Adding references in Visual C++ projects

 

It is very common for programs to call into APIs in other binaries such as DLLs, Windows Runtime components, extension SDKs, COM components, and .NET assemblies. The way that your program finds those other binaries depends both on the type of your project, and the type of the binary.

In a native C++ project, if you are consuming a native DLL or COM component that is not being produced by another project in your solution, you use LoadLibrary or CoCreateInstance to specify the path to the binary, or else let the system locate it by looking in specific well-defined locations.

In other types of projects such as UWP projects or C++/CLI projects, or when the binary is produced by another project in your solution, you add a reference to the assembly, component or project. A reference is essentially a set of data that enables your program to locate and communicate with the binary. When you add a reference, Visual Studio handles the low level details. To set references from a C++ project to .NET Framework assemblies (C++/CLI only), COM components, other projects in your solution including shared projects, or connected services, right-click on the References node in Solution Explorer to bring up the Reference Manager. What you see in Reference Manager differs depending on your project type.

In a native C++ project (ATL) the concept of references only applies to other projects in the solution, including shared projects, so that is all you see in Reference Manager:

Visual C++ Reference Manager (ATL Projects)

In a C++/CLI or Universal Windows Platform project, the concept of references applies to more kinds of binaries in addition to other projects in the solution. These are all exposed in Reference Manager:

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Each kind of reference has properties. You can view the properties by selecting the reference in Solution Explorer and pressing Alt + Enter, or else right-clicking and choosing Properties. Some properties are read-only and some can be modified. However, typically you don't have to manually modify these properties.

ActiveX reference properties

ActiveX reference properties are available only for references to COM components. These properties are displayed only when a COM component is selected in the References pane. The properties cannot be modified.

Control Full Path
Displays the directory path of the referenced control.

Control GUID
Displays the GUID for the ActiveX control.

Control Version
Displays the version of the referenced ActiveX control.

Type Library Name
Displays the name of the referenced type library.

Wrapper Tool
Displays the tool that is used to build the interop assembly from the referenced COM library or ActiveX control.

Assembly reference properties

Assembly reference properties are available only for references to .NET Framework assemblies in C++/CLI projects. These properties are displayed only when a .NET Framework assembly is selected in the References pane. The properties cannot be modified.

Relative Path
Displays the relative path from the project directory to the referenced assembly.

Build properties

The following properties are available on various kinds of references. They enable you to specify how to build with references.

Copy Local
Specifies whether to automatically copy the referenced assembly to the target location during a build.

Copy Local Satellite Assemblies
Specifies whether to automatically copy the satellite assemblies of the referenced assembly to the target location during a build. Only used if Copy Local is true.

Reference Assembly Output
Specifies that this assembly is used in the build process. If true, the assembly is used on the compiler command line during the build.

Project-to-project reference properties

The following properties define a project-to-project reference from the project that is selected in the References pane to another project in the same solution. For more information, see Managing references in a project.

Link Library Dependencies
When this property is True, the project system links into the dependent project the .lib files that are produced by the independent project. Typically, you will specify True.

Project Identifier
Uniquely identifies the independent project. The property value is an internal system GUID that cannot be modified.

Use Library Dependency Inputs
When this property is False, the project system will not link into the dependent project the .obj files for the library produced by the independent project. Consequently, this value disables incremental linking. Typically, you will specify False because building the application can take a long time if there are many independent projects.

Reference properties

The following properties are found on COM and .NET assembly references, and cannot be modified.

Assembly Name
Displays the assembly name for the referenced assembly.

Culture
Displays the culture of the selected reference.

Description
Displays the description of the selected reference.

Full Path
Displays the directory path of the referenced assembly.

Identity
For the .NET Framework assemblies, displays the full path. For COM components, displays the GUID.

Label
Displays the label of the reference.

Name
Displays the name of the reference.

Public Key Token
Displays the public key token that is used to identify the referenced assembly.

Strong Name
true if the referenced assembly has a strong name. A strong named assembly is uniquely versioned.

Version
Displays the version of the referenced assembly.

Property Pages
How to: Open Project Property Pages

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