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T4 – Too Troublesome to Tackle?

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18 May 2010Apache2 min read 10.7K   2
T4 – Too Troublesome to Tackle?

Text Template Transformation Toolkit (T4) is a code generator built into Visual Studio 2008 and 2010. Yes, you have it now on your machine :). It was proposed to me as a possible solution to the C# macros problem.

I played with it a little bit and my current verdict is it would be quite difficult to use in a serious project. Here’s why:

  1. No automated build integration

    This is a killer, especially if your templates include other templates. The only time template code is executed is when you save a template file. Not when you (re)build your solution. Not when you get your stuff from source control. If has changed and there are 50 files that include, you will have to hunt them down, open them in Visual Studio and save them to re-generate the code. That’s 51 files.

    This is not T4’s fault per se – all custom tools suffer from this problem, but it does not make the developer’s life any easier. There is some build integration in VS 2010, but “ in order to configure a Visual Studio project for build-time template transformation, you have to manually modify the MSBuild definition in the project file“. Not cool.

  2. No proper source control integration

    When you add your .tt file to source control, the generated file is added along with it, and every time you change anything, both files get checked out.

  3. No ability to group all files of a class under one node

    This is not a show stopper, but an inconvenience. I would like to have all code for class Foo to be under one node. Something like Foo.cs with below it, which generates Foo.props.cs. I am not sure how it can be accomplished with TT.

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This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Apache License, Version 2.0

Written By
Technical Lead Thomson Reuters
United States United States
Ivan is a hands-on software architect/technical lead working for Thomson Reuters in the New York City area. At present I am mostly building complex multi-threaded WPF application for the financial sector, but I am also interested in cloud computing, web development, mobile development, etc.

Please visit my web site:

Comments and Discussions

GeneralDepends on your point of view... Pin
Dave Elliott20-May-10 8:28
Dave Elliott20-May-10 8:28 
I've been using it in a production environment for quite a while. While I agree that straight up T4 is cumbersome and doesn't produce exactly what I want; Oleg Toolkit is great at fixing those issues.

Point 1: I would agree, it would be nice if something was more readily available. We've decided that it will be the developers responsibilty to run it as necessary.

Point 2: I'm not sure what the issue is with this point. You should be allowed to check in which ever file you want. If a change is made, I would expect it to get checked out.

Point 3: This is taken care of by Oleg's toolkit. You can see this in action by getting the source code of an unrelated article that I wrote a couple of months back. In the article (, I use T4 to generate lots of files in separate directories. By right clicking on the file and selecting "Run Custom Tool" all the files are created/updated all at the same time.

From my point of view, auto generation is great and I would rather use something than nothing. I also like the fact that T4 is baked into VS for use.

GeneralRe: Depends on your point of view... Pin
Ivan Krivyakov24-May-10 17:29
Ivan Krivyakov24-May-10 17:29 

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