Asked  7 Months ago    Answers:  5   Viewed   304 times

I have four projects in my Visual Studio solution (everyone targeting .NET 3.5) - for my problem only these two are important:

  1. MyBaseProject <- this class library references a third-party DLL file (elmah.dll)
  2. MyWebProject1 <- this web application project has a reference to MyBaseProject

I added the elmah.dll reference to MyBaseProject in Visual studio 2008 by clicking "Add reference..." ? "Browse" tab ? selecting the "elmah.dll".

The Properties of the Elmah Reference are as follows:

  • Aliases - global
  • Copy local - true
  • Culture -
  • Description - Error Logging Modules and Handlers (ELMAH) for ASP.NET
  • File Type - Assembly
  • Path - D:websotherfolder_myPath__toolselmahElmah.dll
  • Resolved - True
  • Runtime version - v2.0.50727
  • Specified version - false
  • Strong Name - false
  • Version - 1.0.11211.0

In MyWebProject1 I added the reference to Project MyBaseProject by: "Add reference..." ? "Projects" tab ? selecting the "MyBaseProject". The Properties of this reference are the same except the following members:

  • Description -
  • Path - D:websCMSMyBaseProjectbinDebugMyBaseProject.dll
  • Version -

If I run the build in Visual Studio the elmah.dll file is copied to my MyWebProject1's bin directory, along with MyBaseProject.dll!

However if I clean and run MSBuild for the solution (via D:websCMS> C:WINDOWSMicrosoft.NETFrameworkv3.5MSBuild.exe /t:ReBuild /p:Configuration=Debug MyProject.sln) the elmah.dll is missing in MyWebProject1's bin directory - although the build itself contains no warning or errors!

I already made sure that the .csproj of MyBaseProject contains the private element with the value "true" (that should be an alias for "copy local" in Visual Studio):

<Reference Include="Elmah, Version=1.0.11211.0, Culture=neutral, processorArchitecture=MSIL">

(The private tag didn't appear in the .csproj's xml by default, although Visual Studio said "copy local" true. I switched "copy local" to false - saved - and set it back to true again - save!)

What is wrong with MSBuild? How do I get the (elmah.dll) reference copied to MyWebProject1's bin?

I do NOT want to add a postbuild copy action to every project's postbuild command! (Imagine I would have many projects depend on MyBaseProject!)



I'm not sure why it is different when building between Visual Studio and MsBuild, but here is what I have found when I've encountered this problem in MsBuild and Visual Studio.


For a sample scenario let's say we have project X, assembly A, and assembly B. Assembly A references assembly B, so project X includes a reference to both A and B. Also, project X includes code that references assembly A (e.g. A.SomeFunction()). Now, you create a new project Y which references project X.

So the dependency chain looks like this: Y => X => A => B

Visual Studio / MSBuild tries to be smart and only bring references over into project Y that it detects as being required by project X; it does this to avoid reference pollution in project Y. The problem is, since project X doesn't actually contain any code that explicitly uses assembly B (e.g. B.SomeFunction()), VS/MSBuild doesn't detect that B is required by X, and thus doesn't copy it over into project Y's bin directory; it only copies the X and A assemblies.


You have two options to solve this problem, both of which will result in assembly B being copied to project Y's bin directory:

  1. Add a reference to assembly B in project Y.
  2. Add dummy code to a file in project X that uses assembly B.

Personally I prefer option 2 for a couple reasons.

  1. If you add another project in the future that references project X, you won't have to remember to also include a reference to assembly B (like you would have to do with option 1).
  2. You can have explicit comments saying why the dummy code needs to be there and not to remove it. So if somebody does delete the code by accident (say with a refactor tool that looks for unused code), you can easily see from source control that the code is required and to restore it. If you use option 1 and somebody uses a refactor tool to clean up unused references, you don't have any comments; you will just see that a reference was removed from the .csproj file.

Here is a sample of the "dummy code" that I typically add when I encounter this situation.

    private void DummyFunctionToMakeSureReferencesGetCopiedProperly_DO_NOT_DELETE_THIS_CODE()
        // Assembly A is used by this file, and that assembly depends on assembly B,
        // but this project does not have any code that explicitly references assembly B. Therefore, when another project references
        // this project, this project's assembly and the assembly A get copied to the project's bin directory, but not
        // assembly B. So in order to get the required assembly B copied over, we add some dummy code here (that never
        // gets called) that references assembly B; this will flag VS/MSBuild to copy the required assembly B over as well.
        var dummyType = typeof(B.SomeClass);
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
answered 7 Months ago

I have finally managed to perform automatically the copy from Project B without having to modify it. IIya was not so far from the solution, but the fact is that I cannot generate statically as the list of files to generate from Project A with MyCustomTask is dynamic. After digging more into Microsoft.Common.targets, I have found that ProjectB will get the list of output from Project A by calling the target GetCopyToOutputDirectoryItems. This target is dependent from AssignTargetPaths which itself is dependent on the target list property AssignTargetPathsDependsOn.

So in order to generate dynamically content and to get this content being copied automatically through standard project dependency, we need to hook Project A at two different places:

  • In AssignTargetPathsDependsOn as it is called indirectly by Project B on Project A through GetCopyToOutputDirectoryItems. And also it is indirectly called by Project A when PrepareResource is called. Here, we are just outputing the list of files that will be generated (by Project A) or consumed by Project B. AssignTargetPathsDependsOn will call a custom task MyCustomTaskList which is only responsible to output the list of files (but not to generate them), this list of files will create dynamic "Content" with CopyOutputDirectory.
  • In BuildDependsOn in order to actually generate the content in Project A. This will call MyCustomTask that will generate the content.

All of this was setup like this in ProjectA:

<!-- In Project A -->

<!-- Task to generate the files -->
<UsingTask TaskName="MyCustomTask" AssemblyFile="$(PathToMyCustomTaskAssembly)"/>

<!-- Task to output the list of generated of files - It doesn't generate the file -->
<UsingTask TaskName="MyCustomTaskList" AssemblyFile="$(PathToMyCustomTaskAssembly)"/>

<!-- 1st PART : When Project A is built, It will generate effectively the files -->

<Target Name="MyCustomTaskTarget">
  <!-- Call MyCustomTask generate the files files that will be generated by MyCustomTask -->

<!-- 2nd PART : When Project B is built, It will call GetCopyToOutputDirectoryItems on ProjectA so we need to generate this list when it is called  -->
<!-- For this we need to override AssignTargetPathsDependsOn in order to generate the list of files -->
<!-- as GetCopyToOutputDirectoryItems  ultimately depends on AssignTargetPathsDependsOn -->
<!-- Content need to be generated before AssignTargets, because AssignTargets will prepare all files to be copied later by GetCopyToOutputDirectoryItems -->
<!-- This part is also called from ProjectA when target 'PrepareResources' is called -->

<Target Name="MyCustomTaskListTarget">

  <!-- Call MyCustomTaskList generating the list of files that will be generated by MyCustomTask -->
      <Output TaskParameter="ContentFiles" ItemName="MyCustomContent"/>

    <!--Generate the lsit of content generated by MyCustomTask -->
    <Content Include="@(MyCustomContent)" KeepMetadata="Link;CopyToOutputDirectory"/>

This method is working with anykind of C# projects that is using Common.Targets (so It is working with pure Desktop, WinRT XAML App or Windows Phone 8 projects).

Thursday, June 24, 2021
answered 6 Months ago

It's based on the project file type. The older Full Framework project file gives you the References area, whereas the newer project files give you the Dependencies area. In other words, as long as it's a .NET Framework 4.7 project, there's nothing you can do about it.

That said, you can simply make it a .NET Standard 2.0 project, which does benefit from the new-style project file. Really, all your class libraries should be targeting .NET Standard, anyways, for greater interoperability.

Friday, August 6, 2021
answered 4 Months ago

To see other files in the solution explorer click the "Show All Files" button as shown in the image below. This will allow you to see all the files in your project folder.

enter image description here

Right-click in each file you want to add and select "Include in project"

I hope this can help you.

Sunday, August 15, 2021
answered 4 Months ago

Like John Saunders said, you need to have a master MSBuild file that handles the process.

Here is a sample using MSBuild Community Tasks : GetSolutionProjects that gets the projects for a given solution

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Project xmlns="" DefaultTargets="Package">

  <Import Project="$(MSBuildExtensionsPath)MSBuildCommunityTasksMSBuild.Community.Tasks.Targets"/>

  <!-- Specify here, the solution you want to compile-->
    <Solution Include="C:slndirsolution.sln"/>


    <!-- Your deployment directory -->

  <!-- Gets the projects composing the specified solution -->
  <Target Name="GetProjectsFromSolution">
    <GetSolutionProjects Solution="%(Solution.Fullpath)">
      <Output ItemName="ProjectFiles" TaskParameter="Output"/>

  <Target Name="CompileProject" DependsOnTargets="GetProjectsFromSolution">
      Foreach project files
        Call MSBuild Build Target specifying the outputDir with the project filename.
    <MSBuild Projects="%(ProjectFiles.Fullpath)"
Wednesday, September 15, 2021
answered 3 Months ago
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