What are T4 templates?

T4 (Text Template Transformation Toolkit) templates are a powerful code generation technology provided by Microsoft. T4 templates use a mixture of text blocks and control logic in the form of C# or VB.NET code to generate code or any other text-based artifacts. They are commonly used to automate repetitive tasks, such as generating source code files, configuration files, XML files, HTML pages, or any other text-based output.

Here are some key characteristics and features of T4 templates:

  1. Text-Based Generation: T4 templates are essentially text files with special blocks of code enclosed within <# ... #> tags. These code blocks can contain C# or VB.NET code, which is executed during template processing.
  2. Code Generation Language: T4 templates are typically written in C# or VB.NET. The code can access external data, perform calculations, or execute any logic required to generate the desired output.
  3. Customizable Output: T4 templates allow you to customize the generated output by changing the content of the template or modifying the code logic inside the template.
  4. Template Transformation: The T4 templates are transformed at design time or runtime using the T4 engine, which processes the template and executes the embedded code blocks to produce the final output.
  5. Visual Studio Integration: T4 templates are integrated into Visual Studio, making it easy to create and manage templates. Visual Studio provides features like syntax highlighting, IntelliSense, and template transformation directly within the IDE.
  6. Extensible: T4 templates are highly extensible, allowing you to create reusable template libraries, use custom functions or macros, and leverage existing templates to create new ones.
  7. Code Generation Scenarios: T4 templates are commonly used for code generation scenarios, such as scaffolding for Entity Framework, generating CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) operations, creating POCO classes from database schemas, or generating configuration files based on project settings.

To use T4 templates in Visual Studio, you can add a new “Text Template” item to your project, or you can use existing T4 templates provided by extensions or frameworks. T4 templates can significantly improve developer productivity by automating repetitive tasks, reducing manual errors, and providing a consistent approach to code and file generation.

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