Tree View Guide

This guide teaches you how to write an extension that contributes view containers and tree views to Visual Studio Code. You can find a sample extension with source code at:

View Container

A View Container contains a list of views that is displayed next to the built-in View Containers.

View Container

To contribute a View Container, you should first register it using contributes.viewsContainers Contribution Point in package.json. You have to specify following required fields:

  • id: The name of the new view container you're creating
  • title: The name which will show up at the top of the view container
  • icon: an image which will be displayed for the view container in the activity bar
"contributes": { "viewsContainers": { "activitybar": [ { "id": "package-explorer", "title": "Package Explorer", "icon": "media/dep.svg" } ] } }

Tree View

A view is an UI section that is shown inside the View Container. With the contributes.views Contribution Point, you can add new views to the built-in or contributed View Containers.


To contribute a view, you should first register it using contributes.views Contribution Point in package.json. You must specify an identifier and name for the view, and you can contribute to following locations:

  • explorer: Explorer view in the Side Bar
  • debug: Debug view in the Side Bar
  • scm: Source Control view in the Side Bar
  • test: Test explorer view in the Side Bar
  • Contributed View Containers


"contributes": { "views": { "package-explorer": [ { "id": "nodeDependencies", "name": "Node Dependencies", "when": "explorer" } ] } }

When the user opens the view, VS Code will then emit an activationEvent onView:${viewId} (e.g. onView:nodeDependencies for the example above). You can also control the visibility of the view by providing the when context value.

View Actions

You can contribute actions at the following locations in the view

  • view/title: Location to show actions in the view title. Primary or inline actions use "group": "navigation" and rest are secondary actions which are in ... menu.
  • view/item/context: Location to show actions for the tree item. Inline actions use "group": "inline" and rest are secondary actions which are in ... menu.

You can control the visibility of these actions using the when property.

View Actions


"contributes": { "commands": [ { "command": "nodeDependencies.refreshEntry", "title": "Refresh", "icon": { "light": "resources/light/refresh.svg", "dark": "resources/dark/refresh.svg" } }, { "command": "nodeDependencies.addEntry", "title": "Add" }, { "command": "nodeDependencies.editEntry", "title": "Edit", "icon": { "light": "resources/light/edit.svg", "dark": "resources/dark/edit.svg" } }, { "command": "nodeDependencies.deleteEntry", "title": "Delete" } ], "menus": { "view/title": [ { "command": "nodeDependencies.refreshEntry", "when": "view == nodeDependencies", "group": "navigation" }, { "command": "nodeDependencies.addEntry", "when": "view == nodeDependencies" } ], "view/item/context": [ { "command": "nodeDependencies.editEntry", "when": "view == nodeDependencies && viewItem == dependency", "group": "inline" }, { "command": "nodeDependencies.deleteEntry", "when": "view == nodeDependencies && viewItem == dependency" } ] } }

Note: If you want to show an action for specific items, you can do it by defining context of a tree item using TreeItem.contextValue and you can specify the context value for key viewItem in when expression.


"contributes": { "menus": { "view/item/context": [ { "command": "nodeDependencies.deleteEntry", "when": "view == nodeDependencies && viewItem == dependency" } ] } }


Extension writers should register a TreeDataProvider programmatically to populate data in the view.

vscode.window.registerTreeDataProvider('nodeDependencies', new DepNodeProvider());

See nodeDependencies.ts for the implementation.


If you would like to perform some UI operations on the view programatically, you can use window.createTreeView instead of window.registerTreeDataProvider. This will give access to the view which you can use for performing view operations.

vscode.window.createTreeView('ftpExplorer', { treeDataProvider: new FtpTreeDataProvider() });

See ftpExplorer.ts for the implementation.