Package references (PackageReference) in project files
Package references, using the
PackageReference node, manage NuGet dependencies directly within project files (as opposed to a separate
packages.config file). Using PackageReference, as it's called, doesn't affect other aspects of NuGet; for example, settings in
NuGet.config files (including package sources) are still applied as explained in Common NuGet configurations.
With PackageReference, you can also use MSBuild conditions to choose package references per target framework, or other groupings. It also allows for fine-grained control over dependencies and content flow. (See For more details NuGet pack and restore as MSBuild targets.)
Project type support
By default, PackageReference is used for .NET Core projects, .NET Standard projects, and UWP projects targeting Windows 10 Build 15063 (Creators Update) and later, with the exception of C++ UWP projects. .NET Framework projects support PackageReference, but currently default to
packages.config. To use PackageReference, migrate the dependencies from
packages.config into your project file, then remove packages.config.
Adding a PackageReference
Add a dependency in your project file using the following syntax:
<ItemGroup> <!-- ... --> <PackageReference Include="Contoso.Utility.UsefulStuff" Version="3.6.0" /> <!-- ... --> </ItemGroup>
Controlling dependency version
The convention for specifying the version of a package is the same as when using
<ItemGroup> <!-- ... --> <PackageReference Include="Contoso.Utility.UsefulStuff" Version="3.6.0" /> <!-- ... --> </ItemGroup>
In the example above, 3.6.0 means any version that is >=3.6.0 with preference for the lowest version, as described on Package versioning.
Using PackageReference for a project with no PackageReferences
Advanced: If you have no packages installed in a project (no PackageReferences in project file and no packages.config file), but want the project to be restored as PackageReference style, you can set a Project property RestoreProjectStyle to PackageReference in your project file.
<PropertyGroup> <!--- ... --> <RestoreProjectStyle>PackageReference</RestoreProjectStyle> <!--- ... --> </PropertyGroup>
This may be useful, if you reference projects which are PackageReference styled (existing csproj or SDK-style projects). This will enable packages that those projects refer to, to be "transitively" referenced by your project.
PackageReference and sources
In PackageReference projects, the transitive dependency versions are resolved at restore time. As such, in PackageReference projects all sources need to be available for all restores.
Floating versions are supported with
<ItemGroup> <!-- ... --> <PackageReference Include="Contoso.Utility.UsefulStuff" Version="3.6.*" /> <PackageReference Include="Contoso.Utility.UsefulStuff" Version="3.6.0-beta*" /> <!-- ... --> </ItemGroup>
Controlling dependency assets
You might be using a dependency purely as a development harness and might not want to expose that to projects that will consume your package. In this scenario, you can use the
PrivateAssets metadata to control this behavior.
<ItemGroup> <!-- ... --> <PackageReference Include="Contoso.Utility.UsefulStuff" Version="3.6.0"> <PrivateAssets>all</PrivateAssets> </PackageReference> <!-- ... --> </ItemGroup>
The following metadata tags control dependency assets:
|IncludeAssets||These assets will be consumed||all|
|ExcludeAssets||These assets will not be consumed||none|
|PrivateAssets||These assets will be consumed but won't flow to the parent project||contentfiles;analyzers;build|
Allowable values for these tags are as follows, with multiple values separated by a semicolon except with
none which must appear by themselves:
|compile||Contents of the
|runtime||Contents of the
|contentFiles||Contents of the
|native||Contents of the
|none||None of the above are used.|
|all||All of the above (except
In the following example, everything except the content files from the package would be consumed by the project and everything except content files and analyzers would flow to the parent project.
<ItemGroup> <!-- ... --> <PackageReference Include="Contoso.Utility.UsefulStuff" Version="3.6.0"> <IncludeAssets>all</IncludeAssets> <ExcludeAssets>contentFiles</ExcludeAssets> <PrivateAssets>contentFiles;analyzers</PrivateAssets> </PackageReference> <!-- ... --> </ItemGroup>
Note that because
build is not included with
PrivateAssets, targets and props will flow to the parent project. Consider, for example, that the reference above is used in a project that builds a NuGet package called AppLogger. AppLogger can consume the targets and props from
Contoso.Utility.UsefulStuff, as can projects that consume AppLogger.
developmentDependency is set to
true in a
.nuspec file, this marks a package as a development-only dependency, which prevents the package from being included as a dependency in other packages. With PackageReference (NuGet 4.8+), this flag also means that it will exclude compile-time assets from compilation. For more information, see DevelopmentDependency support for PackageReference.
Adding a PackageReference condition
You can use a condition to control whether a package is included, where conditions can use any MSBuild variable or a variable defined in the targets or props file. However, at presently, only the
TargetFramework variable is supported.
For example, say you're targeting
netstandard1.4 as well as
net452 but have a dependency that is applicable only for
net452. In this case you don't want a
netstandard1.4 project that's consuming your package to add that unnecessary dependency. To prevent this, you specify a condition on the
PackageReference as follows:
<ItemGroup> <!-- ... --> <PackageReference Include="Newtonsoft.Json" Version="9.0.1" Condition="'$(TargetFramework)' == 'net452'" /> <!-- ... --> </ItemGroup>
A package built using this project will show that Newtonsoft.Json is included as a dependency only for a
Conditions can also be applied at the
ItemGroup level and will apply to all children
<ItemGroup Condition = "'$(TargetFramework)' == 'net452'"> <!-- ... --> <PackageReference Include="Newtonsoft.Json" Version="9.0.1" /> <PackageReference Include="Contoso.Utility.UsefulStuff" Version="3.6.0" /> <!-- ... --> </ItemGroup>
This feature is available with NuGet 5.0 or above and with Visual Studio 2019 16.0 or above.
Sometimes it is desirable to reference files in a package from an MSBuild target.
packages.config based projects, the packages are installed in a folder relative to the project file. However in PackageReference, the packages are consumed from the global-packages folder, which can vary from machine to machine.
To bridge that gap, NuGet introduced a property that points to the location from which the package will be consumed.
<ItemGroup> <PackageReference Include="Some.Package" Version="1.0.0" GeneratePathProperty="true" /> </ItemGroup> <Target Name="TakeAction" AfterTargets="Build"> <Exec Command="$(PkgSome_Package)\something.exe" /> </Target>
Additionally NuGet will automatically generate properties for packages containing a tools folder.
<ItemGroup> <PackageReference Include="Package.With.Tools" Version="1.0.0" /> </ItemGroup> <Target Name="TakeAction" AfterTargets="Build"> <Exec Command="$(PkgPackage_With_Tools)\tools\tool.exe" /> </Target>
MSBuild properties and package identities do not have the same restrictions so the package identity needs to be changed to an MSBuild friendly name, prefixed by the word
To verify the exact name of the property generated, look at the generated nuget.g.props file.
NuGet warnings and errors
This feature is available with NuGet 4.3 or above and with Visual Studio 2017 15.3 or above.
For many pack and restore scenarios, all NuGet warnings and errors are coded, and start with
NU****. All NuGet warnings and errors are listed in the reference documentation.
NuGet observes the following warning properties:
TreatWarningsAsErrors, treat all warnings as errors
WarningsAsErrors, treat specific warnings as errors
NoWarn, hide specific warnings, either project-wide or package-wide.
<PropertyGroup> <TreatWarningsAsErrors>true</TreatWarningsAsErrors> </PropertyGroup> ... <PropertyGroup> <WarningsAsErrors>$(WarningsAsErrors);NU1603;NU1605</WarningsAsErrors> </PropertyGroup> ... <PropertyGroup> <NoWarn>$(NoWarn);NU5124</NoWarn> </PropertyGroup> ... <ItemGroup> <PackageReference Include="Contoso.Package" Version="1.0.0" NoWarn="NU1605" /> </ItemGroup>
Suppressing NuGet warnings
While it is recommended that you resolve all NuGet warnings during your pack and restore operations, in certain situations suppressing them is warranted. To suppress a warning project wide, consider doing:
<PropertyGroup> <PackageVersion>5.0.0</PackageVersion> <NoWarn>$(NoWarn);NU5104</NoWarn> </PropertyGroup> <ItemGroup> <PackageReference Include="Contoso.Package" Version="1.0.0-beta.1"/> </ItemGroup>
Sometimes warnings apply only to a certain package in the graph. We can choose to suppress that warning more selectively by adding a
NoWarn on the PackageReference item.
<PropertyGroup> <PackageVersion>5.0.0</PackageVersion> </PropertyGroup> <ItemGroup> <PackageReference Include="Contoso.Package" Version="1.0.0-beta.1" NoWarn="NU1603" /> </ItemGroup>
Suppressing NuGet package warnings in Visual Studio
When in Visual Studio, you can also suppress warnings through the IDE.
This feature is available with NuGet 4.9 or above and with Visual Studio 2017 15.9 or above.
Input to NuGet restore is a set of Package References from the project file (top-level or direct dependencies) and the output is a full closure of all the package dependencies including transitive dependencies. NuGet tries to always produce the same full closure of package dependencies if the input PackageReference list has not changed. However, there are some scenarios where it is unable to do so. For example:
When you use floating versions like
<PackageReference Include="My.Sample.Lib" Version="4.*"/>. While the intention here is to float to the latest version on every restore of packages, there are scenarios where users require the graph to be locked to a certain latest version and float to a later version, if available, upon an explicit gesture.
A newer version of the package matching PackageReference version requirements is published. E.g.
Day 1: if you specified
<PackageReference Include="My.Sample.Lib" Version="4.0.0"/>but the versions available on the NuGet repositories were 4.1.0, 4.2.0 and 4.3.0. In this case, NuGet would have resolved to 4.1.0 (nearest minimum version)
Day 2: Version 4.0.0 gets published. NuGet will now find the exact match and start resolving to 4.0.0
A given package version is removed from the repository. Though nuget.org does not allow package deletions, not all package repositories have this constraints. This results in NuGet finding the best match when it cannot resolve to the deleted version.
Enabling lock file
In order to persist the full closure of package dependencies you can opt-in to the lock file feature by setting the MSBuild property
RestorePackagesWithLockFile for your project:
<PropertyGroup> <!--- ... --> <RestorePackagesWithLockFile>true</RestorePackagesWithLockFile> <!--- ... --> </PropertyGroup>
If this property is set, NuGet restore will generate a lock file -
packages.lock.json file at the project root directory that lists all the package dependencies.
Once a project has
packages.lock.json file in its root directory, the lock file is always used with restore even if the property
RestorePackagesWithLockFile is not set. So another way to opt-in to this feature is to create a dummy blank
packages.lock.json file in the project's root directory.
restore behavior with lock file
If a lock file is present for project, NuGet uses this lock file to run
restore. NuGet does a quick check to see if there were any changes in the package dependencies as mentioned in the project file (or dependent projects' files) and if there were no changes it just restores the packages mentioned in the lock file. There is no re-evaluation of package dependencies.
If NuGet detects a change in the defined dependencies as mentioned in the project file(s), it re-evaluates the package graph and updates the lock file to reflect the new package closure for the project.
For CI/CD and other scenarios, where you would not want to change the package dependencies on the fly, you can do so by setting the
For dotnet.exe, run:
> dotnet.exe restore --locked-mode
For msbuild.exe, run:
> msbuild.exe -t:restore -p:RestoreLockedMode=true
You may also set this conditional MSBuild property in your project file:
<PropertyGroup> <!--- ... --> <RestoreLockedMode>true</RestoreLockedMode> <!--- ... --> </PropertyGroup>
If locked mode is
true, restore will either restore the exact packages as listed in the lock file or fail if you updated the defined package dependencies for the project after lock file was created.
Make lock file part of your source repository
If you are building an application, an executable and the project in question is at the start of the dependency chain then do check in the lock file to the source code repository so that NuGet can make use of it during restore.
However, if your project is a library project that you do not ship or a common code project on which other projects depend upon, you should not check in the lock file as part of your source code. There is no harm in keeping the lock file but the locked package dependencies for the common code project may not be used, as listed in the lock file, during the restore/build of a project that depends on this common-code project.
ProjectA |------> PackageX 2.0.0 |------> ProjectB |------>PackageX 1.0.0
ProjectA has a dependency on a
2.0.0 and also references
ProjectB that depends on
1.0.0, then the lock file for
ProjectB will list a dependency on
1.0.0. However, when
ProjectA is built, its lock file will contain a dependency on
2.0.0 and not
1.0.0 as listed in the lock file for
ProjectB. Thus, the lock file of a common code project has little say over the packages resolved for projects that depend on it.
Lock file extensibility
You can control various behaviors of restore with lock file as described below:
|NuGet.exe option||dotnet option||MSBuild equivalent option||Description|
||RestorePackagesWithLockFile||Opts into the usage of a lock file.|
||RestoreLockedMode||Enables locked mode for restore. This is useful in CI/CD scenarios where you want repeatable builds.|
||RestoreForceEvaluate||This option is useful with packages with floating version defined in the project. By default, NuGet restore will not update the package version automatically upon each restore unless you run restore with this option.|
||NuGetLockFilePath||Defines a custom lock file location for a project. By default, NuGet supports