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Make Plug-ins with Visual Studio Express 2013 for Windows Desktop

Summary: How to build and debug RhinoCommon plug-ins for Rhino with the free express editions of Microsoft Visual Studio Express 2013 for Windows Desktop

Microsoft now provides free trimmed down versions of their developer products called Visual Studio Express 2013 for Windows Desktop that support both C# and VB.NET.

Note: Make sure you download the … for Windows Desktop and not the … for Windows edition.

This product can be used to develop .NET plug-ins for Rhino. Here are some helpful steps to get you started:


Download and install Visual Studio Express 2013 for Windows Desktop

Choosing between VB.NET and C# is really a matter of syntax preference. Both programming languages should be able to build the same quality of plug-ins. It just depends on the language that you feel more comfortable with. The installer downloads and installs everything you'll need to develop Rhino plug-ins.


Install the RhinoCommon plug-in project and command templates from the Visual Studio Gallery

  • Launch VS Express 2013 for Desktop.
  • From the Visual Studio Tools menu select Extensions and Updates ….
  • On the left select Online then Visual Studio Gallery.
  • In the Search Visual Studio Gallery search box (top right), type RhinoCommon.
  • The RhinoCommon templates extension appears in the search results. Install it.

Create a Rhino plug-in project

  • Start VS Express 2013 for Desktop and go to File…New Project. In the New Project dialog expand the left most tree to Installed/Templates/Visual Basic or Installed/Templates/Visual C# depending on which language you prefer. Double-click on the RhinoCommon plug-in template. Fill the required information in the Wizard dialog: make sure the RhinoCommon Reference and the Rhino EXEs have been found. If not you'll have to browse for them manually. When you're all done click on the Finish button. You now have a plug-in project that you can work with.

Compiling and debugging the plug-in

I like to have the output window showing when I compile my projects. This way I can see what is going on. To show this window, click on Debug… Windows … Output.

The RhinoCommon template has set things up so when you compile the solution a .rhp file is compiled in the bin subdirectory of the project directory.

From the Debug menu selecting Start Debugging (F5) will launch Rhino.

If it's the first time you launch Rhino from your plug-in project you'll first need to install it:

  • At the Rhino command prompt type the PlugInManager command.
  • Click the Install… button to locate and install the .rhp file.
  • Click Ok to close the Rhino Options dialog.

If you want to step into the code you can add break-points in your code before you run the command.

To add a new command to your plug-in:

  • Shut down Rhino.
  • Right-click your project header in Solution Explorer (in Visual Studio) and select Add/New Item … from the context menu.
  • Select the Empty RhinoCommon Command template from the Installed/Visual C# (or VB) Items/Rhinoceros leftmost tree.
developer/rhinocommonsamples/dotnetexpresseditions.txt · Last modified: 2015/09/14 (external edit)