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Plans regarding Website projects and Web Deployment Projects

The release of Visual Studio 2012 is right around the corner. If you’ve been following our blog/twitter then you may know that many of the Web related components of Visual Studio are now“out-of-band”, meaning that we can update them independently of Visual Studio itself. Because of this we are planning to ship updates a few times a year. We are currently in the process for planning our first update for VS 2012 and we wanted to share some of the items that we are planning to work on. We would like to get your feedback on these ideas to ensure that we are doing the right things. If you have comments please do let us know. FYI the updates that I describe below will be made available for both VS 2012 as well as VS 2010.

Website Project Updates

When you use Visual Studio there are two types of web projects you can create: a Web Application Project (WAP, this includes MVC) and a Website Project (WSP). In VS 2012 we did a lot of work to update the publish experience for WAPs. When we set out for these updates we planned to take these enhancements and make the available to Website projects as well. As we progressed it became evident that we did not have the resources to implement the features for both WAP and WSP in time for VS 2012. So we focused on creating the right experience for WAPs and we also added an extensibility point into WSP which will allow us to replace the existing publish dialog. The reason why we focused on WAP first was because WAPs already have support for Web Deploy (MSDeploy) based publishing as well as a formal build/publish process captured in MSBuild. WSP does not have either of these so it would have taken more time to start with WSP.

When VS 2012 is released the publish experience for WSP will be the same which was available in VS2010 but we will have a release a few months after the release which will bring all the publish goodness to Website Projects! This will include all the features which are available to Web Application Projects including; the ability to publish using.

Since both project systems will be using the exact same code whenever we add a feature it will immediately be available to both. In today’s world they are two entirely different code bases (the WSP publishing experience is currently native code where as the WAP publish dialog is managed). This will allow us to maintain a consistent publish experience and also enable us to deliver features more quickly.

Since WSP does not have a “build” process you might be wondering how we are planning to hook this all together since our entire publish pipeline is captured in MSBuild. Here is a rough idea of what we are currently thinking. After you use the new publish dialog to create a publish profile for the first time we will do a number of things:

  1. Create a new folder to contain needed artifacts
    1. The folder may be in the root of the Website project, but we are considering placing it somewhere outside as well
    2. The name of this folder is not yet finalized, but it could be something like _Publish or _Project
  2. Create an MSBuild file for the Website in that folder, this will capture information like; included files, references, properties to control publish process
    1. The primary purpose of dropping this file is to facilitate command line publish scenarios, without this we could publish from Visual Studio but not from the command line
    2. When you make changes in Visual Studio like adding a reference we will automatically keep this file up to date
  3. Create the publish profile in that folder (this is a .pubxml file)
  4. When the site is being published the working directory (i.e. obj\ folder) will be outside the root of the website, most likely in the same folder which contains the WSP root

After we have those things in place for the most part the publish dialog will be able to treat both projects in the same way. These files will by default be stored in version control and can be shared with other team members. Sensitive information such as the MSDeploy password will be stored in another file and encrypted per-user/per-machine in a .user file which is not checked in.

Web Deployment Projects

A few months after Visual Studio 2005 shipped we released the first version of Web Deployment Projects, and we updated WDP for both VS 2008 and VS 2010 and released them a few months after each of those releases as well. WDPs are used for a few different scenarios including the following.

  1. Publishing a Website project using MSDeploy
  2. Command line publish support
  3. Customizing the publish process for a WAP
  4. Running ASP.NET precompile/merge for a WSP or WAP

When we looked at the scenarios that WDPs are typically used for and then compared that to features which we have for WAP and WSP (after the updates mentioned above) we noticed that most (if not all) scenarios where WDP is used can be covered without requiring a WDP. Our new publish experience already has first class support for MSDeploy, command line publishing, and for extensibility so that covers #1-#3. Regarding #4 for WAPs we have already added ASP.NET precompile/merge as a publish option (you can find it in the Package/Publish Web tab). Since WSP does not have any property pages we are likely to move that option to being on the publish dialog itself or we will expose those options in another way for WSP. We have not yet settled on that design.

It may not seem like it but updating WDP to support VS2012 is a significant effort. Knowing that, and that most of the scenarios where WDP are used can now be transitioned to the new experience, we have decided to invest in giving WSP projects first class publishing support instead of updating VS 2012 to support WDP. We think that this is the right decision because we are unifying the publish experience for both project systems and it allows us to create a deeper set of features going forward instead of investing in different things and wasting effort. If you have a scenario that you think we have missed please do not hesitate to reach out to me by email at sayedha@microsoft.com and let me know.

Sayed Ibrahim Hashimi | @SayedIHashimi

asp.net | MSDeploy | Visual Studio | Visual Studio 2010 | Visual Studio 2012 | Web Publishing Pipeline Monday, 06 August 2012 22:16:47 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
Friday, 15 June 2012

Downloading the Visual Studio Web Publish Updates

I have written a few posts recently describing out updated web publish experience. These new experience is available for both Visual Studio 2010 as well as Visual Studio 2012 RC. You can use the links below to download these updates in the Azure SDK download. Below are links for both versions.

The Web Publish experience is chained into VS 2012 RC so if you have installed VS 2012 RC with the Web features then you already have these features.

Sayed Ibrahim Hashimi @SayedIHashimi

asp.net | Deployment | Visual Studio | Visual Studio 11 | Visual Studio 2010 | web | Web Deployment Tool | Web Publishing Pipeline Friday, 15 June 2012 20:30:40 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Visual Studio 2010 Web Publish Updates

Last week we rolled out some updates for our Visual Studio 2010 Web Publishing Experience. This post will give you an overview of the new features which we released. In the coming weeks there will be more posts getting into more details regarding individual features.

You can get these updates in the Windows Azure SDK for Visual Studio 2010. When you download that package there you will also get the latest tools for Azure development.

The new high level features include the following.


When you right click on your Web Application Project (WAP) you will now see the new publish dialog.


On this tab you can import a .publishSettngs file, which many web hosts provide, and you can also manage your publish profiles. If you are hosting your site on Windows Azure Web Sites then you can download the publish profile on the dashboard of the site using the Download publish profile link. After you import this publish profile you will be brought to the Connection tab automatically.


On this tab you can see all the server configuration values which are needed for your client machine to connect to the server. Typically you don’t have to worry about the details of these values. Next you’ll go to the Settings tab.


On the Settings tab you can set the build configuration which should be used for the publish process, the default value here is Release. There is also a checkbox to enable you to delete any files on the server which do not exist in the project.

Below that checkbox you will see a section for databases. The sample project shown has an Entity Framework Code First model, named ContactsContext, and it uses Code First Migrations to manage the database schema. If you have any non-EF Code First connection strings in web.config then those databases will show up as well but the support for incrementally publishing the schema for those has not yet been finalized. We are currently working on that. You can visit my previous blog entry for more info on that.

If you imported a .publishSettings file with a connection string then that connection string would automatically be inserted in the textbox/dropdown for the connection string. If you did not then you can use the … button to create a connection string with the Connection String Builder dialog or you can simply type/paste in a connection string. For the EF Code First contexts you will see the Execute Code Frist Migrations checkbox. When you check this when your site is published the web.config will be transformed to enable the Code First migrations to be executed the first time that the context is accessed. Now you can move to the Preview tab.

When you first come to the Preview tab you will see a Start Preview button. Once you click this button you will see the file operations which would be performed once you publish. Since this site has never been published all the file operations are Add, as you can see in the image below. The other Action values include; Update and Delete.


Once you are ready to publish you can click the Publish button. You can monitor the progress of the publish process using the Output Window. If your publish profile had a value for the Destination URL then the site will automatically be opened in the default browser after the publish has successfully completed.

Publish Profiles

One of the other changes in the publish experience is that publish profiles are now stored as a part of your project. They are stored under the folder Properties\PublishProfiles (for VB projects its My Project\PublishProfiles) and the extension is .pubxml. You can see this in the image below.


These .pubxml files are MSBuild files and you can modify these files in order to customize the publish process. If you do not want the publish profile to be checked into version control you can simply exclude it from the project. The publish dialog will look at the files in the PublishProfiles folder so you will still be able to publish using that profile. You can also leverage these publish profiles to simply publishing from the command line. For example you can use the following syntax to publish from the command line.

msbuild.exe WebApplication2.csproj /p:DeployOnBuild=true;PublishProfile="pubdemo - Web Deploy";Password={INSERT-PASSWORD}



If you have any questions please feel free to directly reach out to me at sayedha(at){MicrosoftDOTCom}.

Sayed Ibrahim Hashimi @SayedIHashimi

asp.net | Microsoft | MSDeploy | Visual Studio 2010 | web | Web Deployment Tool | Web Publishing Pipeline Friday, 15 June 2012 20:07:30 (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
Thursday, 11 November 2010

ASP.NET Web Application: Publish/Package Tokenizing Parameters

Today I just saw a question posted on stackoverflow.com asking Why are some Web.config transforms tokenised into SetParameters.xml and others are not? Let me give some background on this topic for those who are not aware of what the question is.

With Visual Studio 2010 when you package your application using the Build Deployment Package context menu option, see image below.


When build the package by default the package will be created in obj\{Configuration}\Package\{ProjectName}.zip where {Configuration} is the current build configuration, and {ProjectName} is the name of the project. So in this case I since I’m building with Debug and the project name is MvcApplication1 the package will be placed at obj\Debug\Package\MvcApplication1.zip. If you take this package and then import into IIS 7 with the “Import Application” option shown below. Note: The machine must have the Web Deployment Tool (aka MSDeploy) installed.


Once you click on Import Application then browse out to the package you will be shown a screen which prompts your for parameters. Its shown below.


On this screen you can see that we are prompting for a couple parameter values here. One is an IIS setting, Application Path, and the other is a connection string which will be placed inside the web.config file. If your Web Application Project (WAP)  had 5 different connection strings then they would automatically show up here on this page. Since connection strings are replaced so often we create parameters for all connection strings by default. You can define new parameters on your own, quite easily actually, but that is the topic for another blog post.

Now back to the question. He is asking why do we “tokenize” the connection strings in web.config. To clarify take a look at my web.config file below.

    <add key="setting01" value="value01"/>
    <add name="ApplicationServices"
         connectionString="data source=.\SQLEXPRESS;Integrated Security=SSPI;AttachDBFilename=|DataDirectory|aspnetdb.mdf;User Instance=true"
         providerName="System.Data.SqlClient" />

After I perform a package this will get changed. Take a look @ the web.config file which resides in the package (you can get to the file at obj\{CofigurationName}\Package\PackageTmp\web.config). You will see what is shown below.

    <add key="setting01" value="value01"/>
    <add name="ApplicationServices"
         connectionString="$(ReplacableToken_ApplicationServices-Web.config Connection String_0)"
         providerName="System.Data.SqlClient" />


So his question is why is the connection string replaced with $(ReplacableToken_ApplicationServices-Web.config Connection String_0) and nothing else is? We do this because we do not want you to accidently copy your web to a location and have it executing SQL statements against a SQL server which you did not intend. The idea is that you will create a package that you can deploy to many different environments. So the value that was in your web.config (or web.debug.config/web.release.config if you are using a web.config transformation) will not be placed inside the web.config in the package. Instead those values will be used as defaults in the package itself. We also create a SetParameters.xml file for you so that you can tweak the values. For my app see the MvcApplication1.SetParameters.xml file below.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
  <setParameter name="IIS Web Application Name" 
                value="Default Web Site/MvcApplication1_deploy" />
  <setParameter name="ApplicationServices-Web.config Connection String" 
                value="data source=.\SQLEXPRESS;Integrated Security=SSPI;AttachDBFilename=|DataDirectory|aspnetdb.mdf;User Instance=true" />

The idea is that you can deploy your package in 2 ways. Through the IIS Manager which will prompt you for the parameters or you can deploy using msdeploy.exe with the –setParamFile switch to specify the path to the SetParameters.xml file. In this case I could create a QA01.SetParameters.xml file along with a QA02.SetParameters.xml file to deploy my web to my two QA servers. How do we do this?

How connection strings are tokenized

You might be wondering how the connection strings are tokenized to begin with. With Visual Studio 2010 we released web.config transformations, which all you to write terse web.config transformations inside of files like web.debug.config/web.release.config. When you package/publish your web these transform files are used to transform your web.config based on what you expressed in the appropriate transform file. We have an MSBuild task TransformXml which performs the transformation. We use that same task to tokenize the connection strings. If you are interested in the details take a look at %ProgramFiles32%\MSBuild\Microsoft\VisualStudio\v10.0\Web\Microsoft.Web.Publishing.targets in the AutoParameterizationWebConfigConnectionStringsCore target.

Now what if you do not want the connection string tokenized?

Prevent tokenizing connection strings

If you want to prevent your web.config connection strings from being tokenized it’s pretty easy. All we need to do is the add a property to the build/package/publish process. We can do that in 2 ways. Edit the project file itself or create a file with the name {ProjectName}.wpp.targets where {ProjectName} is the name of your project. The second approach is easier so I use that. In my case it would be MvcApplication1.wpp.targets. The contents of the file are shown below.

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Project xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/developer/msbuild/2003">


Note: You may need to reload the project in Visual Studio for this to take effect.

Inside of this file I have declared the property, AutoParameterizationWebConfigConnectionStrings, to be false. This is telling the Web Publishing Pipeline (WPP) that it should not replace replace the connection strings with tokens, instead leave them as they are.


Other Resources

asp.net | Deployment | msbuild | MSBuild 4.0 | MSDeploy Thursday, 11 November 2010 05:41:09 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #     |