ReSharper DevGuide

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Code Completion

Just like Visual Studio, ReSharper implements its own form of code completion (which Visual Studio calls IntelliSense) that is used to provide various helpers when typing code. Unlike Visual Studio, however, ReSharper implements three different varieties of code completion that plugin developers need to be aware of. These are:

  • Symbol completion, which is the closest analogy to IntelliSense in terms of operation. This is essentially the mechanism that completes the names of symbol identifiers as they are being typed into the editor. Symbol completion is typically invoked with the Ctrl+Space shortcut.
  • Smart completion is a code completion mechanism which attempts to narrow down the list of suggested items given the particular context. For example, when calling a method that takes a string, pressing Ctrl+Alt+Space while entering the parameter to the method will present the list of all string typed identifiers available at the current scope.
  • Import symbol completion is a means of completion that is used to complete identifier names even if such identifiers have not been imported with a using statement. Import symbol completion is invoked with Shift+Alt+Space and lets the user quickly add both the identifier name and a using statement.

Let’s begin our overview of these mechanisms by looking at the root interface of code completion, ICodeCompletionItemsProvider.


The ICodeCompletionItemsProvider is an interface for any type that wants to provide code completion information to ReSharper. We won’t discuss its methods, since you’ll most likely be inheriting from a derived abstract class, but what’s important to note here is that all of its methods take as a parameter an ISpecificCodeCompletionContext that is used to make decisions on what completion items are available.


Rather than implementing ICodeCompletionItemsProvide directly, it makes more sense to inherit from the ItemsProviderOfSpecificContext<TContext> class. This class is the one that gets inherited by various ReSharper mechanisms. The two most common interface methods that providers override are:

  • IsAvailable() - this method determines whether the lookup items (i.e., items inserted into the completion list) are in fact added.
  • AddLookupItems() is the method that actually adds the items.

Let’s look at these in more detail. First, it’s important to note that the TContext generic parameter that you specify will be the first parameter in both of the above methods. This generic parameter typically relates to the language you’re supporting, so that for example, if you want to support code completion in C#, you would inherit from ItemsProviderOfSpecificContext<CSharpCodeCompletionContext>.

Once you know what context you have, you can begin to use it in the aforementioned methods. For example, when checking if the completion items are available, you can perform a check similar to the following:

protected override bool IsAvailable(CSharpCodeCompletionContext context) { if (context.BasicContext.CodeCompletionType != CodeCompletionType.SmartCompletion) return false; return true; }

The above check ensures that the items are only available if the type of completion is Smart.

The second method, AddLookupItems(), takes two parameters: the smart completion context and a GroupedItemsCollector. The second parameter is of particular importance since it is through this parameter that completion items are provided.

To allow adding of items, GroupedItemsCollector provides a set of methods such as AddToTop() and AddAtDefaultPlace(). All of these methods take an ILookupItem as a parameter. This interface is by itself fairly complicated, but luckily a number of lookup item factories are available in order to facilitate the process in common scenarios. For example, the CSharpCodeCompletionContext class has a property called LookupItemsFactory which yields an instance of a CSharpLookupItemFactory. You can use this factory to create different lookup items. Putting it all together, here is an example of how you can add a lookup item to a collector:

protected override bool AddLookupItems(CSharpCodeCompletionContext context, GroupedItemsCollector collector) { collector.AddAtDefaultPlace(context.LookupItemsFactory.CreateTextLookupItem("true", "bool", true)); }

The CreateTextLookupItem() method used above simply creates and initializes a TextLookupItem containing specific text.


If we go off looking down the hierarchy of the ItemsProviderOfSpecificContext, we’ll eventually find language-specific classes such as CSharpItemsProviderBase. This class, which also takes a context generic parameter, is the kind of class that one would actually use to build extensions to code completion.

Here’s a very simple example: let’s suppose that we want to add the string hello as a code completion item to any C# file regardless of the position of the caret. In other words, the option hello will be available practically everywhere. To implement this, we first make a class that inherits from CSharpItemsProviderBase, i.e.,

[Language(typeof(CSharpLanguage))] public class MyCodeCompletion : CSharpItemsProviderBase<CSharpCodeCompletionContext> { }

Then, we override the IsAvailable() method to only allow our code completion item to appear in automatic completion (and not in smart or type symbol completion):

protected override bool IsAvailable(CSharpCodeCompletionContext context) { return context.BasicContext.CodeCompletionType == CodeCompletionType.AutomaticCompletion; }

Finally, we override the AddLookupItems() method and add the simplest possible statement to include the string “hello” in the code completion popup list:

protected override bool AddLookupItems(CSharpCodeCompletionContext context, GroupedItemsCollector collector) { collector.AddAtDefaultPlace(context.LookupItemsFactory.CreateTextLookupItem("hello")); return base.AddLookupItems(context, collector); }

And that’s it - you have a code completion provider that adds an extra element when working in C# context.

Generative Completion

One form of code completion that made its appearance in ReSharper 8 is called Generative Completion. The idea of generative copmletion is to use code completion for code generation as a quicker, more direct alternative to, day, the Generate menu.

One very visible example of generative completion is the ctorp, ctorf and ctorfp templates available in C# classes. This completion mechanism is capable of inserting constructors that initialize either all fields of a class, all properties, or both.

The class responsible for providing these items to the code completion mechanisms is called ConstructorRule. Let’s take a look at how it works. This class has two features:

  • It is decorated with [Language(typeof(CSharpLanguage))], indicating that it’s applicable to C# code.
  • It inherits from ItemsProviderOfSpecificContext<CSharpCodeCompletionContext>.


After inheriting from the aforementioned provider, we can override members to customize what, if anything, gets added to the list of completion items. Before we do that, we can also customize other aspects. For example, we can select which types of completion that we support. For example, the check on the ctor items is similar to the following:

protected override bool IsAvailable(CSharpCodeCompletionContext context) { var type = context.BasicContext.CodeCompletionType; if (type == CodeCompletionType.AutomaticCompletion || type == CodeCompletionType.BasicCompletion) return !context.IsQualified; else return false; }

The above means that that completion will only work in automatic or basic completion, and that it won’t work if the context is qualified (i.e., foo.ctorp won’t complete).

Checking the location

Before adding a completion item, you want to check that you’re in the right location in code. This is likely done in the overridden AddLookupItems method, with the only difference that, unlike in e.g., context actions, you don’t get a context that lets you directly figure out the code element you’re in. Instead, you have to do something like this:

protected override bool AddLookupItems(CSharpCodeCompletionContext context, GroupedItemsCollector collector) { ITreeNode node = TextControlToPsi.GetElement<ITreeNode>(context.BasicContext.Solution, context.BasicContext.TextControl); if (node == null) return false; }

From an ITreeNode you can move up the ranks until something like an IClassBody. Sooner or later, you’ll get to the point where, given applicability, you want to add your completion items. In the case of ctor code completion items, the code looks something like this:

var item = new GenerateConstructorLookupItem("ctorf", fields.OfType<IXmlDocIdOwner>(), psiIconManager); item.InitializeRanges(context.CompletionRanges, context.BasicContext); collector.AddAtDefaultPlace(item);

In the above, psiIconManager is a solution component that can be acquired from the solution. At any rate, all that happens is you add the items you want to appear to the collector, so that they are subsequently displayed.

Lookup Item

The lookup item for generative completion is quite simply a class that inherits TextLookupItem, and there is nothing special apart from it aside from the fact that it generates a rather large amount of text. One thing to point out is that generative completion items are typically shown with emphasis:

protected override RichText GetDisplayName() { RichText displayName = new RichText(myName); LookupUtil.AddEmphasize(displayName, new TextRange(0, displayName.Length)); return displayName; }

All the interesting things happen inside the Accept() method override. First of all, the identifier under the caret gets wiped out:

IIdentifier identifierNode = TextControlToPsi.GetElement<IIdentifier>(solution, textControl); IPsiServices psiServices = solution.GetPsiServices(); if (identifierNode != null) { using (var cookie = new PsiTransactionCookie(psiServices, DefaultAction.Rollback, "RemoveIdentifier")) using (new DisableCodeFormatter()) { using (WriteLockCookie.Create()) ModificationUtil.DeleteChild(identifierNode); cookie.Commit(); } } psiServices.Files.CommitAllDocuments();

Once this is done, you have a variety of choices. If you’re replicating a Generate item, simply initialize an IGeneratorWorkflow (remember it’s IDisposable), provide the input elements and call GenerateAndFinish() to inject the code.

If, on the other hand, you just want to inject arbitrary code at a particular location, that’s not a problem either. For example, instead of doing ModificationUtil.DeleteChild(), you can create an entirely new construct that you want to inject (using, e.g., CSharpElementFactory and the like) and then simply call ModificationUtil.ReplaceChild() instead.

Last modified: 10 July 2017