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TFS Build: _PublishedWebsites for exe and dll Projects

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TFS Build: _PublishedWebsites for exe and dll Projects

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We’re using TFS on my current project. Yes, yes, I know.

It’s generally good practice to collect all the code under your team’s control in a single uber-solution as described in this Patterns and Practices PDF, Team Development with TFS Guide. If you then configure the TFS build server to build this solution, it’s default behaviour is to place the build output into a single folder, ‘Release’.

Any web application projects in your solution will also be output to a folder called _PublishedWebsites\<name of project>. This is very nice because it means that you can simply robocopy deploy the web application.

Unfortunately there’s no similar default behaviour for other project types such as WinForms, console or library. It would be very nice if we could have a _PublishedApplications\<name of project> sub folder with the output of any selected project(s). Fortunately it’s not that hard to do.

The way _PublishedWebsites works is pretty simple. If you look at the project file of your web application you’ll notice an import near the bottom:

<Import Project="$(MSBuildExtensionsPath)\Microsoft\VisualStudio\v9.0\WebApplications\Microsoft.WebApplication.targets" />

On my machine the MSBuildExtensionsPath property evaluates to C:\Program Files\MSBuild, if we open the Microsoft.WebApplication.targets file we can see that it’s a pretty simple MSBuild file that recognises when the build is not a desktop build, i.e. it’s a TFS build, and copies the output to:


I simply copied the Micrsoft.WebApplication.targets file, put it under source control with a relative path from my project files and changed _PublishedWebsites to _PublishedApplications and renamed the file CI.exe.targets. For each project that I want to output to _PublishedApplications, I simply added this import at the bottom of the project file:

<Import Project="<your relative path>\CI.exe.targets" />

You can edit CI.exe.targets (or whatever you want to call it) to do your bidding. In my case, the only change so far is to add a couple of lines to copy the App.config file:

<Copy SourceFiles="$(OutDir)$(TargetFileName).config" DestinationFolder="$(WebProjectOutputDir)\bin" SkipUnchangedFiles="true" />

There’s a lot of stuff in Microsoft.WebApplication.targets that’s only relevant to web applications and can be stripped out for other project types, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

There was also a discussion on StackOverflow, with some nice alternative suggestions of how you might want to do this. It’s worth checking out.



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