In this blogpost a “release build” is a folder containing all the files (html, css, JavaScript, images, dll’s etc.) needed in production to run a specific themed web application.




The publish / deployment process in Visual Studio is intended to create one “release build”, but I wanted this process to create 2 exactly the same “release builds”, just with different themes (different images and css files).


To accomplish this, I altered / added / removed the following files:

  • Added (the publish profile)
  • Altered the csproj file of the web project
    • Added folder to the root “Themes”
      • Theme1
        • Images (contains the images for this theme, build type = “None”)
        • variables.cssn (contains all the css next variables for this theme, build type = “None”)
      • Theme2
        • Images (contains the images for this theme, build type = “None”)
        • variables.cssn (contains all the css next variables for this theme, build type = “None”)
  • Added package.json (npm configuration file, build type = “None”)
  • gulpfile.js (gulp configuration file, build type = “None”)
  • gulpfile.helper.js (custom JavaScript code, build type = “None”)
  • Renamed all *.css to *.cssn (css next) and set the build type = “None” (except the css files in the libraries folder)
  • Deleted all *.css files except the files in the libraries folder.
  • .gitignore






Create a publishing file “deploy.pubxml” by right clicking on your web application project > publish… > Custom

  • Enter “deploy” for the name, his will create a deploy.pubxml.
  • Choose publish method “File System”
  • Enter a target location, for example C:\Release\MyWebApp






This file is used by the publish/package process of your Web project. You can customize the behavior of this process

by editing this MSBuild file. In order to learn more about this please visit





<SiteUrlToLaunchAfterPublish />



<LastUsedBuildConfiguration />

<LastUsedPlatform />





The target “GatherAllFilesToPublish” is the last target run by msbuild, before msdeploy starts copying files to the destination folder.

This is the last time we can alter the output, because there is no “after publish” target.

We have to use the property “AfterTargets”, because “DependsOnTargets” doesn’t work.


The target runs a gulp task which creates a release output folder per theme (by using PostCSS and copying images to correct location).

– themes: Is a “comma” seperated list of themed releases that should be created

– The first item should be the “default” theme

– projectFolder: The folder containing the *.csproj file.

This folder is needed, because among other things it contains:

– the *.cssn (css next) files that should be compiled to *.css

– the theme images that should be copied

– packageTempDir: The temp folder used by Visual Studio to create a release. This folder will be used as base for the other themed releases.

– publishFolder: Is set to the “publishUrl”,

– The publishing process of Visual Studio is intended to work for one “release build”.

– We are creating multiple “release builds”, one for each theme.

– Each “release build” will be placed inside the parent folder of the “publishFolder”

– Only the first theme (default theme) will be placed directly into the “publishFolder”



– npm run “gulp”, will only work when the package.json contains scripts { “gulp”: “gulp” }.



Command=npm run gulp — after-publish –options –themes Theme1,Theme2 –projectFolder $(MSBuildProjectDirectory) –packageFolder $(_PackageTempDir) –publishFolder $(publishUrl) />





Alter csproj

Add a “before build” step (just before the “project” end tag), to apply theming whenever the project is build (even in development)


Command=npm run gulp — apply-theming />




This will only run the theming and it will run the theming inside the current project folder.




Add or update package.json

After saving this file, Visual Studio will automatically run gulp install, to install all npm packages.



    “version”: “1.0.0”,

    “name”: “MyWebApp”,

    “private”: true,

“devDependencies”: {

“del”: “>=2.2.1”,

“gulp”: “>=3.9.1”,

“gulp-plumber”: “>=1.1.0”,

“gulp-postcss”: “>=6.1.1”,

“gulp-rename”: “>=1.2.2”,

“gulp-util”: “>=3.0.7”,

“postcss-import”: “>=8.1.2”,

“postcss-cssnext”: “>=2.7.0”



“scripts”: {

“gulp”: “gulp”







Add a gulpfile.js to the root of your web application



* The version of gulp and all it’s dependencies are managed in the package.json file.


‘use strict’;


// Dependencies

const fs = require(‘fs’);

const gulp = require(‘gulp’);

const debug = require(‘gulp-debug’); // Can be used to log all files in a gulp stream (gulp.src or gulp.dest).

const jshint = require(‘gulp-jshint’);

const livereload = require(‘gulp-livereload’);

const plumber = require(‘gulp-plumber’);

const util = require(‘gulp-util’);

const path = require(‘path’);

const helpers = require(‘./gulpfile-helpers.js’);

const log = helpers.log;

const defaultTheme = ‘Theme1’;



* The default task.


gulp.task(‘default’, function () {





* This task will be called from the “Deploy.pubxml”.


gulp.task(“after-publish”, function () {

const themes = (util.env.themes || ‘Theme1,Theme2’).trim().split(‘,’);

const projectFolder = (util.env.projectFolder || path.resolve(‘.’)).trim();

const packageFolder = path.resolve((util.env.packageFolder || “..\\bin\\Release\\Package\\PackageTmp”).trim());


// When this task is passed an environment variable “publishFolder”, we expect the “publishFolder” to be the path to the first “themed release build”.

// See the Deploy.pubxml for more explanation.

var publishFolder = “C:\\Release”;

if(util.env.publishFolder) {

publishFolder = path.dirname(util.env.publishFolder.trim());



log(`after-publish: themes – ${themes}`);

log(`after-publish: projectFolder – ${projectFolder}`);

log(`after-publish: packageFolder – ${packageFolder}`);

log(`after-publish: publishFolder – ${publishFolder}`);


// Publish each theme. => {

helpers.publishTheme(theme.trim(), defaultTheme, projectFolder, packageFolder, publishFolder);





* The “BeforeBuild” target in the ” csproj” will call this gulp task.


* If you want to generate a theme other than the default theme, use the command line:

* npm run gulp — apply-theming –options –theme Theme1


gulp.task(‘apply-theming’, function () {

const theme = (util.env.theme || defaultTheme);

helpers.applyTheme(theme, path.resolve(‘.’), path.resolve(‘.’));






Add a gulpfile.helper.js to the root of your web application


const del = require(‘del’);

const gulp = require(‘gulp’);

const path = require(‘path’);

const postcss = require(‘gulp-postcss’);

const postcssImport = require(‘postcss-import’);

const postcssNext = require(‘postcss-cssnext’);

const rename = require(‘gulp-rename’);

const util = require(‘gulp-util’);



* Copy images and variables.cssn (cssnext) from the “theme” folder to the correct location.

* projectFolder = the folder containing the “*.csproj” file.

* destinationFolder = the folder where the theme files will be placed.


function applyTheme(theme, projectFolder, publishFolder) {


// Copy image files to publish folder.

copyImages(theme, projectFolder, publishFolder)

.on(‘finish’, runCopyCssNextThemeFiles);


// Copy css next theme files inside publish folder to the “App/Styles” folder.

function runCopyCssNextThemeFiles() {

copyCssNextThemeFiles(theme, publishFolder)

.on(‘finish’, runGenerateCss);



// Generate css from css next files.

function runGenerateCss() {






* Copy all css next files from the project folder to the specific theme publish folder.


function copyCssNextFiles(projectFolder, publishThemeFolder) {

const src = path.join(projectFolder, ‘/**/*.cssn’);

const dest = publishThemeFolder;


log(`copyCssNextFiles: src – ${src}`);

log(`copyCssNextFiles: dest – ${dest}`);


return gulp.src(src)





* Copy theme css next files (including variables.cssn) from the “theme” folder to the “App/Styles” folder.


function copyCssNextThemeFiles(theme, publishFolder) {

const src = path.join(publishFolder, ‘Themes/’ + theme + ‘/**/*.cssn’);

const dest = path.join(publishFolder, “App/Styles”);


log(`copyCssNextThemeFiles: src – ${src}`);

log(`copyCssNextThemeFiles: dest – ${dest}`);


return gulp.src(src)




function copyImages(theme, projectFolder, destinationFolder) {

const src = path.join(projectFolder, ‘Themes/’ + theme + ‘/Images/**/*.*’);

const dest = path.join(destinationFolder, ‘App/Images’);


log(`copyImages: src – ${src}`);

log(`copyImages: dest – ${dest}`);


return gulp.src(src)





* Copy all files from the Visual Studio package temp folder to the specific theme publish folder.


function copyPackageFiles(packageFiles, publishThemeFolder) {

const src = packageFiles;

const dest = publishThemeFolder;


log(`copyPackageFiles: src – ${src}`);

log(`copyPackageFiles: dest – ${dest}`);


return gulp.src(packageFiles)





* Compile cssn (cssnext) to css.


function generateCss(publishFolder) {

const src = path.join(publishFolder, ‘App/**/*.cssn’);

const dest = path.join(publishFolder, ‘App’);


log(`generateCss: src – ${src}`);

log(`generateCss: dest – ${dest}`);


const plugins = [





return gulp.src(src)



extname: “.css”


.on(‘error’, log)





* Log message or an array of messages.


function log(message) {

if (Array.isArray(message)) {

for (var i = 0, length = message.length; i < length; i++) {




else {





function publishTheme(theme, defaultTheme, projectFolder, packageFolder, publishFolder) {

const publishThemeFolder = path.join(publishFolder, theme);

const publishThemeFiles = path.join(publishThemeFolder, “**”);

const packageFiles = path.join(packageFolder, ‘**/*’);


log(`publishTheme: publishThemeFolder – ${publishThemeFolder}`);

log(`publishTheme: publishThemeFiles – ${publishThemeFiles}`);

log(`publishTheme: packageFiles – ${packageFiles}`);


// Remove publish folder.

del.sync([publishThemeFiles], { force: true });


// Copy package files to publish folder.

copyPackageFiles(packageFiles, publishThemeFolder)

.on(‘finish’, runCopyCssNextFiles);


// Copy css next files to publish folder.

function runCopyCssNextFiles() {

copyCssNextFiles(projectFolder, publishThemeFolder)

.on(‘finish’, runCopyImages);



function runCopyImages() {

// Copy image files to publish folder.

copyImages(theme, projectFolder, publishThemeFolder)

.on(‘finish’, runCopyCssNextThemeFiles);



// Copy css next theme files inside publish folder to the “App/Styles” folder.

function runCopyCssNextThemeFiles() {

copyCssNextThemeFiles(theme, publishThemeFolder)

.on(‘finish’, runGenerateCss);



// Generate css from css next files.

function runGenerateCss() {


.on(‘finish’, runDeleteCssNextFiles);



// Delete all css next files in the publish folder.

function runDeleteCssNextFiles() {

const ccsNextFiles = path.join(publishThemeFolder, ‘**/*.cssn’);

log(`runDeleteCssNextFiles: ccsNextFiles – ${ccsNextFiles}`);


del.sync([ccsNextFiles], { force: true });





* Log message to a log file, creating it, when it does not exist.

* The file will always be overwritten.


function writeToLogFile(message) {

fs.writeFileSync(‘gulp.log.txt’, message);



exports.applyTheme = applyTheme;

exports.log = log;

exports.publishTheme = publishTheme;



Alter the .gitignore file







We excluded the copied “themed” images.

We excluded the copied “themed” variables.cssn.

We excluded all css, except the css in the libraries folder.




Now when you publish the project, the folder C:\Release\MyWebApp, should contain 2 “release builds” : Theme1 and Theme2.

Both containing the specific themed images and css.


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