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How to: Display an Item List Separated with Commas

When you work with item lists in Microsoft Build Engine (MSBuild), it is sometimes useful to display the contents of those item lists in a way that is easy to read. Or, you might have a task that takes a list of items separated with a special separator string. In both of these cases, you can specify a separator string for an item list.

Separating Items in a List with Commas

By default, MSBuild uses semicolons to separate items in a list. For example, consider a Message element with the following value:

<Message Text="This is my list of TXT files: @(TXTFile)"/>

When the @(TXTFile) item list contains the items App1.txt, App2.txt, and App3.txt, the message is:

This is my list of TXT files: App1.txt;App2.txt;App3.txt

If you want to change the default behavior, you can specify your own separator. The syntax for specifying an item list separator is:

@(ItemListName, '<separator>')

The separator can be either a single character or a string and must be enclosed in single quotes.

To insert a comma and a space between items

  • Use item notation similar to the following:

    @(TXTFile, ', ')


In this example, Exec task runs the findstr tool to find specified text strings in the file, Phrases.txt. In the findstr command, literal search strings are indicated by the /c: switch, so the item separator, /c: is inserted between items in the @(Phrase) item list.

For this example, the equivalent command-line command is:

findstr /i /c:hello /c:world /c:msbuild phrases.txt

<Project DefaultTargets = "Find"
    xmlns="" >

        <Phrase Include="hello"/>
        <Phrase Include="world"/>
        <Phrase Include="msbuild"/>

    <Target Name = "Find">
        <!-- Find some strings in a file -->
        <Exec Command="findstr /i /c:@(Phrase, ' /c:') phrases.txt"/>

See Also


MSBuild Items

Other Resources

MSBuild Reference