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How To: Use Wildcards to Build All Files in a Directory

When you build a project that contains several files, you can list each file separately in the project file, or you can use wildcards to include all the files in one directory or a nested set of directories.

Specifying Inputs

Items represent the inputs for a build. For more information on items, see MSBuild Items.

To include files for a build, they must be included in an item collection in the MSBuild project file. Multiple files can be added to item collections by either including the files individually or using wildcards to include many files at once.

To declare items individually

  • Use the Include attributes similar to following:

    <CSFile Include="form1.cs"/>
    

    – or –

    <VBFile Include="form1.vb"/>
    
    NoteNote

    If items in an item collectio are not in the same directory as the project file, you must specify the full or relative path to the item. For example: Include="..\..\form2.cs".

To declare multiple items

  • Use the Include attributes similar to following:

    <CSFile Include="form1.cs;form2.cs"/>
    

    – or –

    <VBFile Include="form1.vb;form2.vb"/>
    

Specifying Inputs with Wildcards

You can also use wildcards to recursively include all files or only specific files from subdirectories as inputs for a build. The following examples are based on a project that contains graphics files in the following directories and subdirectories, with the project file located in the Project directory:

Project\Images\BestJpgs

Project\Images\ImgJpgs

Project\Images\ImgJpgs\Img1

To include all .jpg files in the Images directory and subdirectories

  • Use the following Include attribute:

    Include="Images\\**\*.jpg"
    

To include all .jpg files starting with "img"

  • Use the following Include attribute:

    Include="Images\**\img*.jpg"
    

To include all files in directories with names ending in "jpgs"

  • Use one of the following Include attributes:

    Include="Images\**\*jpgs\*.*"
    

    – or –

    Include="Images\**\*jpgs\*"
    

Passing Items to a Task

In a project file, you can use the @() notation in tasks to specify an entire item collection as the input for a build. You can use this notation whether you list all files separately or use wildcards.

To use all Visual C# or Visual Basic files as inputs

  • Use the Include attributes similar to the following:

    <CSC Sources="@(CSFile)">...</CSC>
    

    – or –

    <VBC Sources="@(VBFile)">...</VBC>
    
NoteNote

You must use wildcards with items to specifiy the inputs for a build; you cannot specify the inputs using the Sources attribute in MSBuild tasks such as Csc or Vbc. The following example is not valid in a project file:

<CSC Sources="*.cs">...</CSC>

Example

The following code example shows a project that includes all of the input files separately.

<Project DefaultTargets="Compile"
    xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/developer/msbuild/2003" >
    <PropertyGroup>
        <Builtdir>built</Builtdir>
    </PropertyGroup>

    <ItemGroup>
        <CSFile Include="Form1.cs"/>
        <CSFile Include="AssemblyInfo.cs"/>

        <Reference Include="System.dll"/>
        <Reference Include="System.Data.dll"/>
        <Reference Include="System.Drawing.dll"/>
        <Reference Include="System.Windows.Forms.dll"/>
        <Reference Include="System.XML.dll"/>
    </ItemGroup>

    <Target Name="PreBuild">
        <Exec Command="if not exist $(builtdir) md $(builtdir)"/>
    </Target>

    <Target Name="Compile" DependsOnTargets="PreBuild">
        <Csc Sources="@(CSFile)"
            References="@(Reference)"
            OutputAssembly="$(builtdir)\$(MSBuildProjectName).exe"
            TargetType="exe" />
    </Target>
</Project>

The following code example uses a wildcard to include all the .cs files.

<Project DefaultTargets="Compile"
    xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/developer/msbuild/2003" >

    <PropertyGroup>
        <builtdir>built</builtdir>
    </PropertyGroup>

    <ItemGroup>
        <CSFile Include="*.cs"/>

        <Reference Include="System.dll"/>
        <Reference Include="System.Data.dll"/>
        <Reference Include="System.Drawing.dll"/>
        <Reference Include="System.Windows.Forms.dll"/>
        <Reference Include="System.XML.dll"/>
    </ItemGroup>

    <Target Name="PreBuild">
        <Exec Command="if not exist $(builtdir) md $(builtdir)"/>
    </Target>

    <Target Name="Compile" DependsOnTargets="PreBuild">
        <Csc Sources="@(CSFile)"
            References="@(Reference)"
            OutputAssembly="$(builtdir)\$(MSBuildProjectName).exe"
            TargetType="exe" />
    </Target>
</Project>

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