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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 7:28
Dave Elliott20-May-10 7:28 
GeneralRe: Depends on your point of view... Pin
Ivan Krivyakov24-May-10 16:29
Ivan Krivyakov24-May-10 16:29 
The issue with point 2 is that normally we don't check in products of the compilation, such as binary files, etc. They are not part of the source and there is no point in storing them. They waste space, and checking them in and out all the time creates extra effort and noise in histories, etc.

It is good point about Oleg's toolkit. Too bad this feature is not built-in. This may seem like not a big deal for a single developer or a small shop, but this creates lots of legal and logistical issues for bigger corporations. You need to make sure the license is approved by the legal department, that all relevant developers have it installed, etc.

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