What’s the Difference Between Using Dotnet and MSBuild for Building .NET Applications?

dotnet and MSBuild are both build tools used for building .NET applications, but they serve different purposes and have different features:


Dotnet is a command-line tool that provides a unified interface for managing .NET applications and projects. It is part of the .NET Core and .NET 5+ SDKs. dotnet can be used to build, run, test, publish, and manage dependencies of .NET applications. It is cross-platform and supports multiple programming languages, including C#, F#, and VB.NET. With dotnet, you can build applications using the new SDK-style project format (*.csproj), which is simpler and more flexible compared to the legacy *.csproj format used by MSBuild.


MSBuild is the build engine used by the .NET Framework and Visual Studio to build projects. It is an XML-based build system that provides a comprehensive set of features for building complex projects and solutions. MSBuild is primarily used with the full .NET Framework and Visual Studio, although it can also be used with .NET Core and .NET 5+ projects. It supports a wide range of build customization options and can be extended using custom build scripts and targets.

In summary, while both dotnet and MSBuild are used for building .NET applications, dotnet is a more lightweight and cross-platform tool that provides a simplified interface for managing .NET projects, while MSBuild is a more powerful and feature-rich build engine primarily used with the .NET Framework and Visual Studio. The choice between the two depends on your specific requirements, project type, and development environment.

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