As per Esri's recommendation I began the process of converting my existing VBA customization into VB .Net Express edition. I was surprised to realize that debugging a DLL is not an option in the express edition.

"If you are using the Visual C# Express Edition or Visual Basic Express Edition, you cannot debug DLLs because these versions do not have the option to start an external application for debugging."

Source: http://help.arcgis.com/en/sdk/10.0/a...000001w2000000

Any workaround other than purchasing VS Pro?


4 Answers 4


You can use the start external program option by editing the VS project user file, which will be named {yourproject}.vbproj.user in the projects directory.

Open the file using your favourite xml editor and look for the following line:

<PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)|$(Platform)' == 'Debug|AnyCPU' "/>

replace it with something like this:

     <PropertyGroup Condition=" '$(Configuration)|$(Platform)' == 'Debug|AnyCPU' ">

where {programToAttach} is the application the you want to debug with, in this case it would be ArcGIS or whatever you are using.

I used to use this when testing MapInfo plugins before I had the full version of Visual Studio.


Never actually tested this solution, but some claim that it's possible by manually modifying the project file. See Debugging in VS Express.


I suggest testing it. The reason I say that is because I'm using Vb express to convert my VBA tools to vb.net, and when I debug ArcMap opens with no problem.

  • Thanks for the replies. Have not tested it yet but will. I am currently in the process of updating my system (W7 64bit and ArcGis 10) and i will test the solution as soon as i am done. Aug 23, 2010 at 21:05
  • Yes the solution works flawlessly Sep 11, 2010 at 0:04
  • Good, glad that you found a solution to your issue.
    – Zachary
    Sep 12, 2010 at 23:47

Besides modifying the project file to starting an external program (Nathan W's answer), you can also use the standalone CLR debugger, which comes as part of the .NET SDK: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/893657

This will let you attach to an already-running process, which can be super helpful. I've used it for debugging ArcGIS Desktop extensions quite a bit.

It looks and feels like debugging from within Visual Studio, although it is somewhat more limited. (For example, you can't set breakpoints from within the visual studio editor since it is a standalone debugger.)

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