Install and manage NuGet packages in Visual Studio for Mac

The NuGet Package Manager UI in Visual Studio for Mac allows you to easily install, uninstall, and update NuGet packages in projects and solutions. You can search for and add packages to your .NET Core, ASP.NET Core, and Xamarin projects.

This article describes how to include a NuGet package in a project and demonstrates the tool chain that makes the process seamless.

For an intro to using NuGet in Visual Studio for Mac, see Quickstart: Install and use a package in Visual Studio for Mac

Find and Install a Package

  1. With a project open in Visual Studio for Mac, right-click on the Dependencies folder (Packages folder if using a Xamarin project) in the Solution Window and select Manage NuGet Packages....

    Add new NuGet package context action

  2. This launches the Manage NuGet Packages window. Ensure that the Source drop-down in the top left corner of the dialog is set to, so that you're searching the central NuGet package repository.

    List NuGet Packages

  3. Use the search box in the top-right corner to find a specific package, for example EntityFramework. When you have found a package that you wish to use, select it and click the Add Package button to begin installation.

    Add EntityFramework NuGet Package

  4. Once the package has been downloaded, it will be added to your project. The solution will change depending on the type of project you're editing:

    Xamarin Projects

    • The References node will contain a list of all the assemblies that are part of a NuGet package.
    • The Packages node displays each NuGet package that you have downloaded. You can update or remove a package from this list.

    .NET Core Projects

    • The Dependencies > NuGet node displays each NuGet package that you have downloaded. You can update or remove a package from this list.

Using NuGet Packages

Once the NuGet package has been added and the project references updated, you can program against the APIs as you would with any project reference.

Ensure that you add any required using directives to the top of your file:

using Newtonsoft.Json;

Updating Packages

Package updates can be done either all at once, by right-clicking on the Dependencies node (Packages node for Xamarin projects), or individually on each package. When a new version of a NuGet package is available, an update icon appears Up arrow with circle.

Right-click on Dependencies to access the context menu and choose Update to update all packages:

Dependencies context menu with the Update menu highlighted

  • Manage NuGet Packages - Opens the window to add more packages to the project.
  • Update - Checks the source server for each package and downloads any newer versions.
  • Restore - Downloads any missing packages (without updating existing packages to newer versions).

Update and Restore options are also available at the Solution level, and affect all the projects in the solution.

Updating to pre-release versions of packages

To update to a newer pre-release version of a package, you can right-click on Dependencies to open the context menu and choose the Manage NuGet Packages... menu.

Dependencies context menu with Manage NuGet Packages... menu highlighted

Check the Show pre-release packages checkbox at the bottom of the dialog.

Manage NuGet Packages dialog opened with the 'Show pre-release packages' option checked

Finally, from the Updates tab of the dialog, select the package you wish to update and choose the new pre-release version from the New Version drop-down and click Update Package.

Manage NuGet Packages dialog opened to the Installed tab, with a package selected and the New Version dropdown list open.

Locating outdated packages

From the Solution Window, you can view what version of a package is currently installed and right-click on the package to update.

Packages menu with the options to Update, Remove, Refresh

You will also see a notification next to the package name when a new version of a package is available, so you can decide if you may want to update it.

Notification shown when a new package version is available

In the menu shown, you have two options:

  • Update - Checks the source server and downloads a newer version (if it exists).
  • Remove - Removes the package from this project and removes the relevant assemblies from the project's References.

Manage packages for the solution

Managing packages for a solution is a convenient means to work with multiple projects simultaneously.

  1. Right-click the solution and select Manage NuGet Packages...:

    Manage NuGet packages for the solution

  2. When managing packages for the solution, the UI lets you select the projects that are affected by the operations:

    Project selector when managing packages for the solution

Consolidate tab

When working in a solution with multiple projects, it's considered a best practice to make sure that anywhere you use the same NuGet package in each project, you're also using the same version number of that package. Visual Studio for Mac helps make this easier by providing a Consolidate tab in the Package Manager UI when you choose to manage packages for a solution. Using this tab, you can easily see where packages with distinct version numbers are used by different projects in the solution:

Package Manager UI Consolidate tab

In this example, the NuGetDemo project is using Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore 2.20, whereas NuGetDemo.Shared is using Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore 2.2.6. To consolidate package versions, do the following:

  • Select the projects to update in the project list.
  • Select the version to use in all those projects in the New Version list, such as Microsoft.EntityFrameworkCore 3.0.0.
  • Select the Consolidate Package button.

The Package Manager installs the selected package version into all selected projects, after which the package no longer appears on the Consolidate tab.

Adding Package Sources

Packages available for installation are initially retrieved from However, you can add other package locations to Visual Studio for Mac. This can be useful for testing your own NuGet packages under development, or to use a private NuGet server inside your company or organization.

In Visual Studio for Mac, navigate to Visual Studio > Preferences > NuGet > Sources to view and edit the list of package sources. Note that sources can be a remote server (specified by a URL) or a local directory.

Package Sources

Click Add to set-up a new source. Enter a friendly name and the URL (or file path) to the package source. If the source is a secure web server, enter the username and password as well, otherwise leave these entries blank:

Add Package Source dialog with a prompt for Name, location URL, user name, and password.

Different sources can then be selected when searching for packages:

Add Package Source dialog showing a drop down with a list of package sources.

Version Control

The NuGet documentation discusses using NuGet without committing packages to source control. If you prefer not to store binaries and unused information in source control, you can configure Visual Studio for Mac to automatically restore packages from the server. This means that when a developer retrieves the project from source control for the first time, Visual Studio for Mac will automatically download and install the required packages.

Automatically restore packages

Refer to your particular source control documentation for details on how to exclude the packages directory from being tracked.

See also