First steps with .NET Core Tools MSBuild "alpha"

by Carlos Mendible on 29 Nov 2016 » dotNet, dotNetCore

On November 16th, Microsoft announced the .NET Core Tools MSBuild”alpha”. I’ve been developing .Net Core applications with Visual Studio Code for a while now, and I needed to try the new tooling.

In this post I’ll show you which were my First steps with .NET Core Tools MSBuild “alpha”

1. Installing .NET Core SDK 1.0 Preview 3 build 004056

The first step was to install the new tools from: .NET Core SDK 1.0 Preview 3 build 004056

2. Creating a Sample Console Application

Open a command prompt and run the following commands

    md test.msbuild
    cd test.msbuild
    dotnet new
    code .

Surprise Code shows two files and one is test.msbuild.csproj. Bye bye project.json!!!

3. There is no Intellisense for csproj files

This will make things difficult for a while but right now you have to forget about Intellisense and Autocomplete on your csproj file, which makes adding references a real pain.

4. The csproj file does not target .Net Core 1.1 by default

You’ll have to edit the csproj file to target .Net Core 1.1 (lines 6 and 16)

<Project ToolsVersion="15.0" xmlns="">
  <Import Project="$(MSBuildExtensionsPath)\$(MSBuildToolsVersion)\Microsoft.Common.props" />

    <Compile Include="**\*.cs" />
    <EmbeddedResource Include="**\*.resx" />

    <PackageReference Include="Microsoft.NETCore.App">
    <PackageReference Include="Microsoft.NET.Sdk">
  <Import Project="$(MSBuildToolsPath)\Microsoft.CSharp.targets" />

5. Create launch.json

Hit F5 and select .NET Core. Visual Studio Code will create a launch.json file and because the tooling is not yet fully supported you’ll have to edit the file manually with the following values

    "version": "0.2.0",
    "configurations": [
            "name": ".NET Core Launch (console)",
            "type": "coreclr",
            "request": "launch",
            "preLaunchTask": "build",
            "program": "${workspaceRoot}/bin/Debug/netcoreapp1.1/test.msbuild.dll",
            "args": [],
            "cwd": "${workspaceRoot}",
            "stopAtEntry": false,
            "externalConsole": false
            "name": ".NET Core Attach",
            "type": "coreclr",
            "request": "attach",
            "processId": "${command.pickProcess}"

6. Create task.json

Hit F5 again and select .NET Core. Visual Studio Code will create a task.json file which you won’t have to modify.

    // See
    // for the documentation about the tasks.json format
    "version": "0.1.0",
    "command": "dotnet",
    "isShellCommand": true,
    "args": [],
    "tasks": [
            "taskName": "build",
            "args": [ ],
            "isBuildCommand": true,
            "showOutput": "silent",
            "problemMatcher": "$msCompile"

7. Restore packages

Run the following command from the Visual Studio Code terminal or the command prompt from step 1

    dotnet restore

Visual Studio Code won’t prompt automatically to restore so failing to run this step manually will prevent you from building the application.

8. Run and debug the application

Place a break point in line 7 of the Program.cs file

using System;

class Program
    static void Main(string[] args)
        Console.WriteLine("Hello World!");

Hit F5 and the program should stop at the break point and you are good to go!

9. Side by side with project.json tooling (no migration)

To be able to run my applications based on the project.json tools I had to add a global.json file in the root folder, with the following content

    "sdk": {
        "version": "1.0.0-preview2-1-003177"

If you are not sure of which versions you have installed, just run the following powershell command:

ls $env:programfiles\dotnet\sdk

And change the value in the global.json file as desired.

Hope it helps!