Great Help & Little Effort: Project Templates for Visual Studio

If I run into tasks that I must repeat countless times, I try to automate them as much as possible. Since we always add the same dependencies to our test projects, we thought it would be a great idea to create a project template that has all the necessary settings already in place. Let us figure out how little effort it takes to create our own project templates for dotnet, Visual Studio and Rider.


The pain of the old days…

If you tried creating a Visual Studio project template in the past, you had a painful experience. You started with an existing template, added all your customisations and additional features, and then you had to break it with various template-specific keywords. You could package that into a project template, but you could no longer compile it. That made updating a template a painful task with a lot of errors and multiple rounds of bugfixes.


…is now gone

Today you still start with an existing template and make your customisations. But now you only add 3 additional files and keep your project otherwise free of any template-specific modifications. That way your template project always compiles and when you need to update it, you just do it. You can check if everything works by compiling that project (and run it if it is an executable).

With all the extra effort gone, you can create templates for all the project types you need often. Instead of adding the same dependencies all over again, you create a template and get rid of those repetitive steps. Even better, the project templates not only work in the command line and in Visual Studio, but also in JetBrains Rider.


Create a new project

For this blog post we start with the built-in template for a C# class library in .Net 6 to create our TestingTemplate project. Next, we add our always used dependencies like NUnit, Moq and FluentAssertion to the project. Visual Studio will fetch the necessary dependencies and writes down our setup to the TestingTemplate.csproj file:

If we compile the project, NuGet downloads all the dependencies and their transient dependencies and puts them in the bin folder.


Check if everything works

While it this step is optional, it may be a good idea to turn Class1.cs into a basic unit test to check if everything works. The content of Class1.cs can look like this:

We can recompile our project and run the unit tests. Everything should still work, and our minimalistic test should pass.


Turn the project into a template

We now add a folder .template.config inside our project folder:

Inside the newly created folder, we create the file template.json with something like this:

You can find an explanation for the various properties of this JSON file and the options you have to customise it here in the official documentation.

Next, we create the file (also inside the .template.config folder) and add this content:

After that, we can add our company or project logo as logo.png in the .template.config folder:

The logo.png file sits next to the two JSON files

As the last step to prepare our template, we create a TestingTemplate.nuspec next to our *.sln file:

The two *.json files define what is inside our template and create a nice description for the “Add new Project” dialog, while the *.nuspec has all the details to create an installable NuGet package.


Create a NuGet package

We can turn our project into a NuGet template package with this command:

(Make sure that you have a NuGet.exe on your computer, otherwise you can find it on

We now should find our *.nuget file next to the *.nuspec:

There is now a NuGet file with our project template next to the *.sln file


Install the new template

We can install our template with this command:


Use the new template

From now on we can use our template in Visual Studio. Open the “Add new Project” dialog and search for our template:

Our new template is now in Visual Studio

If we select that template, we get the usual dialog to add a name and select the .Net version:

Give your new project a name.
And then select the .Net version

As soon as Visual Studio finishes its project creation, we should have a new project in our solution with all the dependencies already configured:

The newly added project has all the dependencies you need

If you prefer Raider, you can follow along the steps above and after installing the NuGet package, you find the template in Raider as well:

The template works with Raider out of the box.

If you want to use the template from the command line, you can use dotnet new with the value for shortName we set for our template in template.json:


Update the template

We can change our template project and add the new features. When we are done, we increment the NuGet version and create a new NuGet package.

If you installed the NuGet package from the file system, you best deinstall the old template before you install the new one:


Share with your team

If you can share the template with the whole world, you can add it to and work with the commands as we did above.

Should you prefer a private NuGet feed (like in Azure DevOps), you need to go through a few extra steps to get the authentication credentials into NuGet. For this task we use the Azure Artifacts Credential Provider with great success.



Creating your own templates has become much easier than in the days of the .Net full framework. Now it is a straightforward task with only three additional files to turn any project into a template.

We use this feature now heavily and created templates for all our project types. It was a great time saver for our big migration to .Net 6. Even when you do not plan to recreate all your projects, it will save you a lot of time when you no longer need to add the same dependencies over and over again.

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