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Inline Directory Syntax

User stories:

  • As a setup developer I can define a directory path without breaking the path into individual Directory elements such that my code is easier to read.
  • As a setup developer I can define my directory path where it is convenient without needing to create Directory elements elsewhere.


Allow developers to create directory paths that are rooted in a well-known or user-defined Directory element. Private anonymous Directory rows are created behind the scenes and the last directory in the path is used. Additionally, anywhere a Directory reference can be placed, this alternative directory syntax can be used instead.


A more terse syntax was explored that used a colon (:) to separate the "root directory reference" from the directory definitions. The syntax mimicked the Windows path syntax. The volume portion of the path (everything before the ":") is a reference to an existing Directory element Id. The remainder of the path creates anonymous directory rows.

For example, consider the case where a Component is to install to a path such as "[ProgramFilesFolder]My Company\My Product\bin". Today that requires code such as:

<Directory Id="ProgramFilesFolder" Name="PFiles">
<Directory Name="My Company">
<Directory Name="My Product">
<Directory Id="private BinFolder" Name="bin">

<Component Directory="BinFolder">

With the terse syntax the above code could be converted into:

<Component Directory="ProgramFilesFolder:\My Company\My Product\bin\">

If "BinFolder" was to be used in many places it could be defined like this:

<Directory Id="BinFolder" Name="ProgramFilesFolder:\My Company\My Product\bin\">

The issue with this syntax is that it created confusion when a single value was used in the directory reference when there was also a parent directory that could be inherited. Consider this case:

<ComponentGroup Directory="ProgramFilesFolder:\My Company\My Product\">
<Component Directory="bin">

In that case, is bin a reference to a Directory with Id="bin" or a continuation of the terse syntax "ProgramFilesFolder:\My Company\My Product\bin\"? This possibility of confusion lead to the introduction of the Subdirectory attribute instead.

See Also