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Matt Ward

Installing NuGet Packages outside of Visual Studio

There have been discussions about using NuGet outside of Visual Studio as well as an open work item in the NuGet issue tracker. Outside of Visual Studio in this context means using NuGet from the command line. There is support for this already with NuGet.exe so let us take a quick look at what is supported at the moment.

Currently you can use NuGet.exe to download packages without having to use Visual Studio. You can download a single package:

nuget install nunit

You can point NuGet.exe to your packages.config and it will download any missing packages:

nuget install packages.config

What NuGet.exe will not do is update your project file (.csproj) nor will it run any PowerShell scripts that the package uses. Which is OK in the majority of cases.

You can go further than this though. Since SharpDevelop supports updating project files as a proof of concept we have used SharpDevelop to extend NuGet further so now NuGet can support everything it does from within Visual Studio but from the command line. From the command line we are able to install a package, have the project file updated with assembly references and any new files, and finally have any PowerShell scripts included in the NuGet package processed.

Since NuGet uses PowerShell the simplest approach was to extend the existing PowerShell cmdlets included with SharpDevelop. Now you can write a few lines of PowerShell script to install a NuGet package into a project that has never had a NuGet package before, have the project itself updated and any package PowerShell scripts run. All this from the command line without Visual Studio open.

Setting Everything Up

Download the zip file containing the cmdlets and extract the assemblies.

First you will need to modify the PowerShell configuration. By default PowerShell will run under .NET 2.0 but we need it to run under .NET 4.0 since the cmdlets use .NET 4.0. Create a powershell.exe.config file in the C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0 folder with the following contents:

    <startup useLegacyV2RuntimeActivationPolicy="true">  
        <supportedRuntime version="v4.0.30319"/>  
        <supportedRuntime version="v2.0.50727"/>  

Note that if you are running Windows x64 then you should run the 32 bit version of PowerShell and create a powershell.exe.config file in the C:\windows\syswow64\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0 folder.

The useLegacyV2RuntimeActivationPolicy attribute is required. For a great explanation of what this attribute is take a look at What is useLegacyV2RuntimeActivationPolicy for? written by Mark Miller.

To be able to run PowerShell scripts included with a NuGet package the execution policy will need to be changed:

Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned -Scope Process

Now import the Package Management Cmdlets assembly. The command below assumes the assembly is in the current working directory otherwise the full path to the assembly will be needed.

import-module PackageManagement.Cmdlets.dll

Now we are ready to use the cmdlets.

Installing a Package

First the install-package cmdlet has a new -solution parameter to support specifying the solution.

install-package nunit -solution MySolution\MySolution.sln

If you do not specify the project name then the first project in the solution will be used as the default project.

install-package nunit -solution MySolution.sln -projectname MyProject

Uninstalling a Package

To uninstall a package we can use the new -solution parameter.

uninstall-package nunit -solution MySolution.sln -projectname MyProject

Updating a Package

Once again we can specify the solution filename when updating a package.

update-package nunit -solution MySolution.sln -projectname MyProject

Ideally we would like to be able to update all projects in the solution in one go however this is not currently implemented.

Setting a Default Project

Instead of specifying the solution when running each command you can set a default project with the new Set-Project command.

set-project MyProject d:\Projects\MyProject\MySolution.sln

After setting the default project the other commands can be run without the need to specify the -solution parameter or the name of the project.

Package PowerShell Scripts

Since SharpDevelop has its own set of DTE objects any PowerShell scripts in the package can be run. Each of the cmdlets described above define the DTE variable before any Powershell scripts included with the package are run.


So finally we can now use a single PowerShell script to install packages into an empty project. As a simple example:


import-module d:\scripts\PackageManagement.Cmdlets.dll 
$solution = "d:\Projects\MyProject\MyProject.sln" 
set-project MyProject $solution

install-package nunit

To run this from the command line with PowerShell:

powershell -ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned -File d:\projects\MyProject\setup.ps1


If you are using $host.Version then within the PowerShell this will return the PowerShell host version and not the NuGet PowerShell host version.

Several extra SharpDevelop assemblies are included in the zip file. This could be reduced with some more work.

The formatting for NuGet packages is not defined so the output is a list of properties for each package object.

Source Code

The source code is available on github. It is not a part of SharpDevelop since this was an prototype. So there are no unit tests for the new code and core parts of SharpDevelop have been changed to support the new PowerShell cmdlets.

[Update - Oct 16, 2012] - Added information on using 32 bit version of PowerShell if using Windows x64

Published Jun 12 2011, 10:08 PM by MattWard
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