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New Release: BimlExpress 2017

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What day is it today? It’s the BimlExpress 2017 release day! Yay! :) I’ve waited for this release for a long time, and I know I’m not the only one. People have asked me many times if Varigence is still around. The answer is most definitely yes! It has been rather quiet from Varigence this past year, and I know we’ve all been waiting for news and updates. But don’t forget that they’re a small company, and that they’re actually giving us BimlExpress for free. They’ve focused on development this past year, and have been working like crazy to rewrite the Biml engine, add new features to BimlExpress, rebrand Mist to BimlStudio and make it even more powerful, and finish their BimlFlex framework. And today? Today we all get to enjoy the new releases! More yay! :)

Download and install BimlExpress 2017

You can download BimlExpress 2017 from the Varigence BimlExpress page:

BimlExpress Download VSIX

The new installer is a lightweight VSIX (Visual Studio Extension) Installer:

Install BimlExpress 2017 - License Agreement Install BimlExpress 2017 - In Progress Install BimlExpress 2017 - Finished

After installing, you will find BimlExpress in the list of Visual Studio Tools and Extensions:

BimlExpress 2017 Visual Studio Extension

What’s New in BimlExpress 2017?

I will show you some of the exciting new features below. Spoiler alert: there are some gamechangers in this release! Let’s take a look at some of the exciting new features in BimlExpress 2017 :)

Webinar recording

If you prefer to see demos of the new features, take a look at the webinar I did with Varigence:

Cathrine Wilhelmsen: What's new in BimlExpress 2017?

Preview Expanded Biml

Ok, I know the rest of the post won’t be as exciting when I start with the coolest feature, but this is such a big gamechanger that I want to show it off before you close this tab and move on to the next blog post ;)

Remember all those tips about how you can use RootNode.GetBiml() in a high-tier helper file to save your expanded Biml to a file for debugging?

Yeah. Forget that. You can now preview your expanded Biml directly in BimlExpress, just like you can in BimlStudio!


This is going to make it so much easier to teach, learn and write Biml.

All you have to do is write some code and watch the Biml compile. Depending on your BimlExpress settings, you may have to click on the Show Preview button to open the preview pane, or click on Update to start compiling:

BimlExpress 2017 Preview Expanded Biml


.NET intellisense

Wait, what? .NET intellisense? Does that mean C# and VB intellisense? You bet it does!

Now, let’s start with a small disclaimer. The release notes say: “Added preview mode of .NET intellisense for early adopters”. That means that this feature is not available out of the box for everyone, it has to be enabled per product key by Varigence. So how do you get it? It’s very simple: E-mail Varigence. Help them out by providing feedback and suggestions for improvements. If you want to go crazy, you may even mention BimlExpress in social media, blog posts or if you’re presenting somewhere. But that’s not a requirement. Just e-mail Varigence and ask. They’re nice guys :)

So how does .NET intellisense work? Create a BimlScript code nugget and start typing. Just like regular Biml intellisense, the list will be filtered based on what you type, and you can filter further by using the buttons at the bottom:

BimlExpress 2017 .NET (C# / VB) Intellisense

Woop woop!

Global Include Files

Using include files is a great way to separate code so you can maintain it in just one file, and it just got better! With the new global directive, you can create files that will automatically be included in your entire project -- without having to insert the include directive in every single Biml file. This is great for creating global variables, including code files, or to make VB default for your entire solution :)

The only thing you need to do is to add the new global directive to your include file:

<#@ global #>

You can control the global include files by using directive attributes:

<#@ global order="1" location="top" active="True" applytocallbimlscript="False" #>

Order: Specifies the order in which to include the files, starting with the lowest number.
Location: Can be top or bottom. Specifies where the content of the global include file will be added.
Active: Can be True or False. Provides a way to quickly turn on and off global include files, for example for testing vs. generating for production.
ApplyToCallBimlScript: Can be True or False. Specifies if the global include file should be included in CallBimlScript callee files.

Pretty handy, huh? :D

SSIS Annotations

You can now add SSIS Annotations to packages, containers, event handlers, and data flows! This only works for SSIS 2012 and higher. The syntax is very simple:

<Biml xmlns="">
        <Package Name="PackageWithSSISAnnotations">
                <SsisAnnotation>This package is generated from Biml!</SsisAnnotation>
                <Container Name="Sequence Container">
                        <SsisAnnotation>Main Wrapper Container</SsisAnnotation>
                        <Dataflow Name="Empty Data Flow"></Dataflow>

The generated package will include the annotation:

BimlExpress 2017 SSIS Annotations

This is a great new feature, especially if you have mixed projects where only some packages are generated from Biml, or mixed development teams where only some developers use Biml.


BimlExpress 2017 has finally been released, and you can download it from the Varigence BimlExpress page. Some of the gamechanging features are Preview Expanded Biml, .NET intellisense, Global Include Files and SSIS Annotations. But wait! There’s more! I haven’t covered all features in this blog post. You can find all the changes in the full release notes.

Download it today and try it out yourself!

Please note that BimlExpress 2017 does not yet work with Visual Studio 2017 due to breaking changes in how Visual Studio 2017 manages extensions.

Thank you for making my life so much easier, Varigence :)

Updated: BimlExpress 2018 was released in June 2018! It supports Visual Studio 2017 and comes with a new Convert from SSIS to Biml feature, in addition to all the features described in this post.

Updated again: BimlExpress 2019 was released in May 2019! It supports Visual Studio 2019.

About the Author

Cathrine Wilhelmsen is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, BimlHero Certified Expert, Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert, international speaker, author, blogger, and chronic volunteer who loves teaching and sharing knowledge. She works as a Senior Business Intelligence Consultant at Inmeta, focusing on Azure Data and the Microsoft Data Platform. She loves sci-fi, chocolate, coffee, craft beers, ciders, cat gifs and smilies :)


Hi! This is Cathrine. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I'd love to hear your thoughts, but please keep in mind that I'm not technical support for any products mentioned in this post :) Off-topic questions, comments and discussions may be moderated. Be kind to each other. Thanks!

Does the previous version of BIML Express has to be manually uninstalled from Visual Studio before installing BIML Express 2017?

I recommend uninstalling the old BimlExpress before installing the new one :)

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Catherine, I can’t download from the Varigence website… my firewall is picking it up as malware… any help?

*Cathrine …my apologies for spelling your name wrong!

Hi Adam, no worries! You can e-mail Varigence at, and I’m sure they can help you out :)

Pingback: The Basics – BIML : Preview Pain & Multiple File Dependencies | SI Bytes

Hi Cathrine, is this compatible with Visual Studio 2017 Community version?

I am getting below error in the log:-

– Found installed product – Visual Studio Community 2017
– VSIXInstaller.NoApplicableSKUsException: This extension is not installable on any currently installed products.

BimlExpress 2017 does not yet work with Visual Studio 2017 due to breaking changes in how Visual Studio 2017 manages extensions.

Hi guys, just a heads-up warning,
Script tasks stopped working with Biml Express 2017.
See this thread for updates or Varigence feedback

Hi, we upgraded to the new BIMLExpress and some of our BIML scripts don’t work anymore. In the 2016 version we got warnings like “Input contains multiple columns named,…”. In the 2017 version it fails over this with error “EmitSsis contains fatal errors ….. NullReferenceException”. How can we avoid this error ? e.g. column SECTORNAME it’s datatype has changed and it is renamed to SectorName.

I was able to fix that error by removing the Derived Columns from the BIML. If I revert back to BIML Express 2016 or BIDS Helper it also works.

Hi, I’m getting the following error in the log when opening the installer, together with some warnings about data collision in the registry:
PKGDEF Error: Nothing to unlock for PkgDef mutex, PKGDEF: 8000FFFF

Installer stops then.
I’m using Visual Studio Pro 2017. Any thoughts?

Hi Niek, when I tried to install it, I was not able to install it for Visual Studio 2017, I could only install it for VS2015 (I have both VS’s installed). are you using the latest VSIX installer ?

Hi, I’m having the same problem with Visual Studio 2017. Is this version not suitable to visual studio 2017 professional?

BimlExpress 2017 does not yet work with Visual Studio 2017 due to breaking changes in how Visual Studio 2017 manages extensions.

BimlExpress 2017 does not yet work with Visual Studio 2017 due to breaking changes in how Visual Studio 2017 manages extensions.

BimlExpress 2017 does not yet work with Visual Studio 2017 due to breaking changes in how Visual Studio 2017 manages extensions.

I also am unable to get a successful install on VS 2017 professional as well. is this isolated to unique cases, or are other people experiencing similar results?

BimlExpress 2017 does not yet work with Visual Studio 2017 due to breaking changes in how Visual Studio 2017 manages extensions.

Hi Catherine

I’m sorry to see you are bombarded with questions and yet I have my own too. With all the incompatabilities between VS, SSDT, TFS and BIMLexpress – what are you running?

From what I can tell SSDT for VS 2013 is the last version compatible with both integrated TFS, BIMLexpress and the option to edit SSIS.

Thanks in advance :)

Hi Asbjørn, I get a lot of questions that I can’t answer, unfortunately, but I try my best!

I use Visual Studio 2015 with BimlExpress 2017. (I’m waiting for BimlExpress 2017 to be released for Visual Studio 2017, but I don’t have a date for that yet.) I don’t use TFS.

Thanks. We’ve had trouble with VS2015 freezing, crashing and slow loading but we might have to step up at some time.

Hi Catherine. we are having issues with BIML and SSIS 2017. Do you know if it’s a known bug or if it’s just us having some config issues? We want to upgrade our SSIS packages to 2017 but BIML is a blocker at the mo.. any advice greatly appreciated

Hi Rejane, BimlExpress 2017 is not compatible with Visual Studio 2017. BimlExpress 2018 will support Visual Studio 2017, and as of March 2nd it is in the final stages of testing. It was demoed at SQL Server Konferenz in Germany on Feb 27th, but there is no official ETA yet. I’m personally hoping for a release in the next month or so, but will just have to continue crossing my fingers :)

Hi. New to Biml, but loving the possibilities it gives. Do you know of any plans Varigence have to enable BimlExpress for use in Visual Studio 2017?

Saw the last comment there just a second to late… Thanks!

According to Varigence’s comment in this thread, invitation-only public preview will begin on Monday, March 12th. Hopefully that means a release is right around the corner :)

Even with BIML Express 2017 it will still generate in the old XML format for PackageFormatVersion 6. Each time I open a package it wants to upgrade to PackageFormatVersion 8.

You might want to mention that when installing BIML Express you need to be logged in with account that will be using VS. I log into windows with my normal account but run VS using a different account (different priveliges). When I installed BIML Express from my normal and ran VS with my other account, BIML Express wasn’t there. I had to log out of windows, log with my other account, run the vsix package and then it would work. Not obvious and vsix packages should install for all users.

Thanks for pointing that out for the other readers!

you can install for all users. make sure to delete biml express completely first.

I have installed and created few simple ssis package with BIML. Its cool !!

Can we use it to create very complex SSIS packages ? like for creation of script task in SSIS package or use complex expressions with all different properties ?

You sure can! Anything that you can do in SSIS, you can generate using Biml. That includes script tasks, expressions, parameters, third-party components and much more. Since you commented on an old, outdated post, you may want to check out BimlExpress 2018 instead. It has a reverse-engineering feature that can help you get started :)

Hi! This is Cathrine (again). Just a reminder. I'd love to hear your thoughts, but please keep in mind that I'm not technical support for any products mentioned in this post :) Off-topic questions, comments and discussions may be moderated. Be kind to each other. Thanks!

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