Symbol Package Formats
  • 07 Feb 2023
  • 3 Minutes to read
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Symbol Package Formats

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  • PDF

Article Summary

When setting up a dedicated symbols feed on ProGet, the question often arises as to whether you should use the "standard" or the "legacy" symbol format. This article explains the difference between these two formats and how they relate to ProGet.

What is a Symbol Package?

A symbol package is really just a NuGet package that has different contents and a .symbols.nupkg or .snupkg file extension. Although this seems simple at first glance, it actually makes things quite complicated and causes some headaches.

NuGet & Symbol Package Conflicts

NuGet packages are uniquely identified by their ID (e.g. FooBar.Utils) and Version (e.g. 3.4.1), which are contained in the package's .nuspec manifest file.

The filename of the package doesn't affect this identification. In fact, the NuGet client doesn't transmit filenames to a feed when it publishes packages. This isn't necessary, because packages are uniquely identified by ID and Version.

What this means is that there's no way to distinguish between the FooBar.Utils-3.4.1 and FooBar.Utils-3.4.1 NuGet package. There's no way to tell which FooBar.Utils-3.4.1 is a "library" package, and which FooBar.Utils-3.4.1 is a "symbols" package.

This is why you need two feeds when using symbol packages, and also why we generally recommend using the simple, single-feed approach outlined in ProGet as your symbol server.

Standard Format (.snupkg)

.snupkg packages are the "new" format, and can be created using by specifying the SymbolPackageFormat on either the nuget.exe CLI or the dotnet CLI.

nuget pack MyPackage.nuspec -Symbols -SymbolPackageFormat snupkg
nuget pack MyPackage.csproj -Symbols -SymbolPackageFormat snupkg

dotnet pack MyPackage.csproj -p:IncludeSymbols=true -p:SymbolPackageFormat=snupkg

When created in this manner, a .snupkg file will just like the
the .nupukg file, but there will be .pdb filesinstead of the .dll files and the .nuspec manifest file will be slightly different.

This format is supported in ProGet as of v2022.20.

Legacy Format

A legacy symbol package is just a NuGet package (.nupkg) with .pdb files in addition to the .dll files and everything else that's normally in the package. The easiest way to build this type of package is to simply tell NuGet to include .pdb files in the main package by adding .pdb to AllowedOutputExtensionsInPackageBuildOutputFolder:

nuget package MyPackage.csproj -p:AllowedOutputExtensionsInPackageBuildOutputFolder=$(AllowedOutputExtensionsInPackageBuildOutputFolder);.pdb

It is also possible to specify this value in the .csproj file instead:


What about .symbols.nupkg Files?

.symbols.nupkg is a naming convention NuGet uses for generating legacy symbol packages (as described above) using the -Symbols argument to nuget.exe. When building a symbol package with this argument, NuGet will create two packages: the standard NuGet package without symbol files, and a legacy symbol package with the .symbols.nupkg suffix.

This type of symbol package is identical to the legacy symbol package described above, so if you build your symbol package this way, make sure to upload only the .symbols.nupkg file, since ProGet has no way to identify this type of package, uploading both will cause it to either overwrite the first one or give an error if overwrites are not allowed in the feed.

If you need to use legacy symbol packages, we recommend just building them as described in the previous section to avoid confusion.

Which Format to Choose for ProGet?

Whenever possible, we recommend using the standard (.snupkg) format, since this is Microsoft's current recommendation, and the old format is considered legacy. However, ProGet still supports the legacy format, and the newer format only supports portable .pdb files, while the legacy format also supports Microsoft .pdb files.

If you use a dedicated feed for your symbol server, it doesn't really matter for ProGet. To ProGet, they both "look" the same because they're both NuGet packages.

However, because the old format is considered legacy, you should probably use the new format. In addition, the .snupkg files are slightly smaller (they don't contain .dll files), and who doesn't like to save a bit of disk space from time to time.

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