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How To: Build all Files in a Directory Except One

In a project file you can use wildcards to include all the files in one directory or a nested set of directories as inputs for a build. However, there might be one file in the directory or one directory in a nested set of directories that you do not want to include as input for a build. You can explicitly exclude that file or directory from the list of inputs. There may also be a file in a project that you only want to include under certain conditions. You can explicitly declare the conditions under which a file is included in a build.

Excluding a File or Directory from the Inputs for a Build

Item collections are the input files for a build. The items that you want to include are declared either separately or as a group using the Include attribute. For example:

<CSFile Include="Form1.cs"/>
<CSFile Include ="File1.cs;File2.cs"/>
<CSFile Include="*.cs"/>
<JPGFile Include="Images\**\*.jpg"/>

If you have used wildcards to include all the files in one directory or a nested set of directories as inputs for a build, there might be one or more files in the directory or one directory in the a nested set of directories that you do not want to include. To exclude an item from the item collection, use the Exclude attribute.

To include all .cs or .vb files except Form2

  • Use one of the following Include and Exclude attributes:

    <CSFile Include="*.cs" Exclude="Form2.cs"/>
    

    - or -

    <VBFile Include="*.vb" Exclude="Form2.vb"/>
    

To include all .cs or .vb files except Form2 and Form3

  • Use one of the following Include and Exclude attributes:

    <CSFile Include="*.cs" Exclude="Form2.cs;Form3.cs"/>
    

    - or -

    <VBFile Include="*.vb" Exclude="Form2.vb;Form3.vb"/>
    

To include all .jpg files in subdirectories of the Images directory except those in the Version2 directory

  • Use the following Include and Exclude attributes:

    <JPGFile 
        Include="Images\**\*.jpg" 
        Exclude = "Images\**\Version2\*.jpg"/>
    
    NoteNote

    You must specify the path for both attributes. If you use an absolute path to specify file locations in the Include attribute, you must also use an absolute path in the Exclude attribute; if you use a relative path in the Include attribute, you must also use a relative path in the Exclude attribute.

Using Conditions to Exclude a File or Directory from the Inputs for a Build

If there are items that you want to include, for example, in a Debug build but not a Release build, you can use the Condition attribute to specify the conditions under which to include the item.

To include the file Formula.vb only in Release builds

  • Use a Condition attribute similar to the following:

    <Compile 
        Include="Formula.vb" 
        Condition=" '$(Configuration)' == 'Release' " />
    

Example

The following code example builds a project with all of the .cs files in the directory except Form2.cs.

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

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

    <ItemGroup>
        <CSFile Include="*.cs Exclude="Form2.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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