#VSIT Why does Visual Studio Integration Toolkit need registration?


David Meego - Click for blog homepageI recently received feedback about Visual Studio Integration Toolkit complaining that the tool requires registration for each customer site it is being used at.

I wanted to take an opportunity to respond to the feedback with some history and facts about the product that will explain why it now requires registration.

The Visual Studio Integration Toolkit (VSIT) was previously released by Microsoft as Menus for Visual Studio Tools (MSVT). It is important to understand where it all started, so that it explains why it is now a Winthrop Development Consultants product.

In May 2008 after the Microsoft Dynamics GP Technical Airlift 2008, while I was attending Developer Toolkit for Microsoft Dynamics GP 10.0 training run by Steve Gray from 4penny.net, we were discussing the inability for a .Net developer using C# or VB.Net to add custom items to the Dynamics GP application level navigation menus.

On the last day of the three day course, I came up with a concept of creating a generic set of commands and menus using Dexterity which could be controlled by an API exposed to Visual Studio Tools. Steve was kind enough to let me disrupt his class a little by ignoring him and working on a prototype which could create up to 20 menu items. This was the first build of Visual Studio Tools Menus (which is why the files are called VSTMenus.* even to this day).

The functionality was extended to support 100 menu items and other features after feedback from Microsoft developer support and development teams and from beta testers.

I then approached the Microsoft Dynamics GP development team and asked about getting this functionality released to the public and eventually they agreed to release the tool for Dynamics GP v10.0. It would only be for version 10.0 as they planned to create their own functionality to replace it for the next version. After working the Microsoft’s legal and branding teams, it was renamed as Menus for Visual Studio Tools and the first public release was in September 2008.

When Microsoft Dynamics GP 2010 (v11.0) came along, other development work took priority and the development team asked me to release a build for GP 2010. The same thing happened again for GP 2013 (v12.0). So now (as at December 2012) we had build 9 of the code available for the three current versions.

All the development for Menus for Visual Studio Tools (and also the Support Debugging Tool) was barely tolerated by my management as it was not part of my role in the Asia Pacific support team and much of it had to be done in my own free time.

In October 2014, I was made redundant/laid off by Microsoft as the Dynamics GP support team in Asia Pacific was shutdown. My work on my “pet projects” for the community was not considered in this decision, and so when I left Microsoft, both Menus for Visual Studio Tools and the Support Debugging Tool were discontinued as no-one within Microsoft wanted to maintain them.

Even before I left, during the month’s notice period, I requested to obtain the rights to the products that I developed while I was an employee. No one else had ever worked on the code or the documentation and so it was all solely my work. However, I was an employee and so the tools belonged to Microsoft. With the help of Pam Misialek, in March 2015 I was able to negotiate an exclusive license agreement with Microsoft to continue development and support of the tools.

In April 2015 and now branded as Visual Studio Integration Toolkit, build 10 was released for Dynamics GP 2010 (v11.0), GP 2013 (v12.0) and now GP 2015 (v14.0).

One of the problems I had always had with any of the free tools that I developed while at Microsoft was that I could not provide any hard data to my management on how many sites were using the tools and only had anecdotal evidence that the community used and liked the tools.

Now that tools were no longer subsidised by Microsoft and I was running my own business, I needed a way to track usage of the tools.

I decided that the current functionality of the Visual Studio Integration Toolkit (that is everything that was available in Menus for Visual Studio Tools) would remain free to use. This is my gift to the Microsoft Dynamics GP developer community.

However, to be able to justify the continued development effort to maintain the code and possibly extend the functionality in the future, I needed to know if anyone was even using the code. I needed a registration system to track the number of customers … even if the product was free.

So, in June 2015, build 11 of the Visual Studio Integration Toolkit was released including a full installer, fully signed DLL files and the registration system.

As long as I have registered customers, I am committed to keeping the tool going and still plan to add additional advanced features. While I understand that the extra step of registering the customer sites was not previously needed, it is required to justify the tool’s continued support.

For those developers that used to embed the tool in their installers, it should be noted that the Visual Studio Integration Toolkit is not like a Visual Studio control which can be embedded by many developers, it is a tool that once installed on a system can be shared by multiple developers. See the article below for more information.

For more information:

Thanks for your continued support.

David

This article was originally posted on http://www.winthropdc.com/blog.

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2 thoughts on “#VSIT Why does Visual Studio Integration Toolkit need registration?

  1. Thanks Dave,

    Registering takes a minute, I don’t understand why people would complain about it.

    I would be more worried that you might decide to stop developing it meaning I would actually have to use dexterity.

    Like

  2. I haven’t used the toolkit, so I don’t know what the registration process is like. But I understand why people might be weary about it. Forced registration has a bad name because of bad usage in the past. It generally has no benefit to the user, but can bring some negatives with it.

    Companies have used it to collect information for spamming. They’ve used it to transition the program into payware. And the big issue is what if the registration server is down. I’m sure we’ve all had that experience when time is of the essence and an activation server is down.

    David’s explanation makes sense, though. I’m glad he took the time to write the post and clarify.

    Like

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