Adding Custom Files to an MSDeploy Package

dotnet, build comments edit

As part of some of my web projects I have “plugin assemblies” that aren’t directly referenced by the project but are things I want included in my deployment package. I tried following the instructions on this fairly popular blog entry, but it didn’t seem to work - that blog entry tells you to modify a set of files during a stage in the packaging pipeline “CopyAllFilesToSingleFolderForPackageDependsOn” and that target never actually fired for me. In fact, I threw an <Error> call in there just to see if I could get the build to fail and… no luck.

It also seems that manually copying the files over into the deployment staging/temporary folder stopped working - you can copy them over, but they instantly get deleted just before packaging occurs.

Turns out a lot of the way the MSDeploy packaging stuff in Microsoft.WebApplication.targets works changed in Visual Studio 2012 and… it’s like no one out there noticed. Or maybe everyone solved the problem and forgot to blog it. Or maybe I’m some special edge case. Anyway, it took some serious reverse-walkthrough of the packaging process to figure out what needs to happen. (Yeah, that was a day wasted.)

Now, instead of “CopyAllFilesToSingleFolderForPackageDependsOn” for the event to handle, use “PipelineCopyAllFilesToOneFolderForMsdeployDependsOn” for including your custom files. Once you do that, you don’t have to copy the files into the staging area or anything; the packaging process will do that for you.

Something else that changed - the “Package” target in Microsoft.WebApplication.targets seems to rely on the “Build” target in some cases. I tried setting the property so “Package” wouldn’t rely on “Build” (PipelineDependsOnBuild) but it always ended up doing some portion of “Build.” The problem there is that “Build“(from Microsoft.Common.targets) wants to run a target called “IntermediateClean” that deletes a bunch of stuff out of your bin folder - even assemblies that were built due to project references. (This happens more during a command line build than during a VS build. They’re treated differently… which is pretty annoying.) What this means is you have to “fool” the “IntermediateClean” during the packaging process so it doesn’t clean out your plugins. You do that by setting a “magic” item called FileWrites to contain all the stuff you want to keep.

Here’s a snippet from my web project .csproj file showing how I just include everything in the bin folder since I want all the copied-in dependencies to be kept for the packaging:

<Target Name="IncludePluginFilesForMsdeploy">
    <FileWrites Include="$(MSBuildProjectDirectory)\bin\**\*" />
    <_CustomFiles Include="$(MSBuildProjectDirectory)\bin\**\*" />
    <FilesForPackagingFromProject Include="%(_CustomFiles.Identity)">

That all has to go after the line that imports the Microsoft.WebApplication.targets file.