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Important This document may not represent best practices for current development, links to downloads and other resources may no longer be valid. Current recommended version can be found here.

MSBuild Special Characters

MSBuild reserves some characters for special use in specific contexts. You only have to escape such characters if you want to use them literally in the context in which they are reserved. For example, an asterisk has special meaning only in the Include and Exclude attributes of an item definition, and in calls to CreateItem. If you want an asterisk to appear as an asterisk in one of those contexts, you must escape it. In every other context, just type the asterisk where you want it to appear.

To escape a special character, use the syntax %xx, where xx represents the ASCII hexadecimal value of the character.

The following table lists MSBuild special characters:


Reserved Usage


Referencing metadata


Referencing properties


Referencing item lists


Conditions and other expressions


List separator


Wildcard character for file names in Include and Exclude attributes


Wildcard character for use in file names in Include and Exclude attributes

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