- | rssFeed | My book on MSBuild and Team Build | Archives and Categories Monday, August 20, 2012

Web Deploy (MSDeploy) how to sync a folder

Today I saw the following question on StackOverflow MSDeploy - Deploying Contents of a Folder to a Remote IIS Server and decided to write this post to answer the question.

Web Deploy (aka MSDeploy) uses a provider model and there are a good number of providers available out of the box. To give you an example of some of the providers; when syncing an IIS web application you will use iisApp, for an MSDeploy package you will use package, for a web server webServer, etc. If you want to sync a local folder to a remote IIS path then you can use the contentPath provider. You can also use this provider to sync a folder from one website to another website.

The general idea of what we want to do in this case is to sync a folder from your PC to your IIS website. Calls to msdeploy.exe can be a bit verbose so let’s construct the command one step at at time. We will use the template below.

msdeploy.exe -verb:sync -source:contentPath="" -dest:contentPath=""

We use the sync verb to describe what we are trying to do, and then use the contentPath provider for both the source and the dest. Now let’s fill in what those values should be. For the source value you will need to pass in the full path to the folder that you want to sync. In my case the files are at C:\temp\files-to-pub. For the dest value you will give the path to the folder as an IIS path. In my case the website that I’m syncing to is named sayedupdemo so the IIS path that I want to sync is ‘sayedupdemo/files-to-pub’. Now that give us.

msdeploy.exe –verb:sync -source:contentPath="C:\temp\files-to-pub" -dest:contentPath='sayedupdemo/files-to-pub'

For the dest value we have not given any parameters indicating what server those command are supposed to be sent to. We will need to add those parameters. The parameters which typically need to be passed in are.

In my case I’m publishing to a Windows Azure Web Site. So the values that I will use are:

All of these values can be found in the .publishSettings file (can be downloaded from Web Site dashboard from WindowsAzure.com). For the ComputerName value you will need to append the name of your site to get the full URL. In the example above I manually added ?site=sayedupdemo, this is the same name as shown in the Azure portal. So now the command which we have is.


OK we are almost there! In my case I want to make sure that I do not delete any files from the server during this process. So I will also add –enableRule:DoNotDeleteRule. So our command is now.


At this point before I execute this command I’ll first execute it passing –whatif. This will give me a summary of what operations will be without actually causing any changes. When I do this the result is shown in the image below.


After I verified that the changes are all intentional, I removed the –whatif and executed the command. After that the local files were published to the remote server. Now that I have synced the files each publish after this will be result in only changed files being published.

If you want to learn how to snyc an individual file you can see my previous blog post How to take your web app offline during publishing.


In the case of the question it was asked with dest:auto, you can use that but you will have to pass in the IIS app name as a parameter and it will replace the path to the folder. Below is the command.


Sayed Ibrahim Hashimi @SayedIHashimi

MSDeploy | Visual Studio | web | Web Deployment Tool Monday, August 20, 2012 4:08:11 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
Sunday, August 19, 2012

Profile specific web.config transforms and transform preview

When we released VS2010 we add support for web.config (XDT) transforms during publish/package. Note: From now on I’ll only use the word publish from now on but the full content relates to packaging as well. In the original implementation when you published your web project the web.config file would be transformed by the file web.{Configuration}.config, where {Configuration} is the project build configuration. For example Debug, or Release. If you publish on Release and there exists a web.release.config we will take your web.config and transform it with web.release.config before publishing.

Cascading web.config transformations

In VS 2012 (as well as the publishing updates for VS2010 through the Azure SDK) now support the concept of publish specific transforms. You can also now specify the project configuration used for a profile when publishing on the publish dialog.


In this case I have created a profile named Production and set the Configuration to Release. When I publish this project the following transformations will be applied (if the files exist) in this order.

  1. web.release.config
  2. web.production.config

I think that we got this wrong when we initially implemented the support. We should have created profile specific transforms instead of ones based on build config, but having these cascading transforms are still pretty useful. For example I may want to remove the attribute debug=”true” from the compilation element and then inside of the profile specific transform we would override appSettings/WCF endpoints/logging config/etc for that environment.

In VS there is a right-click option on web.config for Add Config Transform, but we were not able to update the functionality of that to automatically create profile specific transforms. Don’t worry it will be released soon with our first set of updates for web tooling. For now you will need to create a new file with the correct name and add it to your project. Note: if you want it to show up nested under web.config you’ll need to add the metadata <DependentUpon>Web.config</DependentUpon> to the item in the .csproj/.vbproj file.

web.config transform preview

Previously the only way to test the functionality for these transformation was to actually publish or package the web project. This gets old pretty quick. In order to simplify creating these transforms we have introduced the Preview Transform menu option. This is the coolest feature in VS 2012 (OK I’m a bit biased, but still its the coolest).


In my web.release.config I have left the default contents, which just removes the debug attribute. Here is what I see when I select this on web.release.config for my project.


You can see that in the image above we can see that the debug flag was indeed removed as expected.

In my web.production.config I have a transform which simply updates the email app setting value. Here is the really cool part when I preview the transform for web.production.config the previewer will look into the profile and determine the build configuration which has been configured, and it will ensure that transform is applied before the profile specific one. For example take a look at the result for web.production.config.


In the image above you can see the note that web.release.config was applied first followed by web.production.config. In the result we can see that web.release.config removed the debug flag and that web.production.config updated the email address value.

We also do a little bit to help out in case there are errors in either the web.config or a transform. You can see errors in the Output Window and double click it to go directly to where the error exists.

Note: Scott Hanselman has a 5 minute video showing this and other updates.

Another note: If you need to transform any file besides web.config during publish then install my extension SlowCheetah.

Sayed Ibrahim Hashimi | @SayedIHashimi

Config-Transformation | msbuild | Visual Studio | Visual Studio 2012 Sunday, August 19, 2012 11:18:16 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 

Visual Studio project compatability and VisualStudioVersion

One of the most requested features of Visual Studio 2012 was the ability to open projects in both VS 2012 as well as VS 2010 (requires VS 2010 SP1). In case you haven’t heard we did implement that feature. You may be wondering how we were able to do this and how this may impact you.

If you open the .csproj/.vbproj for a Web Project created in VS2010 you will see the following import statement.

<Import Project="$(MSBuildExtensionsPath32)\Microsoft\VisualStudio\
v10.0\WebApplications\Microsoft.WebApplication.targets" />

When you open this project in VS 2012 there are a few changes made to your project file to ensure that it can be opened in both VS 2010 SP1 and VS 2012. One of the changes made to the project when it is first loaded in VS 2012 is to add the following to replace that import statement.

  <VisualStudioVersion Condition="'$(VisualStudioVersion)' == ''">10.0</VisualStudioVersion>
  <VSToolsPath Condition="'$(VSToolsPath)' == ''">
<Import Project="$(VSToolsPath)\WebApplications\Microsoft.WebApplication.targets" Condition="'$(VSToolsPath)' != ''" />

We removed the hard-coded 10.0 and instead used the property VisualStudioVersion. When building in Visual Studio 2012 this value will always be 11.0, but for VS 2010 it doesn’t exist. That is why we defaulted it to 10.0 above.

There are some scenarios where building from the command line will require to set this property explicitly. Before we get there let me explain how this property gets set (in this order)

  1. If VisualStudioVersion is defined as an environment variable/global MSBuild property, that is used.
    • This is how VS and the VS developer command prompt set this value
  2. Based on the file format version of the .sln file (toolset used is sln file format –1)
    • To simplify this statement, the .sln file will build with specifying VisualStudioVersion to the value of the version of VS which created the .sln file.
  3. Choose default
    • 10.0 if VS 2010 is installed
    • Highest-versioned sub-toolset version installed

For #2 when you are building a .sln file the value of VisulStudioVersion will be –1 of the Format Version found in the .sln file. The important thing to note here is that if you build a .sln file it will build with the value of VisulStudioVersion corresponding to the version of VS which created the .sln file. So if you create a .sln file in VS2012 and you always build that .sln file the value for VisualStudioVersion will be 11.0. In many cases if you build the .sln file you are good.

If you are building .csproj/.vbproj files w/o going through a .sln file? If you build a web project from the command line (not the developer prompt) then the value for VisualStudioVersion used will be 10.0. That is an artifact of the properties which I showed above. In this case you should pass this in as an MSBuild property. For example

msbuild.exe MyAwesomeWeb.csproj /p:VisualStudioVersion=11.0

In this case I’m passing in the property explicitly. This will always override any other mechanism to determine the value for VisualStudioVersion. If you are using the MSBuild task in a build script, then you can specify the property either in the Properties attribute or the AdditionalProperties attribute. See my previous blog post on the difference between Properties and AdditionalProperties.

If you encounter any funny behavior when building/publishing and you notice that the wrong .targets files are being imported then you may need to specify this property.

Sayed Ibrahim Hashimi | @SayedIHashimi

msbuild | Visual Studio | Visual Studio 11 | Visual Studio 2010 | Visual Studio 2012 | web | Web Publishing Pipeline Sunday, August 19, 2012 10:06:56 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
Thursday, August 16, 2012

SlowCheetah v2.4 Released

I jus released a new version of SlowCheetah, my Visual Studio extension which enables you to transform app.config, and other XML files, during F5 for non-web projects. In this update I added support for Visual Studio 2012 as well as the bug fixes below.
  1. Fix for Preview command doesn't show up for all web.config transforms
  2. Fix for XML transforms not working with Azure SDK
  3. Fix for XML transforms not working with Azure SDK
  4. Fix for .config files do no transform in VS 2012 RC
  5. Fix for In web project, project File gets modified while adding transformation
  6. Fix for Add Transform should not show up for .settings files
  7. Fix for Transforms should be added as None

If you are interested in the project you can take a look at the code at https://github.com/sayedihashimi/slow-cheetah and if you have any issues please file a bug at https://github.com/sayedihashimi/slow-cheetah/issues.


Sayed Ibrahim Hashimi | @SayedIHashimi

    SlowCheetah | Visual Studio | Visual Studio 11 | Visual Studio 2010 | Visual Studio 2012 Thursday, August 16, 2012 1:54:26 AM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
    Thursday, August 9, 2012

    How to create Web Deploy packages in Visual Studio 2012

    When building Visual Studio 2012 we made an effort to reduce the amount of menu options which are shown on toolbars as well as context menus. If you have used any of the pre-release versions of VS 2012 then you might have noticed that the Build Deployment Package and Package/Publish Settings context menu options are gone from Web Application Project.

    In VS2010 when creating a Web Deploy package the publish dialog was not used because there were no relevant settings. Now that we have enabled features like integration to enable Entity Framework Code First migrations, incremental database updates (coming in the final release), connection string updates, etc. we needed to find a way that you could leverage these great features when creating Web Deploy packages. The solution that we decided to go with was to have first class support for creating packages directly from the publish dialog.

    After that, we felt that it would be better to have a single way to create a package than two different ways with pros and cons. And we would benefit by being able to simplify our context menu. To create a package for your Web Application Project in VS 2012 (or in VS 2010 if you have the Azure SDK 1.7+) you can follow the steps below.

    1. Right click on your project and select Publish
    2. Create a new profile for your Web Deploy package
    3. Specify the path where the package should go (must end with a .zip)
    4. Click Publish

    After the initial create for the profile, creating additional packages is even easier. You just right click on your project select Publish and then click the Publish button.

    The reason why we remove the context menu for the Package/Publish Settings is that most of the package and publish related settings are on the publish dialog. The existing settings from VS 2010 are still available on the property pages if you need to get to them.

    One other change which we made was to hide the One Click toolbar. This is a toolbar which can be used to publish your web project in one click after the web publish profile has been created. After looking at the number of times that the button was used we determined that it did not meet the bar to be shown by default. Don’t worry if that was your favorite button (I know it was mine), you can bring it back quickly. The easiest way to turn it on is to press CTRL + Q (to bring up the quick launch), type in ‘one click’ and then click on the single result. That should show the One Click toolbar.

    FYI if you want to learn more we have a great walk through on publishing a web project with an EF Code First model at Deploying an ASP.NET Web Application to a Windows Azure Web Site and SQL Database.

    If you have any questions feel free to email me at sayedha@microsoft.com.

    Sayed Ibrahim Hashimi | @SayedIHashimi

    Visual Studio | Visual Studio 11 | Visual Studio 2012 | Web Publishing Pipeline Thursday, August 9, 2012 10:39:46 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #     | 
    Monday, August 6, 2012

    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, August 6, 2012 10:16:47 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)  #     |