Package a desktop application by using Visual Studio

You can use Visual Studio to generate a package for your desktop app. Then, you can publish that package to the Windows store or sideload it onto one or more PCs.

The latest version of Visual Studio provides a new version of the packaging project that eliminates all of the manual steps that used to be necessary to package your app. Just add a packaging project, reference your desktop project, and then press F5 to debug your app. No manual tweaks necessary. This new streamlined experience is a vast improvement over the experience that was available in the previous version of Visual Studio.

Important

The ability to create a Windows app package for your desktop application (Otherwise known as the Desktop Bridge, was introduced in Windows 10, version 1607, and it can only be used in projects that target Windows 10 Anniversary Update (10.0; Build 14393) or a later release in Visual Studio.

First, prepare your application

Review this guide before you begin creating a package for your application: Prepare to package a desktop application.

Create a package

  1. In Visual Studio, open the solution that contains your desktop application project.

  2. Add a Windows Application Packaging Project project to your solution.

    You won't have to add any code to it. It's just there to generate a package for you. We'll refer to this project as the "packaging project".

    Packaging project

    Note

    This project appears only in Visual Studio 2017 version 15.5 or higher.

  3. Set the Target Version of this project to any version that you want, but make sure to set the Minimum Version to Windows 10 Anniversary Update.

    Packaging version selector dialog box

  4. In the packaging project, right-click the Applications folder, and then choose Add Reference.

    Add Project Reference

  5. Choose your desktop application project, and then choose the OK button.

    Desktop project

    You can include multiple desktop applications in your package, but only one of them can start when users choose your app tile. In the Applications node, right-click the application that you want users to start when they choose the app's tile, and then choose Set as Entry Point.

    Set entry point

  6. Build the packaging project to ensure that no errors appear.

  7. Use the Create App Packages wizard to generate an appxupload file.

    You can upload that file directly to the store.

Video

 

Next steps

Find answers to your questions

Have questions? Ask us on Stack Overflow. Our team monitors these tags. You can also ask us here.

Give feedback or make feature suggestions

See UserVoice.

Run, debug or test your desktop application

See Run, debug, and test a packaged desktop application

Enhance your desktop application by adding UWP APIs

See Enhance your desktop application for Windows 10

Extend your desktop application by adding UWP projects and Windows Runtime Components

See Extend your desktop application with modern UWP components.

Distribute your app

See Distribute a packaged desktop application