Using several dotnet CLI versions and why you should care

Frankly speaking “several” keyword in the title is an overuse, because while writing this article I’m thinking only about two versions of dotnet CLI. Why? Because RC4 version dropped support to project.json and switched completely to the new *.csproj format. On one hand it’s good – let’s follow the hype, cool to have tooling already. On the other hand if you still maintain/develop solution based on project.json then you have a problem (you will not be able to use dotnet CLI with that).

I am in such case and have found a solution that might be worth sharing.


Download dotnet CLI binaries (without installer) and extract package to some known folder. In my case it was:


Overriding PATH variable

The trick is to switch PATH variable to proper dotnet CLI location. Of course you could copy paste specific “set PATH=…” expression but some script may come in handy. Below is the script that works for me (I use an alias “set-dotnet.cmd”).  Remember to add script location to PATH (you may want to see this post).

@echo off
set _DOTNET2=c:\Tools\dotnet-prev2;
set _DOTNET4=c:\Tools\dotnet-rc4;
:: Batch way of string replace
set path=%path:C:\Tools\dotnet-prev2;=%
set path=%path:C:\Tools\dotnet-rc4;=%

if [%1]==[] goto usage
if "%1"=="prev2" goto prev2
if "%1"=="rc4" goto rc4
goto unknown

@echo you selected prev2
set path=%_DOTNET2%%PATH%
exit /B 0

@echo you selected rc4
set path=%_DOTNET4%%PATH%
exit /B 0

@echo Unknown parameter %1
goto :usage

@echo Usage: %0 ^<ver^>
@echo        where ^<ver^> is one of: prev2, rc4
exit /B 1

This lets me switch PATH to specific dotnet version using:

set-dotnet prev2
set-dotnet rc4

Normally I do scripting in Powershell but things related to environment variables are done easier in batch scripting – neither setx nor [Environment]::SetEvironmentVariable() affect currently active console (challenge me in comments if you want).

As batch scripting is pretty exotic some explanation is needed:

Exit /b 0

This means exiting current subrouting which is the whole batch script in case of “goto” or returning from “call” (0 is errorlevel)

:: Batch way of string replace

This is a way to do string replace withing variable. Let’s have another example

set x=hello world
set x=%x:world=chriss%

Executing these two lines above results in x=hello chriss


PS: Refactoring

Further refactoring can lead to having much simpler version which is having two batch scripts:


set path=c:\Tools\dotnet-prev2;%PATH%


set path=c:\Tools\dotnet-rc4;%PATH%

As an extra credit this will enable autocomplete for set-dotnet-*


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