code provides excellent support for TypeScript, with features like IntelliSense, code navigation, and refactoring.
  3. Improved readability: TypeScript's type annotations make the code more self-documenting and easier to understand.
  4. Compatibility: TypeScript compiles down to JavaScript, ensuring compatibility with the VS Code extension API.


Before you start building your extension, make sure you have the following installed:

  • Node.js (version 10 or higher)
  • Git
  • TypeScript compiler: Install globally using npm install -g typescript
  • Yeoman and VS Code Extension Generator: Install globally using npm install -g yo generator-code

Step 1: Scaffold Your Extension Project

To quickly set up the structure for your extension, use the Yeoman VS Code Extension Generator:

  1. Open a terminal and run yo code.
  2. Select "New Extension (TypeScript)" from the list of options.
  3. Follow the prompts to provide a name, identifier, and description for your extension.
  4. Choose "TypeScript" as the language.

The generator will create a new directory with the necessary files and folders for your extension.

Step 2: Understand the Extension Structure

Navigate to the generated extension directory and familiarize yourself with its structure:

  • package.json: The manifest file containing metadata about your extension, such as its name, version, and contribution points (commands, keybindings, etc.).
  • src/extension.ts: The main TypeScript file where you'll write the logic for your extension.
  • tsconfig.json: The TypeScript compiler configuration file specifying how the TypeScript code should be compiled to JavaScript.

Step 3: Write Your Extension Code

Open the src/extension.ts file and locate the activate function. This function is called when your extension is activated in VS Code. Here, you can register commands, subscribe to events, and implement the desired functionality.

Let's create a simple "Hello World" command as an example:

import * as vscode from 'vscode';

export function activate(context: vscode.ExtensionContext) {
  let disposable = vscode.commands.registerCommand('extension.helloWorld', () => {
    vscode.window.showInformationMessage('Hello World from my VS Code extension!');

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In this code snippet, we register a command with the identifier extension.helloWorld. When the command is triggered, it displays an information message with the text "Hello World from my VS Code extension!".

Step 4: Debug and Test Your Extension

VS Code provides built-in debugging support for extensions. To test your extension:

  1. Open the Run view in VS Code by clicking on the Run icon in the Activity Bar or pressing Ctrl+Shift+D (Windows/Linux) or Cmd+Shift+D (macOS).
  2. Select "Run Extension" from the dropdown menu.
  3. VS Code will compile your TypeScript code and launch a new Extension Development Host window.
  4. In the Extension Development Host window, open the Command Palette (Ctrl+Shift+P or Cmd+Shift+P) and type the name of your command (e.g., "Hello World").
  5. Select the command to execute it and see the information message displayed.

You can set breakpoints in your TypeScript code to debug and inspect variables using VS Code's debugging tools.

Step 5: Package and Publish Your Extension

Once you're satisfied with your extension, it's time to package and publish it to the Visual Studio Marketplace:

  1. Install the vsce command-line tool globally: npm install -g vsce.
  2. Open a terminal in your extension directory and run vsce package. This command will generate a .vsix file.
  3. Create a publisher account on the Visual Studio Marketplace.
  4. Upload the .vsix file to the Marketplace and provide the necessary information about your extension.

Congratulations! Your extension is now available for others to install and use.

Best Practices

To ensure a high-quality extension, consider the following best practices:

  • Use a linter: Employ a linter like ESLint with TypeScript support to maintain consistent code style and catch potential issues.
  • Modularize your code: Organize your extension code into separate modules or files for better maintainability and readability.
  • Leverage asynchronous APIs: Use asynchronous APIs provided by VS Code to avoid blocking the editor's UI thread.
  • Test thoroughly: Write unit tests for your extension's functionality using testing frameworks like Mocha or Jest.
  • Provide clear documentation: Include a file with installation instructions, usage examples, and a changelog.


Building a VS Code extension using TypeScript is a fantastic way to customize and extend the capabilities of your favorite code editor. By following this step-by-step guide, you've learned how to set up your development environment, create an extension project, implement functionality, debug and test your extension, and publish it to the Visual Studio Marketplace.

Remember to keep your extension focused, maintainable, and well-documented. Engage with the VS Code community, gather feedback, and continuously improve your extension based on user needs.

Happy coding, and may your extension empower developers to be more productive and efficient!

Top comments (3)

zemerik profile image
Hemang Yadav

Great Blog! Very well explained

fabrikapp profile image

Thanks so much @zemerik ! I'm starting to enjoy writing ^^

fabrikapp profile image

Thanks for you read ! Currently baking a more advanced tutorial about VS Code extension.