Legacy Umbraco Visual Studio Setup

This page describes how to set up your Visual Studio solution to work locally with an Umbraco 7 or 8 Cloud project.

This article is only relevant if you are working on a Umbraco Cloud project running Umbraco 7 or Umbraco 8 (legacy Umbraco).

if you are on a later version, follow the working locally article.

The Visual Studio Solution

If you're writing a lot of custom code (or like Intellisense), we recommend the following setup:

A Visual Studio solution with a

  • Website Project for the Umbraco site (coming from the cloned git repository from the Umbraco Cloud Project), and

  • Class Library Project for the code that will be created for the Umbraco site - this can be MVC Controllers, WebApi Controllers, Surface Controllers or data access plus whatever else you might need to write code for.

Below is a screenshot of our recommendation on how the projects should be configured. We use the following naming conventions: *.Web for the Umbraco website and *.Core for the accompanying code.


  • Visual Studio 2017 v15.9.6 or later

  • Git and/or Git Credential Manager for Windows

Are you used to using a Git client like GitKraken or SourceTree? You still need to make sure that you have Git CLI installed. Git CLI is used by the UaaS.cmd tool to clone down your Cloud project.

Video tutorial

Generate a Visual Studio Solution

Important: The UaaS.cmd tool is no longer supported by Umbraco HQ.

Manually creating and configuring a Visual Studio solution with the right projects can take a bit of time. We have made a little command line tool that will set the solution up for you.

Download the UaaS.cmd tool from umbra.co/uaas-cmd and place it in the folder you want the solution in.

Important: To use the UaaS.cmd tool you will need to have Visual Studio 2017 version 15.9.6 or any later version installed.

Important: Be aware if you run the Uaas.cmd tool as an administrator it will generate the files in your Windows/System folder.

This is a recommended setup. If you don't like the setup then you can play with it and make it your own. There's nothing magic about this setup. It is adding a few files to your Umbraco Cloud website to give you a flying start to begin working with Visual Studio.

What follows is a recommendation and not the only way to work with Visual Studio.

Before running the UaaS.cmd tool you will need the git clone URL for your Umbraco Cloud Project.

  • Go to the Project in the Portal

  • Copy the URL from "How to connect my machine"

Running the UaaS.cmd tool will download the latest Visual Studio generator (waasp.exe) and prompt you to enter the clone URL for your Project. Then enter the "Namespace", which will be the name of the Visual Studio solution and thus the namespace for the solution as well.

Does an error appear where the tool says: "Unable to connect to the remote server", but you can still add the clone Url? You then need to allow the UaaS.cmd through your firewall/antivirus.

If you haven't cloned the repository before, you will be asked to enter the username and password for the Umbraco Cloud Project. This also happens if you do not have a git credentials manager installed. In both cases, use the credentials you use to access the Portal and the Umbraco backoffice.

Once it's done running the tool will have created a Visual Studio solution file *.sln and two Projects.

  • *.Web contains the Umbraco site that was (git) cloned from your Project

  • *.Core is a Class Library that you can use for your custom code, as mentioned above

Both projects are configured with the NuGet packages for Umbraco using the version that corresponds to the site cloned from Umbraco Cloud.

The result should look something like this within the folder where the UaaS.cmd tool ran:

You can now open the solution in Visual Studio and hit F5 to start the site directly from Visual Studio.

The Git repositories

One thing to notice about this setup is that you will get two git repositories as well as two projects.

  1. The site cloned from your Umbraco Cloud Project will be contained within a git repository that is connected to your Project on Umbraco Cloud. Whenever you want to deploy changes to your (remote) Umbraco Cloud site you should commit everything within the *.Web folder. This is where the git repository for Umbraco Cloud is also located.

  2. Going up one level to where the *.sln file is located you will notice a .git folder. This is the second git repository. You should use this repository for all the code you write as well as the solution and project files for Visual Studio.

Think of everything within the *.Web folder as your deployment repository, and everything surrounding that folder as your source code repository. The Umbraco Cloud repository (within the *.Web folder) will not (and should not) be committed to the other git repository.

What's next?

Now that you've added your own touch to your site, you're ready to deploy to your Umbraco Cloud environment. The key thing to know is that your custom code from the *.Core project will be built into a .dll file in your *.Web project. This .dll file is what you need to push up to the Cloud repository.

Once you have everything your site will need committed you can follow the deployment workflow to complete the deployment.

Working with Visual Studio

As mentioned in the previous section, you will start with two projects in Visual Studio. A *.Web project with the Umbraco site configured as a Website project, and a *.Core project configured as a class library.

So what goes where?

Anything that is used within Umbraco, like plugins and configuration, should by default be placed in the *.Web project. Here is a list of other elements that you want to place in the *.Web project:

  • Website assets like CSS, JavaScript and related images

  • Views, Partial Views and Partial View Macros

  • Configuration (web.config and all the Umbraco specific or related config files in ~/Config/)

  • Usercontrol ascx-files

  • Plugins (typically located in App_Plugins)

  • Meta data (the files that Umbraco Deploy uses in the folder ~/Data/Revision/)

Media files will also be placed under the *.Web folder. As Website projects show all files on disk by default you will be able to see these through Visual Studio. Media files from the /Media/ folder should not be committed to the git repository, but more on that in the next section.

We recommend placing all your code in the *.Core project (instead of, for example, using App_Code for that). This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Controllers for MVC, Web Api

  • Controllers for Umbraco Plugins, Surface, API

  • Models and ViewModels

  • Data Access (the *.Core project references Umbraco so you can use the Umbraco datalayer as needed)

  • Extensions methods

Using ModelsBuilder and IntelliSense

To use ModelsBuilder with IntelliSense in Visual Studio, you'll need to make some configuration changes to the web.config file of your *.Web project. This is to ensure that the models produced by ModelsBuilder are stored in the right place for compilation.

  1. Make sure ModelsBuilder.Enable is set to true (default): <add key="Umbraco.ModelsBuilder.Enable" value="true" />

  2. Set the Mode to AppData or LiveAppData. This will ensure you can use ModelsBuilder with Visual Studio. So in your Web.config, you should to have: <add key="Umbraco.ModelsBuilder.ModelsMode" value="AppData" />

  3. Create a directory called "Models" in your App_Code folder in the *.Web directory of your site. Then add: <add key="Umbraco.ModelsBuilder.ModelsDirectory" value="~/App_Code/Models/" /> to Web.config.

This will make the models of your Document Types available with IntelliSense in Visual Studio. You can read more about configuring ModelsBuilder here.

Are using the Visual Studio Extension for ModelsBuilder and getting the error message Unauthorized when generating models? You'll need to use or create a backoffice user in your local installation. You then need to supply the credentials for this user in the Visual Studio options. This is necessary because the extension is not able to authenticate against Umbraco Id.

Using Umbraco namespaces in your *.Core project

In order to use Umbraco's features in your *.Core project, you have to add references to the DLLs in your *.Web/bin.

You can do this by right-clicking on References and selecting Add Reference. Browse and select the DLLs you'd like to use and then hit OK. Don't forget to build.

Git - what should be committed

When working with this solution setup it's important to remember that you are operating with two different git repositories:

  • One for your source code, and

  • One within the *.Web folder for committing and deploying your changes to Umbraco Cloud.

The cloned git repository from Umbraco Cloud comes with its own .gitignore so files that should not be committed are already handled.

All files that are required to run the Umbraco site should be committed to the git repository in the *.Web folder. From there they can be deployed to Umbraco Cloud. This includes assemblies (*.dll).

To ensure that your .dll files are created in release mode, ensure that you switch to "Release" (instead of "Debug") mode when building the project.

It is recommend to build the project in release mode, before deploying the changes through Git.

For the *.Core part of the solution as well as the solution file and default .gitignore file you commit that to the source code repository. You should ideally set a remote for this git repository to your own git host like GitHub, BitBucket or Visual Studio Team Services.

These are the files and folders you typically want to commit in your own source code repository:

  • The project and code files in *.Core

  • The solution file *.sln

  • .gitignore

  • UaaSClone.cmd (used for re-establishing the *.Web folder with the git repository from Umbraco Cloud)

Setup for new team members

When you are working in a team you will have additional people that will use this same setup. However, they will only clone your source code repository from your GitHub, Bitbucket, or Visual Studio Team Services account. They will, by default, not get the *.Web folder and the Umbraco site, because that part is not contained within the source code repository.

To help to get up and running we added a UaaSClone.cmd, which can be run after cloning the source code repository. Running this command line tool will clone the Umbraco Cloud repository to the right folder, and set up Visual Studio for them.

Working with NuGet

Some Umbraco packages are available on NuGet and you can install NuGet packages into the *.Web project to add functionality to your site. Remember, this is a normal Visual Studio solution, so you can work with NuGet packages exactly like you're used to.

If you need to program something that depends on a NuGet package you should install that NuGet package in both projects.

  • Install it in *.Core so you can write the code you need against the library you working with (obtained from NuGet)

  • Also install it in *.Web so that the library files also end up in your website and your compiled code works there as well

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