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launch.vs.json schema reference (C++)

In Visual Studio 2017 and later versions, you can open and build code from nearly any directory-based project without requiring a solution or project file. When there's no project or solution file, you can specify custom build tasks and launch parameters through JSON configuration files. This article describes the launch.vs.json file, which specifies debugging parameters. For more information about the "Open Folder" feature, see Develop code in Visual Studio without projects or solutions.

To create the file, right-click on an executable file in Solution Explorer and choose Debug and Launch Settings. Choose the option that most closely matches your project and then use the following properties to modify the configuration as needed. For more information on debugging CMake projects, see Configure CMake debugging sessions.

Default properties

Property Type Description
args array Specifies the command-line arguments passed to the launched program.
buildConfigurations array A key-value pair that specifies the name of the build mode to apply the configurations. For example, Debug or Release and the configurations to use according to the selected build mode.
currentDir string Specifies the full directory path to the Build Target. The directory is detected automatically unless this parameter is set.
cwd string Full path to the directory on the remote system where the program will run. Defaults to "${debugInfo.defaultWorkingDirectory}"
debugType string Specifies the debugging mode according to the type of code (native, managed, or mixed). The mode is automatically detected unless this parameter is set. Allowed values: "native", "managed", "mixed".
env array Specifies a key-value list of custom environment variables. For example: env:{"myEnv":"myVal"}.
inheritEnvironments array Specifies a set of environment variables inherited from multiple sources. You can define some variables in files like CMakeSettings.json or CppProperties.json and make them available to debug context. Visual Studio 16.4: Specify environment variables on a per-target basis using the env.VARIABLE_NAME syntax. To unset a variable, set it to "null".
name string Specifies the name of the entry in the Startup Item dropdown.
noDebug boolean Specifies whether to debug the launched program. The default value for this parameter is false if not specified.
portName string Specifies the name of port when attaching to a running process.
program string The debug command to execute. Defaults to "${debugInfo.fullTargetPath}".
project string Specifies the relative path to the project file. Normally, you don't need to change this value when debugging a CMake project.
projectTarget string Specifies the optional target invoked when building project. The target must match the name in the Startup Item dropdown.
stopOnEntry boolean Specifies whether to break a soon as the process is launched and the debugger attaches. The default value for this parameter is false.
remoteMachine string Specifies the name of the remote machine where the program is launched.
type string Specifies whether the project is a dll or exe Defaults to .exe

C++ Linux properties

Property Type Description
program string Full path to program executable on the remote machine. When using CMake, the macro ${debugInfo.fullTargetPath} can be used as the value of this field.
processId integer Optional process ID to attach the debugger to.
sourceFileMap object Optional source file mappings passed to the debug engine. Format: { "\<Compiler source location>": "\<Editor source location>" } or { "\<Compiler source location>": { "editorPath": "\<Editor source location>", "useForBreakpoints": true } }. Example: { "/home/user/foo": "C:\\foo" } or { "/home/user/foo": { "editorPath": "c:\\foo", "useForBreakpoints": true } }. For more information, see Source file map options.
additionalProperties string One of the sourceFileMapOptions. (See below.)
MIMode string Indicates the type of MI-enabled console debugger that the MIDebugEngine will connect to. Allowed values are "gdb", "lldb".
args array Command-line arguments passed to the program.
environment array Environment variables to add to the environment for the program. Example: [ { "name": "squid", "value": "clam" } ].
targetArchitecture string The architecture of the debuggee. The architecture is detected automatically unless this parameter is set. Allowed values are x86, arm, arm64, mips, x64, amd64, x86_64.
visualizerFile string The .natvis file to be used when debugging this process. This option isn't compatible with GDB pretty printing. See "showDisplayString" if you use this setting.
showDisplayString boolean When a visualizerFile is specified, showDisplayString will enable the display string. Turning on this option can slow performance during debugging.
remoteMachineName string The remote Linux machine that hosts gdb and the program to debug. Use the Connection Manager for adding new Linux machines. When using CMake, the macro ${debugInfo.remoteMachineName} can be used as the value of this field.
miDebuggerPath string The path to the MI-enabled debugger (such as gdb). When unspecified, it will search PATH first for the debugger.
miDebuggerServerAddress string Network address of the MI-enabled debugger server to connect to. Example: "localhost:1234".
setupCommands array One or more GDB/LLDB commands to execute to set up the underlying debugger. Example: "setupCommands": [ { "text": "-enable-pretty-printing", "description": "Enable GDB pretty printing", "ignoreFailures": true }]. For more information, see Launch setup commands.
customLaunchSetupCommands array If provided, this value replaces the default commands used to launch a target with some other commands. For example, use "-target-attach" to attach to a target process. An empty command list replaces the launch commands with nothing, which can be useful if the debugger is being provided launch options as command-line options. Example: "customLaunchSetupCommands": [ { "text": "target-run", "description": "run target", "ignoreFailures": false }].
launchCompleteCommand string The command to execute after the debugger is fully set up, to cause the target process to run. Allowed values are "exec-run", "exec-continue", "None". The default value is "exec-run".
debugServerPath string Optional full path to debug server to launch. Defaults to null.
debugServerArgs string Optional debug server args. Defaults to null.
filterStderr boolean Search stderr stream for server-started pattern and log stderr to debug output. Defaults to false.
coreDumpPath string Optional full path to a core dump file for the specified program. Defaults to null.
externalConsole boolean If true, a console is launched for the debuggee. If false, no console is launched. The default for this setting is false. This option is ignored in some cases for technical reasons.
pipeTransport string When present, this value tells the debugger to connect to a remote computer using another executable as a pipe that will relay standard input/output between Visual Studio and the MI-enabled debugger (such as gdb). Allowed values: one or more Pipe Transport Options.

debugInfo macros

The following macros provide information about the debugging environment. They're useful for customizing the launch of your app for debugging.

Macro Description Example
addressSanitizerRuntimeFlags Runtime flags used to customize behavior of the address sanitizer. Used to set the environment variable "ASAN_OPTIONS". "env": {"ASAN_OPTIONS": "${addressSanitizerRuntimeFlags}:anotherFlag=true"}
defaultWorkingDirectory Set to the directory part of "fullTargetPath". If the CMake variable VS_DEBUGGER_WORKING_DIRECTORY is defined, then defaultWorkingDirectory is set to that value, instead. "cwd":"${debugInfo.defaultWorkingDirectory}"
fullTargetPath The full path to the binary being debugged. "program": "${debugInfo.fullTargetPath}"
linuxNatvisPath The full windows path to the VS linux .natvis file. Usually appears as the value "visualizerFile".
parentProcessId The process ID for the current Visual Studio instance. Used as a parameter to shellexec. See pipeTransport example below.
remoteMachineId A unique, numeric identifier for the connection to the remote machine. Used as a parameter to shellexec. See pipeTransport example below.
remoteWorkspaceRoot Linux path to the remote copy of the workspace. Specify file locations on the remote machine. For example: "args": ["${debugInfo.remoteWorkspaceRoot}/Data/MyInputFile.dat"]
resolvedRemoteMachineName The name of the target remote machine. "targetMachine" value in a deployment directive
shellexecPath The path to the shellexec program that Visual Studio is using to manage the remote machine connection. See pipeTransport example below
tty gdb will redirect input and output to this device for the program being debugged. Used as a parameter to gdb (-tty). See pipeTransport example below.
windowsSubsystemPath The full path to the Windows Subsystem for Linux instance.

The pipeTransport example below shows how to use some of the debugInfo macros defined above:

"pipeTransport": {
    "pipeProgram": "${debugInfo.shellexecPath}",
    "pipeArgs": [
    "pipeCmd": [

C++ Windows remote debug and deploy properties

Used when debugging and deploying an app on a remote machine.

Property Type Description
cwd string The working directory of the target on the remote machine. When using CMake, the macro ${debugInfo.defaultWorkingDirectory} can be used as the value of this field. The default value is the directory of the debug program/command.
deploy string Specifies extra files or directories to deploy. For example:
"deploy": {"sourcePath":"<Full path to source file/directory on host machine>", "targetPath":"<Full destination path to file/directory on target machine>"}
deployDirectory string The location on the remote machine where project outputs are automatically deployed to. Defaults to "C:\Windows Default Deploy Directory\<name of app>
deployDebugRuntimeLibraries string Specifies whether to deploy the debug runtime libraries for the active platform. Defaults to "true" if the active configurationType is "Debug"
deployRuntimeLibraries string Specifies whether to deploy the runtime libraries for the active platform. Defaults to "true" if the active configurationType is "MinSizeRel", "RelWithDebInfo", or "Release".
disableDeploy boolean Specifies whether files should be deployed.
remoteMachineName string Specifies the name of the remote ARM64 Windows machine where the program is launched. May be the server name or the remote machine's IP address.
authenticationType string Specifies the type of remote connection. Possible values are "windows" and "none". The default is "windows". This value should match the authentication setting specified on the remote debugger that is running on the remote machine.

Launch setup commands

Used with the setupCommands property:

Property Type Description
text string The debugger command to execute.
description string Optional description for the command.
ignoreFailures boolean If true, failures from the command should be ignored. Defaults to false.

Pipe transport options

Used with the pipeTransport property:

Property Type Description
pipeCwd string The fully qualified path to the working directory for the pipe program.
pipeProgram string The fully qualified pipe command to execute.
pipeArgs array Command-line arguments passed to the pipe program to configure the connection.
debuggerPath string The full path to the debugger on the target machine, for example /usr/bin/gdb.
pipeEnv object Environment variables passed to the pipe program.
quoteArgs boolean If individual arguments contain characters (such as spaces or tabs), should it be quoted? If false, the debugger command will no longer be automatically quoted. Default is true.

Source file map options

Use with the sourceFileMap property:

Property Type Description
editorPath string The location of the source code for the editor to locate.
useForBreakpoints boolean When setting breakpoints, this source mapping should be used. If false, only the filename and line number is used for setting breakpoints. If true, breakpoints will be set with the full path to the file and line number only when this source mapping is used. Otherwise just filename and line number will be used when setting breakpoints. Default is true.