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Customizing the build process with MSBuild

From: Visual Studio 2010 Essential Training

Video: Customizing the build process with MSBuild

In many circumstances, you can use the default build options for your project and have a successful build. There are times, however, when you need to adapt the build script to your needs. I'm going to work with this project called CustomBuildProcess. It has a simple WPF application, and I'm going to choose several different compile options for this application. I am going to start by editing a few of my Tools > Options settings. Let's open this up. We are going to look in Projects and Solutions and pick the General section. Whenever you do a build inside Visual Studio, it can output the results of the build process to this output window.

Customizing the build process with MSBuild

In many circumstances, you can use the default build options for your project and have a successful build. There are times, however, when you need to adapt the build script to your needs. I'm going to work with this project called CustomBuildProcess. It has a simple WPF application, and I'm going to choose several different compile options for this application. I am going to start by editing a few of my Tools > Options settings. Let's open this up. We are going to look in Projects and Solutions and pick the General section. Whenever you do a build inside Visual Studio, it can output the results of the build process to this output window.

So, I make sure that this is checked: Show Output window when build starts. I can also control how much information is dumped into that window by clicking on Build and Run and choosing MSBuild output verbosity. By default, I believe at Minimal. You can pick Diagnostic, which gives you a huge amount of information, or you can pick Quiet, which gives you virtually none. So I'll choose this one and then click OK. Now, let me do a build, Ctrl+ Shift+B, and there is my output. Let's try it again.

Choose Tools > Options. This time I'll choose Diagnostic, and do a Ctrl+Shift+B, and now you see, I have got several thousand lines of code, including information about the computer I'm running on and the environment and many, many details. Let me set that back to the original settings. Minimal. Now I have some control over the build process by going to Properties and then clicking this Build section. I am going to autohide his toolbox for a few minutes too.

Here I can control what happens when I do a debug build. I can control all the settings and even the Output folder down here. Also, this is where I can generate my XML documentation for that folder. If I switch to the Release build, now I am controlling what happens when I choose the release build from this dropdown. And in this case, I'm saying to save the files to a different location. We can also customize the Build Events, but before I get to this screen, let me show you a few other options. MSBuild.exe is the tool responsible for building your application, and it relies on a XML script for its instructions.

Now here's a little secret: the build script instructions are stored in an XML file, and they're hiding in plain sight in your project folder. Let me show you where they are. If I were to look at the project folder for this application by right-clicking on this and choosing Open Folder in Windows Explorer, there is a file here called csproj. This is the instruction to Visual Studio of what to load when you open this project within Visual Studio. But also inside this are the build instructions for MSBuild. So if I right-click on this and choose Edit with some editor, like Notepad++, which is the free tool we have on our computer, you'll see that this is nothing more than an XML file.

Now I can open this file inside Visual Studio if I know the secret. Return back to Visual Studio. I right-click on this CustomBuild project and choose Unload. Now all the files that were part of that project are no longer usable inside Visual Studio. Next, I right-click and I choose EditCustomBuildProcess. There is that file, but now we are looking at it as the text file as opposed to the loading it in the Solution Explorer. If you look through this, you'll see that it's just settings for the build engine, where to output the Release build, and it's right here.

That's the Output Path. That's the same thing I was setting just a few minutes ago in the Options dialog. Here is all the references to add for the DLLs, and then down here are the individual files that need to be compiled. It needs to compile a file called App.xaml.cs. There are also other areas. There is PreBuildEvent and PostBuildEvent. And if you want, you can even create your own custom build tasks and add them to this list. I am going to show you how to do a PreBuildEvent and a PostBuildEvent. To do that, I'm going to close this window, then right-click on CustomBuildProject and choose to reload it back into Visual Studio.

Next, I am going to double-click on the Properties section, and I am going to go to this Build Events tab. So let's show you what happens when you do a compile. Any instructions that are inside this section are run first. Virtually anything that you can run at a DOS command prompt you can run inside this box. Then it'll go through the build instructions that are part of the csproj file I just showed you, and then when that's done, it will go out and run any other command you tell it in the Post-build command line. Now, I am going to start here by creating a brand-new folder. I am going to do a make directory .exe.

I am going to call this directory buildDemo. I would like to make sure that this is a fresh directory, so I am going up one line above that and say I would like to remove the directory buildDemo. So I'll remove the directory, then recreate the directory. Let's see if this is working. I'll do a save, and then I'll do a build, and then we'll go and look in our hard drive, look in the bin folder. I was in a debug build, so I'll choose the Debug folder, and there is my buildDemo folder.

Next, I am going to copy a file into that folder. So let me show you how we do that. I go to the PostBuildEvent and what I want to do is take this App.config.test file, I want to make a copy of it, rename it and put it in that new folder I just created. I can find that information about my application and put them in this Post-build event by clicking on this Edit Post- Build button and then clicking on Macros, and this shows me things like output directory. That's how I put the output directory into my script, by putting a dollar sign and then this special keyword here.

So let me show you the text I'm going to run. I'll go to Assets. I'll open this AfterBuild text file. I'll copy this and then paste that right in here. So this says, "Go out to the DOS command." We call the command prompt now, right? "We are going to find the project directory and get this file, App.config.test, and then we are going to make a copy of it, and we are going to put it in the target directory--the output directory--and then in the new folder I just created, buildDemo, and then use this token to rename the file." Let's see if it works.

Right-click here and choose Open Folder in Explorer, open the bin folder, open the Debug folder, drill down into there, and there, I was successful. I have a CustomBuildProcess.config file. There's more I could do with these events. I could build a batch file, for example. The build engine is customizable too. You can create your own build tasks in .NET code and then add them to the build script. Be sure and check out more details in MSDN help.

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This video is part of

Image for Visual Studio 2010 Essential Training
Visual Studio 2010 Essential Training

86 video lessons · 30905 viewers

Walt Ritscher
Author

 
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  1. 2m 3s
    1. Welcome
      1m 2s
    2. Using the exercise files
      1m 1s
  2. 7m 19s
    1. Understanding the Visual Studio versions
      3m 51s
    2. Setting up your developer computer
      3m 28s
  3. 58m 2s
    1. Creating a Visual Studio project
      4m 58s
    2. Working with Solution Explorer
      6m 32s
    3. Working with big projects
      3m 53s
    4. Taking a tour of the Integrated Developer Environment (IDE)
      8m 36s
    5. Introducing drag-and-drop UI design
      7m 38s
    6. Working with the Properties window
      6m 44s
    7. Looking at Server Explorer
      7m 4s
    8. Exploring the new Help engine
      6m 41s
    9. Setting options for the IDE
      5m 56s
  4. 39m 25s
    1. Creating a simple WPF application
      1m 32s
    2. Building the UI with the editors
      9m 14s
    3. Working with the application code
      3m 37s
    4. Communicating with the web site
      7m 15s
    5. Connecting your data
      8m 4s
    6. Binding to an RSS feed
      5m 4s
    7. Packaging and deploying the application
      4m 39s
  5. 39m 46s
    1. What languages are supported in Visual Studio 2010?
      1m 17s
    2. Exploring basic settings for the Code Editor
      5m 35s
    3. Writing a C# program
      6m 48s
    4. Writing a VB program
      6m 29s
    5. Working with C++
      6m 38s
    6. Working with F Sharp
      6m 9s
    7. Font and color options
      6m 50s
  6. 1h 5m
    1. Formatting your code
      6m 43s
    2. Navigating your code
      7m 44s
    3. Using the Task List
      2m 26s
    4. Commenting your code
      2m 45s
    5. Documenting your code
      8m 26s
    6. Using IntelliSense effectively
      7m 0s
    7. Working with code snippets
      6m 25s
    8. Refactoring your code
      5m 15s
    9. Understanding code generation
      2m 10s
    10. Generating code with T4
      6m 29s
    11. Using the Class View, Class Designer, and Class Diagram tools
      5m 51s
    12. Refactoring VB with CodeRush Xpress
      4m 33s
  7. 1h 11m
    1. Working with project and item templates
      8m 38s
    2. Creating a console application
      7m 5s
    3. Creating a class library
      6m 26s
    4. Creating a web site with ASP.NET
      7m 37s
    5. Creating a rich internet application with Silverlight
      6m 57s
    6. Creating a classic Windows application with Windows Forms
      10m 31s
    7. Creating a dramatic Windows application with Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)
      4m 41s
    8. Creating a WCF service
      9m 1s
    9. Using an existing WCF service
      6m 38s
    10. Navigation UI designs with the Document Outline view
      3m 41s
  8. 33m 18s
    1. Creating a data project with SQL Project
      6m 24s
    2. Clarifying the confusion on .NET Data
      3m 31s
    3. Using ADO.NET in your application
      6m 50s
    4. Creating typed datasets
      7m 55s
    5. Using the data binding tools
      8m 38s
  9. 30m 13s
    1. Debugging code
      9m 32s
    2. Working with the Watch and other debug windows
      7m 46s
    3. Other debugging techniques
      6m 50s
    4. IntelliTrace historical debugging in Visual Studio Ultimate
      6m 5s
  10. 17m 56s
    1. Understanding Visual Studio editions and test tools
      2m 22s
    2. Verifying your code with unit tests
      8m 58s
    3. Running performance and load tests
      6m 36s
  11. 34m 5s
    1. Building your application
      4m 19s
    2. Customizing the build process with MSBuild
      6m 36s
    3. Setting assembly information
      2m 12s
    4. Deploying a basic Windows application
      2m 19s
    5. Creating an installer with Visual Studio
      7m 39s
    6. Creating a ClickOnce application
      5m 13s
    7. Setting up IIS for deploy
      2m 9s
    8. Deploying a Silverlight or ASP.NET application
      3m 38s
  12. 14m 0s
    1. Understanding source control
      2m 9s
    2. Setting up Team Foundation Server source control
      3m 5s
    3. Using Team Foundation Server source control
      8m 46s
  13. 17m 31s
    1. Understanding the .NET Office integration
      4m 16s
    2. Making a Word 2010 application
      7m 54s
    3. Making an Excel 2010 add-in
      5m 21s
  14. 31m 34s
    1. Understanding the extensibility model in Visual Studio
      2m 17s
    2. Adding external tools to the Tools menu
      4m 42s
    3. Creating macros
      7m 16s
    4. Using the Extension Manager
      5m 1s
    5. Creating an MEF add-in
      7m 9s
    6. Deploying and installing an add-in with VSIX
      5m 9s
  15. 25m 34s
    1. Working with configuration files
      5m 37s
    2. Using the Settings Editor
      7m 30s
    3. Using the Resources Editor
      6m 59s
    4. Localizing your resources
      5m 28s
  16. 1m 17s
    1. Goodbye
      1m 17s

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