How does Visual Studio 2010 host MSBuild projects for C ++?

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I have a solution with several C++ projects. For some of the projects I need some custom file copy, e.g. to copy some configuration files to the output directory or to copy the output files of one project to a specific folder after build.

In some cases I don't want or cannot add these files to the projects directly through the Visual Studio IDE. I created simple .targets files which I can reuse and add to the projects which need the file copying.

Here is a simple example .targets file for copying configuration files:

<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8"?>
<Project xmlns="http://schemas.microsoft.com/developer/msbuild/2003">
 <PropertyGroup>
 <BuildDependsOn>
  $(BuildDependsOn);
  CopyCustom
 </BuildDependsOn>
 </PropertyGroup>
 <ItemGroup>
 <CustomFiles Include="$(ProjectDir)Config\**\*.xml" />
 </ItemGroup>
 <PropertyGroup>
 <DestCustFolder>$(OutDir)Config\</DestCustFolder>
 </PropertyGroup>
 <Target Name="CopyCustom"
 Inputs="@(CustomFiles )"
 Outputs="@(CustomFiles ->'$(DestCustFolder)%(RecursiveDir)%(FileName)%(Extension)')">
 <Message Text="Copy custom files..." />
 <Copy SourceFiles="@(CustomFiles )" DestinationFiles="@(CustomFiles->'$(DestCustFolder)%(RecursiveDir)%(FileName)%(Extension)')" SkipUnchangedFiles="true" />
 </Target>
</Project>

Through the "Build Customization" dialog in Visual Studio I add it to the project so it will be included like this at the end of the project file:

 <ImportGroup Label="ExtensionTargets">
<Import Project="..\Targets\CopyCustom.targets" />/
 </ImportGroup>

This should enable incremental build of my custom target. If I just edit one of my custom files (and none of the C++ files) and build it form the console with

msbuild foo1.vcxproj

it will actually detect the changes and does an incremental build for my custom target. If no changes are made the target is skipped.

If I do however build inside Visual Studio it will not detect changes to the custom files and only and gives me the message that the project is up to data:

========== Build: 0 succeeded, 0 failed, 5 up-to-date, 0 skipped ==========

I would have to additionally change one of the C++ files to make it check all targets again and to the incremental build.

I was expecting that Visual Studio just executes MSBuild which will then do the up-to-date check on the projects, so it should be the same result as running MSBuild from the console. I was trying to get more information by setting the verbosity level to diagnostic but I just get the same line. It seems to me that MSBuild is not even executed for the project but Visual Studio itself determines that the project is up-to-date.

So I was wondering how Visual Studio actually determines when it should execute MSBuild for a project.

I asked basically the same question before on the MSDN forum but couldn't get a clear answer.


See this suggestion on Microsoft Connect.

Basically you need to set DisableFastUpToDateCheck property to true to disable the fast-up-to-date check.

Just add to your vcxproj or your targets file:

<PropertyGroup>
  <DisableFastUpToDateCheck>true</DisableFastUpToDateCheck>
</PropertyGroup>