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Initial release2003; 16 years ago (2003)
Stable release
15.6.82 / 13 March 2018; 15 months ago (2018-03-13)[1]
Repository Edit this at Wikidata
Written inC#
Platform.NET Framework
TypeBuild tool
LicenseMIT License

Microsoft Build Engine, better known as MSBuild,[2][3] is a free and open-source build tool set for managed code as well as native C++ code and was part of .NET Framework. Visual Studio depends on MSBuild, but not the vice versa.[4] Visual Studio Application Lifecycle Management depends on MSBuild to perform team builds via the Team Foundation Server.[4]


MSBuild is a build tool that helps automate the process of creating a software product, including compiling the source code, packaging, testing, deployment and creating documentations. With MSBuild, it is possible to build Visual Studio projects and solutions without the Visual Studio IDE installed. MSBuild is free and open-source.[5] MSBuild was previously bundled with .NET Framework; starting with Visual Studio 2013, however, it is bundled with Visual Studio instead.[6] MSBuild is a functional replacement for the nmake utility, which remains in use in projects that originated in older Visual Studio releases.

MSBuild acts on MSBuild project files which have a similar XML syntax to Apache Ant or NAnt. Even though the syntax is based upon well-defined XML schema, the fundamental structure and operation is comparable to the traditional Unix make utility: the user specifies what will be used (typically source code files) and what the result should be (typically a static library, DLL or an executable application), but the utility itself decides what to do and the order in which to carry out the build.

MSBuild can build a project against a supported .NET Framework version of choice. This feature is called "multitargeting". Any given build of a project, however, can only target one version of the framework at a time.[7]


MSBuild was first created in 2003 targeting .NET Framework 2.0 for use in Visual Studio 2005 (codenamed Whidbey)[8] and Windows Vista (codenamed Longhorn).[9][10]


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,[11] and community developed tasks are freely available. Some examples of Tasks include copying files, creating directories, or parsing XML.
Properties and Items
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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Releases · Microsoft/msbuild". GitHub. Microsoft. Retrieved 2018-02-16.
  2. ^ Microsoft/msbuild. Microsoft. Retrieved 11 March 2018 – via GitHub.
  3. ^ Hashimi, Sayed Ibrahim; Bartholomew, William (2009). Inside the Microsoft Build Engine: Using MSBuild and Team Foundation Build. Microsoft Press. p. 406. ISBN 978-0-7356-2628-7.
  4. ^ a b "MSBuild". MSDN. Microsoft. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  5. ^ Lander, Rich (18 March 2015). "MSBuild Engine is now Open Source on GitHub". .NET Blog. Microsoft. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  6. ^ "What's New in MSBuild 12.0". MSDN. Microsoft. Retrieved 10 March 2014.
  7. ^ "MSBuild Multitargeting Overview". MSDN. Microsoft. Retrieved 11 December 2013.
  8. ^ "Building, Testing, and Deployment". What's New in Visual Studio 2005. MSDN. Microsoft. Archived from the original on 2014-08-26.
  9. ^ Sneath, Tim (July 19, 2004). "MSBuild: The New Build System for Visual Studio 2005 and Longhorn". Tim Sneath. MSDN Blogs. Retrieved 2018-04-22.
  10. ^ England, Chuck (February 25, 2010). "Getting Started with MSBuild". The Visual Studio Blog. MSDN Blogs. Retrieved 2018-04-22.
  11. ^ "MSBuild Task Reference". MSDN. Microsoft. Retrieved 11 March 2015.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]