Create a simple Hello World project.

The easiest way to start with the xPack C/C++ Managed Build extension is to create the classical Hello World project.

Create a Hello World C++ project

Projects can be created from scratch, but, to simplify things, the process can be automated by using a project template, and the xPack extension already includes a command to create a project from a template. To run it:

  • open the Command Palette (in the View menu, or with the platform specific keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Shift+P, or Cmd+Shift+P on macOS)
  • type xpack in the input field, to filter the list of available commands
  • select the Quick Start a Hello World project (C++, CMake).

Command Quick Start

The project creation requires an empty folder. The xPack extension asks the user for the location of this folder.

In this example, a folder called tmp/hello in the user home folder is used, but any location is good as well:

Create Hello folder

Once the folder is selected, the xPack extension invokes xpm init to create a new project based on the @xpack/hello-world-template which is a separate source xPack.

The command is executed in a separate shell, and the console output looks like this:

xpm init hello quick

The result is a simple project, with:

  • a src folder with the source file hello-world.cpp
  • an include folder with the header file hello-world.h,
  • a meta folder with the additional metadata for performing the build (in this case a CMake CMakeLists.txt configuration file).

The same result can be obtained by running the following commands in a terminal:

mkdir ~/tmp/hello
cd ~/tmp/hello
xpm init --template @xpack/hello-world-template@latest

xPack Actions

Once the project is created, the xPack Actions explorer should become visible in the bottom left part of the screen:

xPack Actions

Once enabled, the explorer shows two build configurations, Debug and Release.

The explorer also shows multiple actions, which are associated with custom sequences of commands (shown as tooltips). There are global actions, and actions specific to each build configuration. Actions can be executed by clicking the triangular icon (▷) at the right side of the explorer line (described by tooltip as Run Action).


As with most other graphical objects, the xPacks Actions explorer shows additional information as tooltips, visible after hovering with the mouse for a few moments over the tree items.

Satisfy dependencies

The xPack project provides cross-platform binary tools which can be automatically installed and used by xPack aware projects.

In this example, the generated project includes development dependencies to specific versions of CMake and ninja.

To satisfy these dependencies, click the Install button (described by the tooltip as Run Command) in the explorer:

xpm install

The same result can be obtained by running the following command in the project folder:

xpm install

Perform the build

With the binary tools available, the build can be invoked by selecting the desired configuration in the explorer (Debug in this case), and clicking the triangular icon (▷) at the right side of the build line (described by tooltip as Run Action).

xpm run build

The result is a build/debug folder, where CMake performed the build.

The same result can be obtained by running the following command in the project folder:

xpm run build --config Debug

Execute the Hello World application

The resulting binary file is a regular ELF, which can be started as usual in a terminal.

As a shortcut, the project includes an execute action, which invokes the hello-world executable:

xpm run execute


VS Code provides a very elaborate code indexer, called IntelliSense.

The VS Code C/C++ extension stores the IntelliSense configuration in ${workspaceFolder}/.vscode/c_cpp_properties.json files, located in each workspace folder.

For build system generators which create the compile_commands.json file (like CMake and meson), the xPack extension automatically adds the paths to these files in the c_cpp_properties.json file, and the VS Code C/C++ extension can automatically process them.

IntelliSense Debug

As it can be seen, the editor renders any dead code in gray (actually in a set of lighter colours), which is a good sign that the project was configured correctly.

For details on the indexer, please read the separate IntelliSense web page.

Switching build configurations

The xPack C/C++ Managed Build extension uses the Microsoft C/C++ extension, which is able to handle multiple configurations.

To test this, also build the release binaries (by clicking the build action in the Release section of the xPacks Actions explorer), then click the Debug entry shown on the bottom Status Bar, which should open a picker to select the desired configuration:

Switching Configurations

After selecting Release, the editor will automatically update the content, and show the debug dead code as grey:

IntelliSense Release

Closing the workspace

When closing the workspace, either by closing VS Code, or via the File menu, VS Code asks the user permission to save the workspace configuration as a file:

Close Workspace

This is optional, and for independent projects, it is not of much help, so it can be skipped (click the Don’t Save button).

However, for complex projects which comprise multiple projects, it might be useful to group all folders as an workspace, and open all in the same VS Code instance.

What next?

Create an empty project

The recommended way to start a new project is to create a simple Hello World project, which includes the two (Debug/Release) build configurations, each with the usual build/clean actions, and later extend the project with the actual application code.

However, for those who prefer to start from scratch, it is possible to create an empty project, without any build configurations and actions, and manually add them to any custom configuration.

Command Empty

Create a C version of the Hello World

The project template is configurable, and can be invoked in interactive mode, which will ask the user for different choices, including choosing between C and C++ projects.

To do this from within the xPack extension, select the xPack: Create a Hello World project and check the console for the questions.