How to: Identify How a Project Manages Files

You might want to identify the type of association a project maintains with a file. For example, you may find that your files are not being saved, copied, or moved as you would expect while working in Solution Explorer. By determining whether or not your project is maintaining links or the file itself, you can understand when Solution Explorer is handling the source file itself, a copy of the file, or a link to the file.


Projects that maintain both links and the file itself use arrows icons in Solution Explorer to indicate the difference between the items.

The following table identifies the how items are managed by the most common Visual Studio projects or folders.

In this project or folder

Items managed as

Miscellaneous Files folder


Solution Items folder


Visual Basic Web


Visual Basic

Both, primarily files

Visual C#

Both, primarily files

Visual C# Web


Visual C++ 


If you are unsure how a specific project in one of your solutions manages items, you can use the availability of some commands in the integrated development environment to check. This procedure is only valid if the developer of the project template followed the programming guidelines recommended by Microsoft Corporation. Project templates developed by outside vendors are not required to follow the guidelines.

To determine how the project is associated with a file

  1. In Solution Explorer, select an item in a project.

  2. Open the Project menu.


    Then the project

    Show All Files is available

    Manages either a link or the file

    Show All Files is not available

    Manages only links to the files

  3. To determine if all of the files must be in the project directory, open the Project menu, and then select Add Existing Item.

  4. In the Add Existing Item dialog box, select the drop-down portion of Open.


    Then the project

    A list of Open commands is available

    Manages either a link or the file

    A list of commands is unavailable

    Manages the file

For more information about the effect the project directory has on command availability, see Item Management in Projects.

See Also


Using Solution Explorer

Item Management in Projects

Other Resources

Solution Explorer