Friday, December 24, 2010

How to make a visual studio project template

Here is the simple 14-step procedure to build a template for F# projects targeting exotic platforms.

Mixing F# and XNA's dna:

0. Get a build of the F# core library for the exotic platform.

1. Create a new C# XNA library project

2. Create a new F# library project

3. Create a directory "Dependencies" in the F# library.
Put the custom-built F# core dll files there.
Add these files to the project.

4. Merge the XNA "dna" from the C# XNA library project file (with extension .csproj) into the F# library project (with extension .fsproj)
This includes:
a) Fixing platforms (remove "Any CPU", add the XNA platform)
b) Fixing configurations (the common one, as well as the release and debug ones too)
c) Adding all references to XNA dlls (simple copy-paste from the XNA csproj file)
d) Importing the XNA targets file (after the F# targets file)
c) and d) are easy, a) and b) is mostly text merging, using the csproj file whenever there are conflicts.

5. Fix references in the .fsproj file.
a) Replace or add the reference to FSharp.Core.dll, using a hint path pointing at "Dependencies".
b) Check that any reference to "mscorlib.dll" has no HintPath element.

6. Save your work, commit it if you are using revision control (advised)

7. Try to build the project. If you are lucky it will be successful. Look at the command line in the output window to check that the right version of FSharp.Core.dll was used (the one in Dependencies).

8. Clean the project

9. Choose "Export template" in the file menu. Don't install the template in Visual Studio.
If you mistakenly installed it, you can remove it by deleting the zip file from "My Documents\Visual Studio 2010\Templates\Projects".

10. You will get a zip file under "My Exported Templates"

11. Open the zip file, copy __TemplateIcon and MyTemplate files into the F# library project.

12. Edit MyTemplate to add the following lines under .
     <Folder Name="Dependencies" TargetFolderName="Dependencies">
        <ProjectItem ReplaceParameters="false" TargetFileName="FSharp.Core.dll">FSharp.Core.dll</ProjectItem>
        <ProjectItem ReplaceParameters="false" TargetFileName="FSharp.Core.xml">FSharp.Core.xml</ProjectItem>
        <ProjectItem ReplaceParameters="false" TargetFileName="FSharp.Core.optdata">FSharp.Core.optdata</ProjectItem>
        <ProjectItem ReplaceParameters="false" TargetFileName="FSharp.Core.sigdata">FSharp.Core.sigdata</ProjectItem>

13. Remove the bin/ and obj/ directories, if any.

14. Zip the content of the F# library project directory (not the directory itself!). You now have a project template file.

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