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Introduction to MSBuild

MSBuild is a free and open-source build tool from Microsoft that helps automate the process of creating a software product, including compiling the source code, packaging, testing, deployment and creating documentations.

... Bild By Markus Fleschutz 📅 06 APR 2018

The MSBuild release version is v15.0 provided by Visual Studio 2017 and v16.0 provided by Visual Studio VS2019. It's licensed under the MIT license.

MSBuild is based on XML files: projects typically have a solution file (suffix .sln, which include dependancies) and a project file (suffix .vcxproj). The XML format is based on: properties (key-value pairs), items (list of things, typically files) with metadata, targets and tasks

A Target contains a set of tasks for MSBuild to execute. The focus of MSBuild is the result Target specified when invoking MSBuild with the project file. This is because a Project may contain several Target entries, each executed sequentially (and conditionally). Subsequent dependent Targets are executed before the requested Target. The execution flow of the current Target can be directed using the following attributes: Condition, BeforeTargets, AfterTargets, & DependsOnTargets. Each Target may be self-contained with the necessary Tasks to complete itself. A Target is typically an action executed on a file, set of files or directory.

A Task is a command which is executed in order to complete a Target. Tasks are used to group and execute any number of actions during the build process. They are typically implemented in a .NET assembly as a class which inherits from the Task class or implements the ITask interface. Many basic tasks are shipped as part of the .NET Framework and community developed tasks are freely available. Some examples of Tasks include copying files, creating directories, or parsing XML.

MSBuild provides Properties and Items, which are conceptually equivalent to make's macros. Properties specify static values, whereas Items are usually used to define sets of files or folders on which to perform Tasks. Specifying files on Items is made easy by the support of wildcards.

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