Archive for the ‘ MSBuild ’ Category

ClickOnce – File Already Exists

The Problem

If your deploy a new version of your app and your users see “Cannot Start Application” when updating:

There could be many reasons, this quick post provides a few places to look to find what may be causing the File Already Exists problem.

Click on ‘Details’…and if your error looks something like this…then this most may help:

	Below is a summary of the errors, details of these errors are listed later in the log.
	* Activation of ...\Start Menu\Programs\MyApp\MyApp\MyApp.appref-ms| resulted in exception. Following failure messages were detected:
		+ The file '...\Local Settings\Temp\Deployment\GOYP6PP3.TRR\61YND8Y2.Q2A\NaughtyFile.dll' already exists.

Where to look

Open up your ..\Application Files\MyApp1.0.0.0 directory (where is the current build number)

Find and open the .manifest file, should be called MyApp.manifest.

Search for NaughtFile.dll (in the error above, NaughtyFile.dll was the name of the file that already exists), if your problem is the same as mine then you should find two references to this file in the manifest. In my case I had one reference which was a dependentAssembly and another which was a file.

Now, the project you are publishing may not have a direct reference to a dll and yet it still appears in the list of dependentAssemblies because a project it references does directly reference the dll. The easiest way to check this list is to go to the project properties, Publish Tab and open Application Files…

From there you see the list of files that are included, but I’ve noticed sometimes the list is not 100% truthful, if weird stuff is happening, open your project file in Notepad and closely examine the list of included and excluded files.

Note that you can only exclude a file in this list if the project has a direct reference to the file (this may not be true, but I just tried it and it didn’t exclude and I don’t have time for further investigation).

So our trouble, our extra ‘file’ reference came from an extension to msBuild that we have to explicitly include certain files (needed if you need the dll but cannot add a reference for example), that looks a little like this….

    <AdditionalPublishFile Include="..\..\NaughtyFileLocation\*">

By changing the explicit inclusion to ‘not’ include that specific file (we needed other files in that directory), our problem went away. The key is ensuring that your manifest only has one entry for each file that is included…the trick is figuring out why there are multiple entries!

Good luck!

file:///C:/Dev/Release/Master/PmsMasterBuild_2. SUMMARY
	Below is a summary of the errors, details of these errors are listed later in the log.
	* Activation of C:\Documents and Settings\mark.wallis\Start Menu\Programs\PMS Smart Client\PMS Smart Client\PMS Smart Client.appref-ms| resulted in exception. Following failure messages were detected:
		+ The file 'C:\Documents and Settings\mark.wallis\Local Settings\Temp\Deployment\GOYP6PP3.TRR\61YND8Y2.Q2A\EcsLite.Downloader.dll' already exists.

ClickOnce Master Build

Previously I have posted about how to publish a ClickOnce release for multiple environments. Whilst this works well there are two reasons (that I can think of) why it is not appropriate or good enough.

First, you or your manager may be a bit of a purist in terms of releasing to Production ‘exactly’ what has been tested, specifically the exact same compiled assemblies.

Second, you may need to create a release for several different customers who each have several of their own ‘environments’ but you do not want to provide them with your source code.

Third…both of the above. 🙂

When you ‘Publish’ with MsBuild it requires the source code and it recompiles your assemblies. So how can we easily create releases for multiple environments but only Publish once? This posting offers one solution which has worked for me in the past, it’s not a complete ‘how to’ guide I just wanted to cover the idea and problems I ran into along the way.

Master Build Environment

Make sure you take a look at my previous posting as this process builds on those ideas.

One of the final steps of this process is to re-sign the setup.exe, however in order for that final step to work you have to change one of your ClickOnce deployment settings in your .csproj file.


SignManifests must be false! Otherwise the signtool gets confused when re-signing the setup.exe. Check this out for a bit more info on this known issue.

So the first thing to do is create a BuildEnvironment called Master. The configuration details of this (web service addresses or database connnection strings etc) should point to nowhere, i.e. if someone deployed this build then it should not work. Publishing this is easy just follow the steps defined in the multiple environment posting, the process of creating a release with environment specific information that is tricky.

MsBuild Changes for Master Build Publish

When you publish with ClickOnce it creates a folder ‘Application Files’ where it puts the contents of the release. The space in that file name causes a problem with MAGE when re-signing the app. Now the only way I could see to change this was to cut and paste the _CopyFilesToPublishFolder target from Microsoft.Common.Targets and modifying the _DeploymentApplicationFolderName property in my version to remove the space. I think it is a really BAD idea to change the Microsoft.Common.Targets directly so that option was ruled out immediately and as you can see in the code below, Application Files (version below already has the space removed) is a hardcoded value, not a settable property…therefore even though it is ugly, cut and paste seems the only viable solution.

	  This Target code has been cut and paste from Microsoft.Common.Targets.
	  Only ONE thing has been changed.
	  Application Files changed to ApplicationFiles (i.e. the space removed)
	  The only other way of changing that value is to modify Microsoft.Common.Targets
	  which is a really bad idea (would have to ensure this was changed on ALL machines.)

	  The space causes a problem when re-signing the app with MAGE

        <!-- Compute name of application folder, which includes the assembly name plus formatted application version.
             The application version is formatted to use "_" in place of "." chars (i.e. "1_0_0_0" instead of "").
             This is done because some servers misinterpret "." as a file extension. -->
        <FormatVersion Version="$(ApplicationVersion)" Revision="$(ApplicationRevision)" FormatType="Path">
            <Output TaskParameter="OutputVersion" PropertyName="_DeploymentApplicationVersionFragment"/>


        <!-- Copy files to publish folder -->
        <FormatUrl InputUrl="$(_DeploymentApplicationUrl)">
            <Output TaskParameter="OutputUrl" PropertyName="_DeploymentFormattedApplicationUrl"/>
        <FormatUrl InputUrl="$(_DeploymentComponentsUrl)">
            <Output TaskParameter="OutputUrl" PropertyName="_DeploymentFormattedComponentsUrl"/>

Note that the space only causes a problem with MAGE.exe, it does not cause a problem with MAGEUI.exe! MAGEUI.exe happily re-signs the release even with the space in the directory name. We cannot use MAGEUI.exe however because this process needs to be automated, if you use MAGEUI.exe someone has to run it and manually set the values…not good enough.

It took a while to figure out that the space in the dir name was causing a problem so I hope this saves someone else some time…

Creating a Release

Ok so now we have a published build that no one can use, the first place we want to release to will be QA, then from there UAT so what we need now is an automated way of creating a release configured for these environments.

Creating a release should be as easy as publishing a build, it should be a one step process.

Create a batch file ‘createRelease.bat’ which performs all of the necessary steps. Those steps are:

  1. Create or clean the ‘working’ directory.
  2. Copy the master build into the working directory.
  3. Run the MsBuild steps.
  4. Create a zip file of the new release. (not necessary just makes it a little easier to move the releases around)

Run the MsBuild Steps

Add a new target in your customized.targets file, ModifyMasterBuildForEnvironment.

<Target Name="ModifyMasterBuildForEnvironment" DependsOnTargets="SetPropertyValues; ConfigureForEnvironment; RecreateManifests" />


There are a few properties which need to be set for the resigning process.

	<Target Name="SetPropertyValues" >
		<Message Text="FullReleasePath $(FullReleasePath)" />

		<MSBuild.ExtensionPack.Framework.TextString TaskAction="Replace" OldString="$(ApplicationVersion)" OldValue="." NewValue="_">
			<Output PropertyName="buildX" TaskParameter="NewString"/>



Add your own target(s) here that does the work to configure the release for a given environment. e.g. update the config file setting database connection strings or web service urls.


Now that you have modified the published release it is no longer a valid ClickOnce release. Try to install it and it will fail. What you need to do is update and re-sign the manifests (the Application Manifest and the Deployment Manifest). You also need to update and resign the Setup.exe!

	<Target Name="RecreateManifests">

		<!-- Application manifest update and resign -->
		<Message Text="Removing .deploy suffix..." />
		<RenameFiles DirectoryPath="$(MSBuildProjectDirectory)\$(FullReleasePath)" RemoveSuffix=".deploy" IncludeSubDirectories="True" />
		<Message Text="Updating application manifest" />
		<Exec Command="mage -Update $(ApplicationManifestPath) -FromDirectory $(FullReleasePath) -ToFile $(ApplicationManifestPath)" />
		<Message Text="Adding .deploy suffix..." />
		<RenameFiles DirectoryPath="$(MSBuildProjectDirectory)\$(FullReleasePath)" AppendSuffix=".deploy" IncludeSubDirectories="True" ExcludedFiles="$(ApplicationManifestName)" />
		<Message Text="ApplicationManifestPath $(ApplicationManifestPath)" />
		<Exec Command="mage -Sign $(ApplicationManifestPath) -CertFile $(CertFileName)" />

		<!-- Deployment manifest update and resign -->
		<Message Text="Updating Deployment manifest (ProviderFullUrl=$(ProviderFullUrl))" />
		<Exec Command="mage -Update $(DeploymentManifestPath) -AppManifest $(ApplicationManifestPath) -ProviderUrl $(ProviderFullUrl)" />
		<Message Text="DeploymentManifestPath $(DeploymentManifestPath)" />
		<Exec Command="mage -Sign $(DeploymentManifestPath) -CertFile $(CertFileName) " />

		<!-- Setup.exe update and resign -->
		<Message Text="Updating $(WorkingDirectory)\Setup.exe..." />
		<Exec Command="$(WorkingDirectory)\Setup.exe /url=$(ProviderBaseUrl)" />
		<Message Text="Signing $(WorkingDirectory)\Setup.exe..." />
		<Exec Command="signtool sign /v /f $(CertFileName) $(WorkingDirectory)\Setup.exe" />


Note that before Updating the Application Manifest we have to remove the .deploy extension from the file names, then add the .deploy extension back onto the file names before Signing. (if you have configured ClickOnce to NOT append .deploy then obviously just remove these steps).

RenameFiles Task

To get the renaming behaviour I wanted I had to create my own MsBuild task. You will need to do the same, it’s a little crude as I had limited time but this is the simple little task I created….

    public class RenameFiles : Task
        public override bool Execute()
            var directory = new DirectoryInfo(DirectoryPath);
            if(directory == null)
                throw new ApplicationException(string.Format("Directory path is invalid: {0}", DirectoryPath));
            Console.WriteLine(string.Format("DirectoryPath:{0}", DirectoryPath));


            return true;

        private void ProcessDirectory(DirectoryInfo directory)
            if(! IncludeSubDirectories)

            var subs = directory.GetDirectories();
            foreach (DirectoryInfo sub in subs)

        private void RenameAllFiles(DirectoryInfo directory)
            var files = directory.GetFiles();

            if(files.Length == 0)

            foreach (FileInfo file in files)
                string fileName = file.Name;
                if (ExcludedFileList.Exists(name => name.Equals(fileName, StringComparison.InvariantCultureIgnoreCase)))
                    Console.WriteLine(string.Format("{0} is excluded from renaming.", file.Name));
                Console.WriteLine(string.Format("Renaming {0}", file.Name));

        private void RemoveExtensions(FileInfo file)
            if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(RemoveSuffix))
            file.MoveTo(file.FullName.Replace(RemoveSuffix, string.Empty));

        private void AppendExtensions(FileInfo file)
            if (string.IsNullOrEmpty(AppendSuffix))
            file.MoveTo(string.Format("{0}{1}", file.FullName, AppendSuffix));

        public string DirectoryPath { get; set; }
        public string RemoveSuffix { get; set; }
        public string AppendSuffix { get; set; }
        public string ExcludedFiles { get; set; }
        public bool IncludeSubDirectories { get; set; }

        private List<string> ExcludedFileList
                if (excludedFileList == null)
                    excludedFileList = CommonFunctions.CreateListFromCommaSeparatedString(ExcludedFiles);
                return excludedFileList;
        private List<string> excludedFileList;


There are a number of other little steps we do to make this release process work here but these are really specific to how we want it to work. What I have outlined above is the core steps involved including some problems you will face and their solutions. I hope this posting helps you get over the most challenging of the hurdles you will face in setting a smooth ‘Master Build’ release process but there is still alot of extra steps you will need to create yourself to get it working end to end.

One thing I would recommend is, once you have a working createRelease.bat (note it doesn’t have to be a batch file, could be an exe or powershell or whatever works best in your situation) then create a createReleaseALL.bat file. In there make n calls to createRelease.bat…one for each environment you need to create releases for. That way if you have a dozen environments you can still create a release for all of them with a one step process 🙂

I have had to do this fairly quickly so if something is not clear please let me know and I will see if I can improve the post over time.

Final note – It does take time to set this up and get it working correctly, but it is so worth it! Over time you will save much more time than you spent setting it up, guaranteed!

Additional Resources

A few links which helped me to piece this puzzle together…

ClickOnce with bootstraper setup.exe need to change URL without any build


ClickOnce Publish to Web with MSBuild


With ClickOnce you may publish to a web or file share location. This MSDN article tells you how to do it from Visual Studio, but doing it from VS is very limiting what you will end up wanting to do is publish using MsBuild from the command prompt.  This posting is not a comprehensive ‘how-to’ but has some useful tips, simple but painful lessons learnt through trial and error.

Project File Changes

Open up your Project.csproj in a text editor (I always use notepad++). Set these properties, add them if they are not there already….they should be near the top of the file and probably not together.



As far as I can tell this can either be Web or Unc


This one is really important, if you do not set this to true the publish will work fine but you will have problems installing. If you see an error that looks something like this

 Deployment url            : file:///C:/Documents%20and%20Settings/Administrator.HP275/Local%20Settings/Temporary%20Internet%20Files/Content.IE5/QTJPP0ZG/MyApp.Shell.application

 Below is a summary of the errors, details of these errors are listed later in the log.
 * Activation of C:\Documents and Settings\Administrator.HP275\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\Content.IE5\QTJPP0ZG\MyApp.Shell.application resulted in exception. Following failure messages were detected:
 + Downloading file:///C:/Documents and Settings/Administrator.HP275/Local Settings/Temporary Internet Files/Content.IE5/QTJPP0ZG/MyApp.Shell.application did not succeed.

the likely cause of the problem is the IsWebBootstrapper value is false. Note that VS kindly changes this value for you sometimes…so be careful! The clue that this is the cause is of course the fact that the installer is trying to find the file from a local path.


This is still a unc path, preferably to the dir of the virtual directory in IIS. However if the machine you are publishing from does not have write access to that location on the network, you can publish to a local location then copy the files to the secure machine.

Batch File

I like to create a separate batch file for each environment that I need to publish to, e.g. QA, Training, Production etc.

The reason is, SOME of the MsBuild variables that need to be set must be passed in (as far as I can tell) from the command prompt to MsBuild.

So this is what my batch files look like (check out my posting on MsBuild and multiple environments for details on the extra properties).

msbuild /t:Publish /p:Configuration=Release /p:BuildEnvironment=QA /p:ApplicationVersion= /p:UpdateUrl=http://MachineNameOrIP/Release/QA/ /p:InstallUrl=http://MachineNameOrIP/Release/QA/

InstallUrl and UpdateUrl are both properties which apparently need to be passed in as parameters which is why I put them in the batch file.

The ApplicationVersion I still do manually because I haven’t tried setting up the automated solution yet.


To publish from a web address you will need to setup a virtual directory in IIS.

The main ‘Gotcha’ I encountered was setting the execute permissions to Scripts and executables. It must be Scripts only! This post help me figure out what the hell was going wrong when I had the wrong setting.

Final Note

If you are publish to the web then you most likely want/need a publish page, check out my other posting on creating the publish.html file as part of your build (this file gets created when you publish from VS but you stop getting it as soon as you publish directly from MsBuild)

Happy publishing 🙂

MSBuild Customizable Targets

MSBuild has a number of targets that have been specifically created to be ‘overwritten’ or customized.

I have never seen a compiled list of these targets so here is a list of all the ones that I am aware of….


These targets are all safe to customize because in Microsoft.Common.targets they do not have any ‘implementation’, i.e. they get run but do absolutely nothing. You could (I believe) override any target you want to but if you do be aware that your ‘override’ entirely replaces what is in MSBuild. So if you absolutely must override a target that has an implementation, unless you completely understand 100% what you are doing, I recommend copying the full implementation and working your customization into the existing logic.

I would also strongly suggest that you NEVER modify Microsoft.Common.targets directly, that is just asking for pain.

ClickOnce – Creating Publish Page from msbuild

ClickOnce via msbuild

The Problem

When you publish from Visual Studio, the publish directory gets three files:-

  • Publish.htm
  • setup.exe
  • MyApp.application

but when you publish using msbuild you do not get the Publish.htm.

This post covers one approach to ensure you also get a nice publish.htm file. Actually it’s a two part blog, in the second part I’ll cover how to simplify your deployment process for multiple environments.

As a pre-requisite you’ll need to install msbuild community tasks.

All credit for this post belongs to my good friend Craig Hunter, this is pretty much a slightly modified version of his solution.

Step One – Create Customization File

This step in kind of optional. All subsequent steps may be done within your .csproj, it is just my preference to put all of my customizations into a separate file.

1. In your project file directory, create a new file called Customized.targets (actually call it whatever you want).
2. Now open your .csproj in notepad++, copy the first and last lines and add them to Customized.targets. Should look something like this

<Project DefaultTargets=”Build” xmlns=”; ToolsVersion=”3.5″>

3. At the bottom of your .csproj add these two lines

<Import Project=”Customized.targets” />
<Import Project=”$(MSBuildExtensionsPath)\MSBuildCommunityTasks\MSBuild.Community.Tasks.Targets” />

What is not optional is adding the Import of the MSBuild community tasks.

Step Two – Add Publish Template

  1. In your project file directory, add a new directory called Publish.
  2. Add this file to that directory.

You don’t really need to but I also added the directory to my project. At the very least you do have to add it to source control (otherwise it won’t get to the build machine)

Step Three – Customizations

Add these customizations to your Customized.targets file. Remove the numbers, they are just there for reference below…

1.	<PropertyGroup>

2.	<Choose>
		<When Condition=" '$(BuildEnvironment)' == 'DEV' ">
		<When Condition=" '$(BuildEnvironment)' == 'QA' ">
		</When>	</Choose>

3.	<PropertyGroup>
		<!-- Note this must be done AFTER the above Choose (so PublishDir is set)-->

4.	<ItemGroup>
		<Tokens Include="PublisherName">
		<Tokens Include="ProductName">
		<Tokens Include="ApplicationVersion">
		<Tokens Include="Prerequsites">
		<Tokens Include="Username">

5.	<Target Name="AfterPublish">
		<Time Format="dd/MM/yyyy HH:mm">
		  <Output TaskParameter="FormattedTime" PropertyName="PublishTime" />
		<!-- Finalise the publish.htm template file and copy it to the publish location -->
		<TemplateFile Template="Publish\publish.template.html" Tokens="@(Tokens)" OutputFilename="$(PublishFilePath)" />
		<FileUpdate Files="$(PublishFilePath)" Regex="\${PublishTime}" ReplacementText="$(PublishTime)" />

1. More on the BuildEnvironment property in a later posting. It’s not essential just remove all references to it if you want to remove it.

2. Also more on this in a later post, it is for specifying details for multiple environments. In the provided sample the PublishDir is the same machine and parent directory for both DEV and QA with a separating sub directory of the environment name. Don’t forget to SHARE the ReleaseDirectory folder!

3. Tells MSBuild where to put the publish.html file (name it what you want)

4. The publish.template.html has a number of tokens which need to be set.  Adjust these how you want, add or remove whatever tokens you want in the template.

5. After MSBuild finishes publishing it will run this section which creates the publish.html file using the token values.

Save those changes and you are done, you should now be able to run MSBuild, call publish and have a publish.html created for you with relevant information.

Step Four – Run MSBuild

Open Visual Studio command prompt, navigate to your project directory, execute (this assumes you only have one project file in the directory):

msbuild /t:Publish /p:Configuration=Release /p:BuildEnvironment=DEV


Why Bother?

If you get the file from VS why then care about what happens when publishing directly from msbuild?

I can think of three reasons why you need to publish from msbuild.

First, ideally developers should never publish from their machines.  (I say ideally because I have to raise a guilty hand and confess this is currently what I am doing…sometimes cirumstance forces bad practice upon us). This means ideally you have a build machine and it is from this machine only that releases should be done. So if you want to use VS to do the publish then you need to install and licence that machine.

Secondly, you want to be able to do a release from the command line, you don’t want to muck around starting VS, wait for the solution to load, open properties and click publish, what a waste of time, with msbuild you can create a batch file or two and start the publish process in the time it takes you to navigate to that directory.

Finally, the customization options available to you from within VS is too limiting. For example, if you are using VS to publish to multiple environments, how do you handle changing the parameters for each environment?

Some Notes

You can of course still run publish from VS but I don’t recommend it, get out of that bad habit and start using MSBuild directly. However if you insist on using VS, if you make any changes to Customization.targets, you need to unload and reload your project in VS for those changes to be ‘picked up’ by VS.

Please let me know if you identify any flaws or improvements that may be made with this approach.

<When Condition=” ‘$(BuildEnvironment)’ == ‘DEV’ “>
<PublishDir>\\\ReleaseMark\$(BuildEnvironment)\</PublishDir><!– InstallUrl>It seems that installUrl doesn’t get picked up if set here, must be fed in with the msbuild command arguments.</InstallUrl –>
<!– ApplicationVersion is set in the publishENV.bat –>
<When Condition=” ‘$(BuildEnvironment)’ == ‘SUB’ “>
<When Condition=” ‘$(BuildEnvironment)’ == ‘DPS’ “>