How to create a Web Deploy package when publishing a ClickOnce project

Web Development Tools Microsoft

The other day I saw a question on StackOverflow (link in resources below) asking How you can create a Web Deploy (AKA MSDeploy) package when publishing a ClickOnce project. The easiest way to do this is to use the Web Deploy command line utility, msdeploy.exe. With the command line you can easily create an MSDeploy package from a folder with a command like the following:



Here you can see that I’m using the sync verb, along with a contentPath provider (which points to a folder) as the source and the destination is using the package provider, this point to where I want the package to be stored.

Now that we understand how to create an MSDeploy package from a folder we need to extend the ClickOnce publish process to create a package. I’m not a ClickOnce expert, but the ClickOnce publish process is captured in MSBuild so after investigating for a bit I found the following relevant details.

  • The ClickOnce publish process is contained in the Microsoft.Common.targets file
  • The ClickOnce publish process is tied together through the Publish target
  • ClickOnce prepares the files to be published in a folder under bin named app.publish which is governed by the MSBuild property PublishDir

Now that we know what target to extend as well as what property we can use to refer to the folder which has the content we can complete sample. We need to edit the project file. Below is the full contents which I have placed at the bottom of the project file (right above </Project>).

    <WebDeployPackageName Condition=" '$(WebDeployPackageName)'=='' ">$(MSBuildProjectName).zip</WebDeployPackageName>
    <!--Unless specified otherwise, the tools will go to HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\IIS Extensions\MSDeploy\1 to get the installpath for msdeploy.exe.-->
    <MSDeployPath Condition="'$(MSDeployPath)'==''">$(Registry:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\IIS Extensions\MSDeploy\3@InstallPath)</MSDeployPath>
    <MSDeployPath Condition="'$(MSDeployPath)'==''">$(Registry:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\IIS Extensions\MSDeploy\2@InstallPath)</MSDeployPath>
    <MSDeployPath Condition="'$(MSDeployPath)'==''">$(Registry:HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\IIS Extensions\MSDeploy\1@InstallPath)</MSDeployPath>
    <MSDeployExe Condition=" '$(MSDeployExe)'=='' ">$(MSDeployPath)msdeploy.exe</MSDeployExe>
  <Target Name="CreateWebDeployPackage" AfterTargets="Publish" DependsOnTargets="Publish">
      <Cmd>"$(MSDeployExe)" -verb:sync -source:contentPath="$(MSBuildProjectDirectory)\$(PublishDir)" -dest:package="$(OutDir)$(WebDeployPackageName)"</Cmd>
    <Message Text="Creating web deploy package with command: $(Cmd)" />
    <Exec Command="$(Cmd)" />

Here I’ve created a couple properties as well as a new target, CreateWebDeployPackage. I have declared the property WebDeployPackageName which will be the name (excluding path) of the Web Deploy package which gets created. This defaults to the name of the project, but you can override it if you want. Next I define the property, MSDeployPath, which points to msdeploy.exe. It will pick the latest version.

The CreateWebDeployPackage target just constructs the full command line call which needs to be executed and invokes it using the Exec MSBuild task. There are a couple subtle details on the target itself though which are worth pointing out. The target has declared AfterTargets=”Publish” which means that it will be invoked after the Publish target. It also declares DependsOnTargets=”Publish”. Which means that whenever the target gets invoked that Publish will need to be executed before CreateWebDeployPackage.

Now that we have defined these updates when you publish your ClickOnce project (wither through Visual Studio or the command line/build servers) a Web Deploy package will be generated in the output folder which you can use to incrementally publish your ClickOnce app to your web server.

Sayed Ibrahim Hashimi @SayedIHashimi

Cross posted on my blog at:



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