VS Code NRF Development


This post is discussing a workflow for developing C applications for Nordic microcontrollers using VS Code. It will focus on a setup for a team that utilizes Clang Format, Nordic SDK, and git (with Gitlab). Please note that one particular configuration will be suggested, but the hope is to document it in such a way that it is clear how it can be customized, not to suggest to the optimum configuration.


  • Avoid code review discussions about code style
  • Easily utilize and explore APIs of external or internal libraries
  • Easily utilize revision history stored in git

Tool Dependencies

Dependencies are assumed to be installed in the parent directory to this project, but those locations can be modified. The versions listed are those used at the time of writing, but not strictly required in all cases.



  • clang-format (6.0)

Extension Recommendations

The file (extensions.json) below can be installed into ${workspaceFolder}/.vscode/extensions.json to recommend the extensions to users of the project. Obviously, if you are not using “gitlab” or one of the other tools then exclude that particular extension. Otherwise, you can also search for the names in the Extensions Tab ([Ctrl+Shift+X]).

    "recommendations": [

Code Style

Code before Clang Format

We use “clang-format” to standardize the code we write and to allow pull requests to avoid subjective comments about code style. Each project will have a defined .clang-format file that is BasedOnStyle: Google.


With VS Code can reformat code with:

  • [Ctrl+Shift+I] - Reformat the entire document
  • [Ctrl+K Ctrl+F] - Reformat the selected range

Configuring cpptools

IntelliSense of NRF SDK

Configuration for cpptools is unnecessary for self-contained projects, but requires a little configuration when external libraries are utilized. First I will describe the project structure, and then I will describe the matching c_cpp_properties.json configuration.

This contained project structure (“linux-nrf-local”) is designed to keep all dependencies close together rather than installing in a way that they become integrated with the host machine. nordic-firmware will be our git repository for our project and will be considered the ${workspaceFolder}.

→ tree -L 1 -a
├── .gcc-arm-none-eabi -> .gcc-arm-none-eabi-5_3-2016q1/
├── .nRF5_SDK -> ./nRF5_SDK_15.2.0_9412b96/
├── nordic-firmware
├── nRF5_SDK_15.2.0_9412b96
├── nrf-cli-tools -> nRF-Command-Line-Tools_9_8_1/
└── nRF-Command-Line-Tools_9_8_1

Here is the configuration c_cpp_properties.json that will allow VSCode and IntelliSense to function optimally. IntelliSense is a code-completion aid that includes a number of features: List Members, Parameter Info, Quick Info, and Complete Word. Note that foldername/** is the syntax to recursively search under foldername.

  "configurations": [
      "name": "linux-nrf-local",
      "includePath": [
      "defines": [],
      "compilerPath": "${workspaceFolder}/../.gcc-arm-none-eabi/bin/arm-none-eabi-gcc",
      "cStandard": "c11",
      "cppStandard": "c++17",
      "intelliSenseMode": "clang-x64",
      "browse": {
        "path": [
        "limitSymbolsToIncludedHeaders": true
  "version": 4

C++ Development with Visual Studio Code

The following is an excellent presentation at CppCon2017 by Rong Lu, Senior Program Manager, at Microsoft about C++ Development with Visual Studio Code.

References and Resources

Nathan Genetzky
Software Engineer


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