Welcome to the first SharePoint Toolbox column where I’ll focus on community contributions on codeplex.com and commercial products for SharePoint development and management. If you have suggestions for future columns, send email to kirk.evans@microsoft.com.

Community Kit for SharePoint: Development Tools EditionThere’s a ton of new features in Visual Studio 2010 for SharePoint developers. There are new project types and project items for SharePoint 2010 development, plus the new SharePoint Explorer enables you to explore the various aspects of a SharePoint site without leaving the IDE. One of the most important features for the SharePoint tools in Visual Studio 2010 is its extensibility model. The group working on the Community Kit for SharePoint: Development Tools Edition (CKS:Dev) has leveraged this extensibility model to provide new capabilities that make developers even more productive without requiring you to install anything on your production environment to support the tools. The kit can be found at http://cksdev.codeplex.com and the price is right—it’s free.

The features in CKS:Dev can be grouped into four key categories: environment, exploration, content, and deployment. CKS:Dev adds so many new features to Visual Studio 2010, that I won’t be able to cover them all in this short column. However, I will point out some of my favorite features, and I strongly encourage you to install CKS:Dev from the Visual Studio Gallery and explore for yourself.

 Environment and Exploration Categories

CKS:Dev adds several features to the IDE that I absolutely love. The first is a new tab in the Add Reference dialog in Visual Studio that shows the various assemblies specific to SharePoint, as shown in Figure 1. New menu items are added to the project menu; each is extremely helpful. Right-click the project node in the Solution Explorer pane to discover the Copy Assembly Name command that copies the assembly’s full 5-part name into the copy buffer. The new Sandbox Compile node will compile the project to ensure you are only using code using the subset object model features, so that your code can be deployed as a sandboxed solution.

The CKS:Dev team added a slew of new nodes to the SharePoint Explorer pane. There are new nodes added for the Master Page Gallery, the Solution Gallery, Style Library, Theme Gallery, and Web Part Gallery.  One of my favorite additions is the “Developer Dashboard Settings” menu added to the site node that enables you to quickly change the developer dashboard settings for a site, shown in Figure 2.

Another favorite feature of mine is the Create Page Layout from Content Type menu. Just right-click a content type, choose this menu, and a new page layout is generated for you. This is a huge time-saver when working with publishing sites.

 Content and Deployment Categories

There’s so much Content that I had trouble choosing a few pieces to highlight. A new Sandboxed Visual Web Part project item allows you to create a Visual Web Part that can be deployed using a sandboxed solution.  A new Custom Action project item makes it easy to create custom actions. Even the Basic Page project item template is a huge timesaver; it’s now a snap to create a basic page with content placeholders so that you don’t need to copy and paste from SharePoint Designer 2010.

CKS:Dev adds new commands for deployment. You can now issue a Quick Deploy command to deploy items to the SharePoint root folder, deploy the assembly to the GAC, recycle the IIS application pool, or reset IIS. There’s also an extremely handy tool called “Recreate Site” that will delete the site collection and recreate it with the same name, type, and settings, which is useful for testing scenarios.