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How To: Specify Which Target to Build First

A project file can contain one or more Target elements that define how the project is built. Each target contains a set of tasks that the Microsoft Build Engine (MSBuild) runs sequentially, unless the project file contains a DefaultTargets attribute, an InitialTargets attribute, or a target is specified at the command line using the /target switch.

Using the InitialTargets Attribute

The InitialTargets attribute of the Project element specifies a target that will run first, even if targets are specified on the command line or in the DefaultTargets attribute.

To specify one initial target

  • Specify the default target in the InitialTargets attribute of the Project element. For example:

    <Project InitialTargets="Clean">
    

You can specify more than one initial target in the InitialTargets attribute by listing the targets in order, and using a semicolon to separate each target. The targets in the list will be run sequentially.

To specify more than one initial target

  • List the initial targets, separated by semicolons, in the InitialTargets attribute of the Project element. For example, to run the Clean target and then the Compile target, type:

    <Project InitialTargets="Clean;Compile">
    

Using the DefaultTargets Attribute

The DefaultTargets attribute of the Project element specifies which target or targets are built if a target is not specified explicitly on the command line. If targets are specified in both the InitialTargets and DefaultTargets attributes and no target is specified on the command line, MSBuild runs the targets specified in the InitialTargets attribute followed by the targets specified in the DefaultTargets attribute.

To specify one default target

  • Specify the default target in the DefaultTargets attribute of the Project element. For example:

    <Project DefaultTargets="Compile">
    

You can specify more than one default target in the DefaultTargets attribute by listing the targets in order, and using a semicolon to separate each target. The targets in the list will be run sequentially.

To specify more than one default target

  • List the default targets, separated by semicolons, in the DefaultTargets attribute of the Project element. For example, to run the Clean target and then the Compile target, type:

    <Project DefaultTargets="Clean;Compile">
    

Using the /target Switch

If a default target is not defined in the project file, or if you do not want to use that default target, you can use the command line switch /target to specify a different target. The target or targets specified with the /target switch are run instead of the targets specified by the DefaultTargets attribute. Targets specified in the InitialTargets attribute always run first.

To use a target other than the default target first

  • Specify the target as the first target using the /target command line switch. For example:

    msbuild file.proj /target:Clean

To use several targets other than the default targets first

  • List the targets, separated by semicolons or commas, using the /target command line switch. For example:

    msbuild <file name>.proj /t:Clean;Compile

See Also

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