CompareFolders — a Visual Studio Code extension journey — Intro

Mosh Feu
3 min readSep 12, 2019

This post meant to introduce the journey of the Visual Studio Code (“vscode”) plugin CompareFolders. The post is (will be) part of a series (🤞) and the only one who will not include any code examples and technical stuff.

What’s that plugin (should) does anyway

With that plugin you can compare 2 folders’ content just like you do with git by comparing a branch code to master .
As much as it’s a trivial need and there are a lot of tools out there, vscode has none.

How it’s gonna work?

There will be a dedicated panel for this in the view panel (in the left side of the app, at the same place the the files explorer). In that panel, the user could choose a folder anywhere in the file system. Once the other folder selected, the extension will compare the content of the folders and display a tree view of the files with the difference.
Click on a file, will open a diff view, side by side and (hopefully) the user will be able to take or leave changes just like in git merge.

The motivations

First, it will be a great plugin.

Second, I’m using vscode intensively and I like to know it better. I already tried to develop a tiny extension before but now I want to use more advanced API capabilities to enrich that plugin and make it ready for real use.

Vscode API’s docs are basically good but I feel that many times it lacks a context. To cover on that, there is a great demos repository but with that, you need to do “reverse engineering”. They’re basically saying: “here is the code, try to understand how we did it”.
I must to say, it’s not trivial, for me at least. If it was a simple flatted library (such lodash), code snippets will do the job. But, in vscode extension it’s different. In order to present a view, you need to do a bunch of things that in different places in the code base so you not always know where to look.
So, the third motivation is to show how to implement different functionalities in an extension.

The posts in the series will be divided so each post will deal with a different aspect, api method or flow so it can be read without context and will not require to read the full series (although it could help 😀)
The posts written in at the same time as the extension so the progress will be in accordance so the topics. So a post’s aspect might be not includes in the extension in the end but I needed that technique or aspect to move forward and it worth to mentioned.

Also, each post will start with what the challenge that need to solved and will show with explanations and code how to solve it.

And finally, I’ll update the posts with new information that will come up along the road.

Open Source

Obviously, all the code is open source

What the posts will not include?

The presupposition is that you already familiar a bit with vscode extension development so the posts will not cover explanations about “what is the extension”?, “how to start”? “What is TypeScript”? and so on. For that, the docs are pretty good.

Have something to say? I’ll love to 👂