The most recent preview (1.0.0-msbuild2-final) of dotnet-watch supports MSBuild projects, and is the most configurable, extensible version of the tool, yet. dotnet-watch is a file watcher for dotnet that restarts the specified application when changes in the source code are detected. This tool has been available since the days of DNX with support for project.json. dotnet-watch for MSBuild adds new features that were not available in the project.json versions.

See also: for more documentation and to report issues.

Basic usage

How To Install

Visual Studio 2017 RC

Note: soon, the NuGet GUI will be able to install this package, but is broken in the most recent RC.

  1. Open your .NET Core project in VS 2017 RC.
  2. Right click on the project in Solution Explorer.
  3. Select “Edit (YourProject).csproj”.
  4. Continue with next section

Visual Studio Code or command-line users

Add Microsoft.DotNet.Watcher.Tools as a DotNetCliToolReference to your project by adding this to the csproj file.

    <DotNetCliToolReference Include="Microsoft.DotNet.Watcher.Tools" Version="1.0.0-msbuild2-final" />

How To Use

On command line, change directories (cd C:\dev\MyApp) into the directory containing your project. Then execute dotnet watch. This will show detailed help information and some examples.

To make dotnet-watch do something, add watch between dotnet and the command arguments that you want to execute.

For example, if you want to repeatedly run tests, execute dotnet watch test. Or, if you want to recompile and launch your website when a C# file changes, run dotnet watch run. All dotnet blah verbs are supported. (In theory, you could even run dotnet watch watch watch run….but I don’t recommend it.)

What’s new

dotnet-watch can be configured with settings in the MSBuild project file being watched.

Customize which files are watched

By default, dotnet-watch will track all **/*.cs, *.csproj, and **/*.resx files for changes. Well, kinda. The truth is a little more technical: the default is actually everything in the Compile and EmbeddedResource item groups, plus any file added to the MSBuildProjectFiles list….but for most projects, this means all C# files.

More items can be added to the watchlist by editing the csproj file. Items can be added individually, or by using glob patterns.

    <!-- extends watching group to include *.js files -->
    <Watch Include="**\*.js" Exclude="node_modules\**\*;**\*;obj\**\*;bin\**\*" />

Opt-out of defaults

dotnet-watch can be configured to ignore its default settings. To ignore specific files, add the Watch="false" attribute an item’s definition in the csproj file.


    <!-- exclude Generated.cs from dotnet-watch -->
    <Compile Include="Generated.cs" Watch="false" />

    <!-- exclude Strings.resx from dotnet-watch -->
    <EmbeddedResource Include="Strings.resx" Watch="false" />

    <!-- exclude changes in this referenced project -->
    <ProjectReference Include="..\ClassLibrary1\ClassLibrary1.csproj" Watch="false" />

For MSBuild ninjas

The ‘watch’ build

When dotnet-watch reads a *.csproj to find which files it should watch, it actually executes the MSBuild project. It calls a target named GenerateWatchList in the project. When this target runs, dotnet-watch will set the property DotNetWatchBuild=true. This is similar to how Visual Studio and VS Code execute the csproj with DesignTimeBuild=true to discover files, NuGet references, etc.

Custom ‘watch projects’

dotnet-watch is not restricted to C# projects. You can create custom ‘watch’ projects to do your bidding.

Example: watch multiple test projects

Example: let’s say you have the following project layout:


If you wanted to watch multiple projects, and execute tests on all, you create file like this in test/watch.proj:

<Project ToolsVersion="15.0">

        <TestProjects Include="**\*.csproj" />
        <Watch Include="**\*.cs" />

    <Target Name="Test">
        <MSBuild Targets="VSTest" Projects="@(TestProjects)" />

        <DotNetCliToolReference Include="Microsoft.DotNet.Watcher.Tools" Version="1.0.0-msbuild3-final" />

    <Import Project="$(MSBuildExtensionsPath)\Microsoft.Common.targets"/>


Then execute

cd test\
dotnet restore watch.proj
dotnet watch msbuild /t:Test

This will watch all test projects, and execute VSTest when any file changes.