Copy all content of a web application

When developing web-applications using Visual Studio everything is quite easy. Especially since Microsoft introduced the development-web-server (aka Cassini) web-development is really smooth. Just create a new project and you’re ready to roll.

But there comes the point in time, where you want to deploy your web-app to a real server. So how can you accomplish this the best way? Well, using Visual Studio you can publish a web-application to a web-server using HTTP, FTP or a UNC path. But this is a manual step you would have to trigger.

Of course you could setup a copy-task, by using xcopy or something similar (like NAnt’s copy task). But this would mean, that you would have to specify all files that should be copied. Or you would have to use wildcards, by specifying all extensions which should be copied. But what happens when you add some unusual (or new) file to the project? This will most likely not being copied and you’ll have to remember to modify your copy-task.

For that purpose MSBuild has a special task called _CopyWebApplication, which is part of the Microsoft.WebApplication.targets. This task will copy all items of our web-application project, which are marked as “content”. So if your build-script is based on MSBuild you could leverage this task to copy all files for your web-application to a certain destination.

Since I prefer NAnt over MSBuild I was looking for a solution to accomplish the same with NAnt. So I found a post of Petter Wigle. He has a great approach of creating a NAnt file on the fly by analyzing the web-application’s project-file.

Basically he’s applying a XSLT script to create a fileset-definition of all files that need to be copied. This script can then be called during the build-process.

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