Written for Unreal Engine 5.3 C++ C#

About the Unreal Header Tool

The Unreal Header Tool (UHT) parses and generates code for UObject types. Many of the C++ macros in the Unreal Engine source code are actually implemented by the UHT.

For example, given a simple UObject:

// File: Example.h

#pragma once

#include "Example.generated.h"

/** This is an example UObject. */
class UExample : public UObject

The UHT generates two files named Example.generated.h and Example.gen.cpp with code generated for the UCLASS() and GENERATED_BODY() macros.

This is how Unreal implements reflection and garbage collection in a language that does not support these. Serialization, network replication, and editor integration are also implemented as generated code.


C++ code generation is implemented as an exporter in the UHT.

An exporter processes the parsed code and then optionally exports files to the Intermediate directory. An exporter may serve as an analyzer and not export any files—as demonstrated in the Stats exporter sample.

UHT implements these exporters under /Engine/Source/Programs/Shared/EpicGames.UHT/Exporters/.

Name Enabled by default? Purpose
CodeGen Yes Generates C++ code for the UObject system.
Json No A sample exporter that shows how to output files. This exporter dumps all UObjects into a JSON file for each package.
Stats No A sample exporter that shows how to log details about types in the codebase.

Exporters that are not enabled by default are triggered by adding -<EXPORTER_NAME> to the commandline arguments for the UHT.

The following command will execute both the Stats and Json exporters. Replace MyGameEditor, Win64, and Development with the desired target, platform, and build configuration.

C:\UE_5.3\Engine\Build\BatchFiles>RunUBT.bat -Mode=UnrealHeaderTool -Stats -Json "-Target=MyGameEditor Win64 Development -Project=\"C:/Path/To/MyGame.uproject\""

Extend the UHT with plugins

The Unreal Build Tool (UBT) scans for extension plugins in both engine and your game’s source, and automatically activates them.

At this time, only exporters are supported in UBT plugins.

I created a UBT plugin called Specifier Reference Viewer that scans for all specifier keywords used in the source code for the engine, game, and all plugins. I recommend looking at my plugin’s source code to learn more about creating UBT plugins.

Let’s walk through the steps needed to create an exporter plugin.

1. Create a plugin

Create a .uplugin with at least one module. A module is required even if you’re not outputting any file, and it must have the Runtime type.

    "Modules": [
            "Name": "MyCustomExporter",
            "Type": "Runtime",
            "LoadingPhase": "PreDefault"

2. Add code to the module

A module must have at least one UObject in it to be added to the .uhtmanifest file. An empty module will not be added to the .uhtmanifest file which means the custom exporter will not execute.

3. Create the C# project

Create a C# project file with the .ubtplugin.csproj extension. It must have this extension to be detected by UHT.

This file should be configured to:

  • import /Engine/Source/Programs/Shared/UnrealEngine.csproj.props,
  • reference the EpicGames.Build, EpicGames.Core, EpicGames.UHT, and UnrealBuildTool assemblies, and
  • output the compiled binaries to <PROJECT_NAME>/Binaries/DotNET/UnrealBuildTool/Plugins/<PLUGIN_NAME>.

Instead of creating the project file from scratch, it may be easier to copy it from my plugin and then edit the EngineDir, GeneratorName, and RootNamespace properties.

The Visual Studio solution file (.sln) is not necessary. The C# project will be rebuilt each time the game is built.

4. Create the exporter

Next, create a class and static method to serve as the main entry point for the exporter.

The class must have the [UnrealHeaderTool] attribute, and the exporter’s method must have the [UhtExporter] attribute. The Name and ModuleName properties are required.

using EpicGames.UHT.Tables;
using EpicGames.UHT.Utils;

public static class Exporter
    [UhtExporter(Name = "MyCustomExporter", ModuleName = "MyCustomExporter", Options = UhtExporterOptions.Default)]
    public static void Generate(IUhtExportFactory factory)
        // Process parsed code via factory.Session here.
        factory.Session.LogInfo("MyCustomExporter executed!");

UhtExporterOptions.Default indicates that this exporter will be automatically executed each time UBT executes. Remove it or use UhtExporterOptions.None to make it opt-in just like the sample exporters.

5. Build

Build the game. Logs emitted by your exporter will appear in the build output.

0>  Running Internal UnrealHeaderTool C:\Path\To\MyGame.uproject C:\Path\To\MyGame\Intermediate\Build\Win64\MyGameEditor\Development\MyGameEditor.uhtmanifest -WarningsAsErrors -installed
0>Total of 0 written
0>C:\UE_5.3\Engine\Source\UnknownSource(1): Info: MyCustomExporter executed!