Customize C++ builds

You can use Directory.Build.props and Directory.Build.targets to customize all the C++ projects under a common parent folder. See Customize by folder. In addition, C++ projects provide the following extensibility points. You can use properties to specify .props or .targets file(s) to be automatically imported before or after Microsoft.Cpp.* files:

  • ForceImportAfterCppDefaultProps
  • ForceImportBeforeCppProps
  • ForceImportAfterCppProps
  • ForceImportBeforeCppTargets
  • ForceImportAfterCppTargets

These imports provide control over the sequence of the definitions of properties that depend on other properties, or targets that depend on other targets. The sequence of imports in a .vcxproj looks like this:


See .vcxproj and .props file structure. If you need to define properties that use other properties defined in Microsoft.Cpp.default.props or Microsoft.Cpp.props, you can create another .props file (say, MyProps.props), and define the ForceImportAfterCppProps property in Directory.Build.props pointing to it:


MyProps.props will be automatically imported at the very end of Microsoft.Cpp.props.

Customize all C++ builds

Customizing the Visual Studio installation isn't recommended, since it's not easy to keep track of such customizations, but if you're extending Visual Studio to customize C++ builds for a particular platform, you can create .targets files for each platform and place them in the appropriate import folders for those platforms as part of a Visual Studio extension.

The .targets file for the Win32 platform, Microsoft.Cpp.Win32.targets, contains the following Import element:

<Import Project="$(VCTargetsPath)\Platforms\Win32\ImportBefore\*.targets"

There's a similar element near the end of the same file:

<Import Project="$(VCTargetsPath)\Platforms\Win32\ImportAfter\*.targets"

Similar import elements exist for other target platforms in *%ProgramFiles32%\MSBuild\Microsoft.Cpp\v{version}\Platforms*.

Once you place the .targets file in the appropriate ImportAfter folder according to the platform, MSBuild imports your file into every C++ build for that platform. You can put multiple .targets files there, if needed.

Using Visual Studio Extensibility, further customizations are possible, such as defining a new platform. For more information, see C++ project extensibility.

Specify a custom import on the command line

For custom .targets that you want to include for a specific build of a C++ project, set one or both of the properties ForceImportBeforeCppTargets and ForceImportAfterCppTargets on the command line.

msbuild /p:ForceImportBeforeCppTargets="C:\build\config\Custom.Before.Microsoft.Cpp.Targets" MyCppProject.vcxproj

For a global setting (to affect, say, all C++ builds for a platform on a build server), there are two methods. First, you can set these properties using a system environment variable that is always set. This technique works because MSBuild always reads the environment and creates (or overrides) properties for all the environment variables.