New Work Item Tag Manager Visual Studio Extension

Happy Holidays!  Before you go off on a break, I found out there is a new Visual Studio extension available: Tag Admin for Visual Studio 2015.  It’s a pretty nice tool for helping you manage work item tags for either your Team Foundation Server or your Visual Studio Online account.  It’s really helpful for beginning to see which tags are in use and also allows you to rename/merge & delete tags.  You can also take a look at how many and a list of work items that are using a specific tag.  Simple & to the point!

VSO Tag Admin for Visual Studio 2015  VSO Tag Admin for Visual Studio 2015

Here is a demo video of Tag Admin in action:

Tip of the hat to @onlyutkarsh and @arora_tarun for releasing this great tool!


Happy Holidays!

Ed Blankenship

My First MSDN Magazine Article on Visual Studio Online

I was very happy to see that my first article for the MSDN Magazine has appeared in this month’s edition!  If you have been hoping to get some more information, take a look at your magazine in the mail this month or it’s available in the digital edition as well below).  Let me know if you have any other questions in the meantime!

Introducing Visual Studio Online
by Ed Blankenship

Whether you’re part of a team or you’re a team of one, with Visual Studio Online you can easily plan, create, construct, build, test, and monitor seriously demanding applications, from anywhere. You don’t need a large infrastructure team, and you don’t need to touch a single server. As someone who has performed hundreds of Team Foundation Server (TFS) installations and upgrades as a consultant, I love how the drudgery of that kind of routine maintenance is now a thing of the past. Visual Studio Online is updated with the newest features automatically and continuously, so you can focus on what you need to do most: construct your applications!

I’m often asked, “Isn’t Visual Studio Online just TFS in the cloud?” The answer is yes and no…

Work Item Charts

Thanks a ton again to Andrew Clear and Cheryl Hammond for all of their help with the article!


Ed Blankenship

Announcing Visual Studio Online

We have been up early this morning and late last night with getting ready for updates to the new website, Windows Azure, and the now formerly known as Team Foundation Service.  Hopefully you are watching the Visual Studio 2013 Launch Event where you have just learned that we have announced a new set of services for developers and development teams:  Visual Studio Online.  It has really been great to be working so closely with Visual Studio Online at Microsoft! 

Visual Studio Online Logo

There are quite a few announcements this morning that I’ll continue to follow-up on over the next few weeks.  Visual Studio Online is really about where Visual Studio is going in a world of services for developers & development teams.  It’s really the connected piece to Visual Studio just like Office is to Office 365 & SkyDrive.  It’s also an easy way to get all of the ALM services you need quickly for you and your team without having to worry about infrastructure & upgrading.  Visual Studio Online is also a way for Microsoft to provide additional cloud-based services for development teams.  We have a few examples of those types of shared services today.

Some additional news we have announced are that individuals and teams of five or less can create free Visual Studio Online accounts.  MSDN Subscribers also now have Visual Studio Online included as an additional benefit.  There are an additional set of Visual Studio Online plans available for non-MSDN subscribers after the fifth user account.  Additionally, the Visual Studio Online Professional plan even includes the ability to “rent” the Visual Studio Professional IDE.  Early adopters of Team Foundation Service are also grandfathered with “Early Adopter” status for 90 days which means you can continue to use Visual Studio Online without any additional costs during the early adopter period.  During the “commercial preview” of Visual Studio Online, all plans & services are reduced by 50% of their normal rates.

Each Visual Studio Online account has a set of consumable shared services as well which include a free base amount like 60 minutes of cloud build usage and 15,000 virtual user minutes of the cloud load testing service.

Another aspect of Visual Studio Online is that it is now integrated with Windows Azure so you can have a more consolidated management experience and simplified billing experience.  You can create a new Visual Studio Online account or link to an existing one in the Windows Azure Management Portal.

Connecting Visual Studio Online Account to Windows Azure

Tip:  All Visual Studio Online user plans and shared services receive the same discounts that your Windows Azure account receives based on your commitment level.  It’s also included in the commitment level so you can reach those commitment levels more easily and receive the same discount across all Windows Azure resources including infrastructure, storage, and now developer services.  The lowest “walk-up” discount level is 20% based on paying monthly and a $500 per month commitment on all Windows Azure & Visual Studio Online resources.  It goes up from there and if you are an Enterprise, you can get some pretty awesome discounts when adding an Windows Azure Commitment to your Enterprise Agreement.

If you want to learn more, there is an Introduction to Visual Studio Online overview video available at the Visual Studio 2013 Virtual Launch site.  I will update the blog post and include the link when it becomes live.

There is plenty more to come!  Keep up to date on the latest features & services that are being added to Visual Studio Online here: 

Have fun and let me know if you have any questions!

Ed Blankenship

Visual Studio 2013 RC, VS 2013 RTM, Windows 8.1 RTM, and Launch

Wow… all sorts of announcements this morning.  Let me summarize for you quickly:

  • Visual Studio 2013 RC and Team Foundation Server 2013 RC is ready to downloadMSDN Subscriber Downloads,
    • You will be able to build & test your Windows 8.1 Store apps with Visual Studio 2013
    • Remember that you can use both Visual Studio 2013 and TFS 2013 in production with the “Go-Live” license.  That means you will be supported by Microsoft and will have a supported upgrade path to the RTM version.  You can use Visual Studio 2013 for most solutions & projects with “round-tripping” without requiring the entire team to upgrade.
    • I hope you’ll be part of the first ever TFS Upgrade Weekend scheduled for this weekend!
    • Be sure to let the product team know if you have any issues by reporting them on Connect or suggestions on User Voice
    • Check out the system requirements and platform compatibility page for the RC.  You’ll notice the RC will not install on Windows 8.1 Preview.
  • Visual Studio 2013 and Team Foundation Server 2013 will RTM on October 18, 2013 at the same time Windows 8.1 is generally available to the public.
  • Windows 8.1 RTM is ready to download today for MSDN Subscribers:  MSDN Subscriber Downloads
  • The Virtual Launch for Visual Studio 2013 and Team Foundation Server 2013 will be on November 13, 2013 – You’ll want to save the date and register at:

Visual Studio 2013 Ultimate with MSDN Product TileVisual Studio 2013 Premium with MSDN Product TileVisual Studio 2013 Test Professional with MSDN Product TileVisual Studio 2013 Professional with MSDN Product TileTeam Foundation Server 2013 Product Tile

New Features in Visual Studio 2013 RC and Team Foundation Server 2013 RC

  • Office 365 Cloud Business Apps: With Visual Studio 2013 RC, Microsoft delivers a new capability to build Office 365 Cloud Business Apps that run in the cloud. These apps take advantage of the rich platform capabilities exposed by Windows Azure and Office 365. As cloud-based apps, they are available to a myriad of devices to aggregate data and services from in and out of an enterprise, and integrate user identities and social graphs. These applications integrate with the application lifecycle management capabilities of Visual Studio, bridging the worlds of the business app developer with IT operations.
  • Work Item Charting: A new feature in Team Foundation Server 2013 RC is Work Item Charting which enables developers to quickly create diverse charts to visualize data drawn from work item queries, such as bugs, user stories, and tasks.
    As of today, this feature will also be automatically available to customers using Team Foundation Service as part of our regular feature releases to the service.
  • TypeScript: Less than a year ago, Microsoft released the first public preview of TypeScript, a language and tools for application-scale JavaScript development.  With Visual Studio 2013 RC, we are including the most recently released version of TypeScript tooling (v0.9.1.1) as we continue to seek community feedback from our early adopters.
    TypeScript brings classes, modules and optional static types to JavaScript development.  In Visual Studio, this enables rich tools like live error reporting as you type, IntelliSense, and Rename refactoring.
  • Web Development: Visual Studio 2013 RC introduces refinement to new web development features and capabilities such as a new Browser Link panel, Browser Link extensibility API and updates to SignalR 2, MVC5 and Web API 2 platforms.
  • Peek Definition: In Visual Studio 2013 Preview, we released a new inline preview feature called Peek Definition that enables developers to preview code being referenced in their classes without leaving their context.
    In Visual Studio 2013 RC, this feature is further enhanced by enabling code in the inline peek to be editable, making it even easier to change code or fix issues without leaving the original view.
  • CodeLens: In Visual Studio 2013 Preview, we released a new feature called CodeLens which provides deep contextual insights inline within source code files. CodeLens for C# and Visual Basic provides information such as the number of references, and recent changes from source control. 
    In Visual Studio 2013 RC, we enhance CodeLens by enabling integration of Microsoft's Lync unified communications platform, making it easy to contact the developer who most recently worked on a piece of code from directly within the Visual Studio editor. For developers working with source code in Team Foundation Server 2013 RC, we also added several new indicators exposing bugs, work items and code reviews related to the class or member.
  • C++: During the Build conference Microsoft wrote about the roadmap for C++ standards conformance in Visual C++.  Last week at the Going Native conference in Redmond, we hosted a great discussion about the present and near future of modern, standard C++, and talked about what’s coming in Visual C++ and C++ on Microsoft's platforms.  In Visual Studio 2013 RC, we’ve made more steps along the roadmap laid out at Build, adding C++ 11 features like using aliases, = default and non-static data member initializers.
  • NuGet & Sonatype: NuGet Package License Details: in partnership with Sonatype, there is an update to both the NuGet gallery and Visual Studio add-in that provides license data associated for each NuGet package based on the Sonatype Component Lifecycle Management (CLM) platform.

Remember, we have a brand new “Release Archive” which helps you track all of the new features for Team Foundation Service and which version of Team Foundation Server you will start to see those features:

You can find out more about today’s announcements here:

Go start downloading!

Ed B.

Posted in ALM | TFS | Visual Studio

TFS 2013 Includes Agile Planning in TFS CAL

One of the changes for the July 1, 2013 update of the Microsoft Product Use Rights will help teams who have team members who are contributing as part of their agile process and practicing ALM.  The following two activities will be moving to be included in the standard Team Foundation Server CAL beginning with TFS 2013:

Previously,  these were capabilities that were reserved for users with Visual Studio Test Professional, Visual Studio Premium, and Visual Studio Ultimate.  The following activities will now be included for those with Visual Studio Test Professional or above in TFS 2013:

Ed Blankenship

Posted in Licensing | TFS | VSTS

What’s New in Visual Studio 2013 Preview

Two weeks ago at Build 2013, the Visual Studio 2013 Preview and Team Foundation Server 2013 Preview downloads were made available so that everyone can start kicking the tires.  The nice thing is that now with round-tripping and with Visual Studio 2013 Preview being able to be installed side by side with earlier versions of Visual Studio, most solutions & projects should be able to be opened up without requiring everyone on the team to upgrade to Visual Studio 2013 Preview either.

Soma mentioned a few of the new features for Visual Studio 2013 Preview in his blog post.  For those partners, consultants, or community speakers that are interested, Dmitry and team have also put together a great PowerPoint deck that you can use to talk about Visual Studio 2013 Preview and Team Foundation Server 2013 Preview.

It is available for download on SkyDrive here:  The downloads for Visual Studio 2013 Preview and Team Foundation Server 2013 Preview are available here too:

It’s been a great release to use and I’ve switched to using it primarily from day to day.  The more frequent release cadence has really made an impact on the quality of the releases!

Ed Blankenship

Posted in ALM | TFS | Visual Studio

TFS 2012 Update to the Deploying Process Template Changes Build XAML

Just wanted to provide a quick update to the popular blog post around deploying TFS process template changes using TFS BuildNeno Loje, one of the awesome Visual Studio ALM Microsoft MVPs, was able to update the build process template .XAML file to now work with TFS 2012!  Thanks a ton Neno!

Check it out!

Ed Blankenship

Radio TFS Episode – Chatting about Lab Management

I had a good time yesterday with Greg & Martin chatting about Lab Management in the latest episode of Radio TFS.  If you don’t subscribe to the Radio TFS podcast series, I would definitely recommend it.  They are roughly 30-minute episodes and are an easy listen that you can fit into your weekly routine.

Download Radio TFS Episode

Radio TFS Logo

Let me know if you have any questions about any of the topics we discussed during the episode!

Ed Blankenship

In this episode we chat with Ed Blankenship about his new job at Microsoft as a program manager on the Test & Lab Management product team.

Before recently joining Microsoft, Ed was a Microsoft MVP for TFS and Visual Studio ALM in which he has been involved & using since the very beginning of the products nearly seven years ago. He worked as the Practice Technical Lead for the ALM/TFS Consulting Practice as Imaginet (formerly Notion Solutions). Ed was also voted as the Visual Studio ALM & Team Foundation Server MVP of the Year for 2010 by his group of peers in the MVP Community.

He is also an author of the Wrox Professional Team Foundation Server 2012 and TFS 2010 books. You can follow Ed via is blog at or via twitter @edblankenship

Links from the show:

For feedback contact or call +1 425 233-8379.

Visual Studio 2012 and TFS 2012 Official Release Timeframe Announced

Jason Zander, the Corporate Vice President for Visual Studio, has tweeted that the Visual Studio 2012 will release to manufacturing (RTM) in early August which is the same time that Windows 8 will RTM as announced at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner’s Conference.


The Visual Studio 2012 release includes all of the individual components of the Visual Studio family including:

  • .NET 4.5
  • Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate, Premium, Test Professional, and Professional
  • Team Foundation Server 2012
  • Microsoft Test Manager 2012
  • Lab Management components of Visual Studio, Microsoft Test Manager, and TFS
  • Feedback Client
  • Visual Studio Agents

It’s just around the corner now!  If you haven’t had a chance to Go-Live on the 2012 release, then start making plans to get upgraded at RTM!  Remember, if you don’t feel like setting up TFS 2012 internally, you can always use the Microsoft hosted version of TFS available at:


Ed Blankenship

TechEd North America 2012

TechEdLogoWow – I just wrapped up my first week at Microsoft and I’m amazed at a lot of the things that the Developer Division is doing.  Several things were announced this week while I was in Redmond for New Employee Orientation but I bet the keynotes will have more next week at TechEd North America 2012.

I hope you will be attending TechEd this year and if you are, there are some really great booths going to be available in the Expo hall.  I will be working at the Visual Studio ALM booth most of the week so stop by if you want to say hi & chat!  I would also love to setup side meetings so let me know.  Here’s my booth schedule:

  • Monday, June 11, 2012
    • 10:30 AM – 12:30 PM
    • 5:30 PM – 9:00 PM
  • Tuesday, June 12, 2012
    • 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM
  • Wednesday, June 13, 2012
    • 10:30 AM – 1:00 PM
  • Thursday, June 14, 2012
    • 10:30 AM – 2:00 PM

Also be sure to add each of the Visual Studio ALM, Testing, and Team Foundation Server sessions to your TechEd Calendar.  There are some great speakers coming in both from the product group and the great group of Microsoft MVPs.

See you next week!

Ed Blankenship

Posted in Community | TFS | VSTS

Purple to Blue – Joining Visual Studio ALM Product Team at Microsoft for Lab Management

I have decided to take a position as Program Manager at Microsoft to work on the Lab Management scenarios on the Visual Studio Testing & Lab Management team.  This product team owns Microsoft Test Manager (which you can acquire in many editions including Visual Studio Test Professional, Visual Studio Premium, and Visual Studio Ultimate) as well as the testing & Lab Management scenarios of Team Foundation Server.  Today is my first day at Microsoft and will be attending New Employee Orientation (NEO).

If you are not familiar with Lab Management, in a word – it is awesome for development and test teams.  You can provision developer & test environments for use as you need them with tight integration back into the rest of Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server.  It is a feature of Team Foundation Server and you likely have all of the licenses that you need if you have MSDN subscriptions!  That means no additional license costs to take advantage of this functionality as opposed to some other solutions on the market.

Here is a high-level diagram of how it works and I have a slide deck from my 4-hour end to end Testing Workshop which includes a section on Lab Management and how it fits into the overall picture available here:!23778 

Lab Management Diagram in Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server

FYI – For those that may not understand the reference, I previously had a purple Microsoft badge (or a b-dash) as a Microsoft MVP and Microsoft Partner working closely with the product team.  One receives a blue badge whenever they start on as a full-time employee.

Microsoft MVP

MVP_Horizontal_FullColorHaving been part of the Visual Studio ALM & TFS Microsoft MVP group for the last five years, I can honestly say that it is the best group of ALM colleagues in the world.  They have been awesome to work with and I’m really excited about continuing to work with this same group.  Each one of my MVP colleagues brings something different to the table but the one thing in common is that everyone has been an awesome advocate for customers of TFS and Visual Studio ALM products around the world.  There is a deep interest in making things succeed and I know that I am better for it having been a part of the group.


Imaginet Logo

Microsoft Partner of the Year 2011 - Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)I have enjoyed my time at Imaginet (and formerly Notion Solutions) as the ALM Practice Technical Lead along with Dave McKinstry.  It’s all because of all of the great people that I have worked with.  Last year, Imaginet was honored with the Microsoft Partner of the Year award for Application Lifecycle Management.  It was just a formal indication about how awesome the ALM group of colleagues is to work with but it is something I already knew.

I am extremely fortunate to have been able to reach so many Visual Studio ALM & TFS customers while I have have been in my consulting role.  I am excited about taking that front-line experience and using it to drive further improvements into the product line.  Lately, I have been leading our Build Center of Excellence (CoE) team as well and have learned a lot about providing builds as a service and virtual environments (Lab Management) as a service to internal engineering teams for customers.  The team is doing some amazing stuff!

TechEd North America 2012

After my New Employee Orientation, my first trip as a Visual Studio ALM Program Manager is heading down to Orlando this year to work as a Microsoft booth staff member at TechEd North America 2012!  I had already been planning to work at the booth as a Microsoft MVP.  I won’t be speaking like I did last year with Christophe but that makes it less stressful for me!  Smile  I would love to meet up with you so please come by and we can talk about the product.  I’m looking forward to hearing about what’s working really well and what doesn’t work very well for your team.  I will be staffing the booth quite a bit over the week but feel free to get in touch with me if you would like my schedule closer to the event!


Take care!

Ed Blankenship

Release Candidate for Visual Studio 2012 and TFS 2012 Available

Visual Studio 2012 Logo

Wow!  The Release Candidate for Visual Studio 2012 and Team Foundation Server 2012 are now available on MSDN Subscriber Downloads!  The final marketing names for the former Visual Studio “11” and TFS “11” (as codenames) have been announced with this announcement as well!

  • Visual Studio 2012
  • Team Foundation Server 2012

Visual Studio 2012 Release Candidate Download Logo

As Jason Zander mentioned, that means that the final RTM release will be sometime this calendar year!  Check out the new logo too!

Visual Studio 2012 also received a face lift with added “energy” when compared to the Beta release.  I think it is looking pretty sharp now!

Visual Studio 2012 Ultimate Release Candidate Screenshot

I won’t go into all of the details of each of the new features introduced in the Release Candidate since there are several folks that have done a great job.  What I am a fan of that I’m super glad made it into the release is a new feature of Team Foundation Server 2012 when upgrading for enabling new features in team projects without having to immediately upgrade process templates for each existing team project.  Ewald Hofman (former Microsoft MVP in Visual Studio ALM) was able to document this new feature in two great new blog posts:

Check out more coverage here:

There will not be an RC-specific version of the TFS 2012 Power Tools but the Beta release will continue to work with the new version.


Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS

How to Remove User from Team Foundation Service Accounts Security Group

I love learning new things and today I learned something new for Team Foundation Server.  This one has perplexed me in the past and it’s one of the areas that I just never dived down deep enough to try out.  I’m more writing this blog post so I can search for this again when I come to this situation in the future!

Essentially, I wanted to remove some users from the built-in “Team Foundation Service Accounts” security group at the server-instance level.  They are added whenever you add them in the “Administration Console Users” group in the TFS Administration Console.  However, when you look at the built-in service accounts group using Team Explorer or the Administration Console, you’ll notice that the dialog commands are disabled.

Disabled Commands for Editing Team Foundation Service Accounts Security Group

There are some side-effects for having real users in this security group so I wanted to remove them completely and leave only the actual TFS Service Account user.  Some of those side effects are more pronounced in Team Foundation Server “11.”  No worries though – because a colleague tipped me at using the command-line tool for managing security, TFSSecurity.exe.  It’s a command-line tool that I actually rarely use and completely forget is available but it’s super powerful.  In our case, it was pretty easy for me to use the /g- switch which allows for removing a member from any security group including this built-in one.

>tfssecurity /g- "Team Foundation Service Accounts" n:DOMAIN\username /server:

It works!

Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS

Using SnagIt with Microsoft Test Manager and the Visual Studio TFS Feedback Client

I’m absolutely a fan of SnagIt.  It has a low cost and works super well for what it does!  If you want to use SnagIt with Microsoft Test Manager and the new Feedback Client for Visual Studio “11” and Team Foundation Server “11” then you are in luck!  By default, they both use MSPaint for editing screenshots but if you have SnagIt, you definitely want to use something more powerful to help you provide even better screenshots.

Configuring the TFS Feedback Client to Use SnagIt

This one is easy.  You’ll want to open up the client (even if you aren’t currently giving feedback) and then click the little gear icon at the top.

Configuring Screenshot Annotation Options for the TFS Feedback Client

Next, you’ll want to provide the path to the SnagIt Editor and then provide the command-line arguments which is just the filename placeholder for the screenshot.  If you don’t enable the checkbox for automatically opening the screenshot each time, don’t worry because you can always double-click any screenshot in the feedback client to open the SnagIt Editor.

Setting the Screenshot Annotation Tool for TFS Feedback Client

Configuring Microsoft Test Manager to Use SnagIt

Whether you want to walk through the manual execution of a test case or use the new Exploratory Testing features of Microsoft Test Manager, you can use SnagIt to help you annotate screenshots here as well.  It’s a very similar and easy process as well.  In this case, the gear icon is available at the bottom-right corner of the test runner window.

Configuring Screenshot Annotation Options for Microsoft Test Manager

You’ll then see a familiar dialog window to set the screenshot annotation options to SnagIt here as well.

Setting the Screenshot Annotation Tool for Microsoft Test Manager

Why use SnagIt with Screenshots?

The value propositions to me for being able to use SnagIt are the following.

  • Annotations – I can add arrows, highlights, text bubbles, etc. really easily.  Those can make a big difference for someone looking at screenshots.
  • Blurring Personally Identifying or Sensitive Information – This is a key one for me at times.  It is really easy to select an area of the screenshot and apply a blur effect

Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS | VSTS Testing

Key Piece of Information for Adopting Visual Studio “11” and Future Releases

Visual Studio 11 Logo

I was reminded by someone that this is huge.  It’s something that hasn’t really sunk-in for people following the new release of the Visual Studio family of products.  It is a subtle thing that will really help people with adopting Visual Studio “11” without making the rest of the team adopt it -- even while it is in Beta & RC.  Because we now have “round-tripping” of Visual Studio solutions & projects, we no longer need to “upgrade” a vast majority of the VS project types when you open a solution in Visual Studio “11.”  That means that a few people can install Visual Studio “11” Beta/RC/RTM without interfering with everyone else on the team.  It allows for a rolling adoption across teams as each team member is ready which is a key adoption feature for this release.

  • Most solutions and projects can be opened in Visual Studio 2010 SP1 and Visual Studio “11” without requiring upgrades of the solutions.  There is a constantly updating list of the project types that aren’t currently supported available on MSDN but again, most of the ones that people interact with every day are supported.
  • Visual Studio “11” can be installed side by side with Visual Studio 2010 SP1.
  • You do not need to adopt .NET 4.5 for your applications if you want to start using Visual Studio “11”.  Visual Studio “11” targets .NET 2.0, .NET 3.0, .NET 3.5, .NET 4.0, and .NET 4.5.
  • You do not need to upgrade to Team Foundation Server “11”.  Visual Studio “11” will connect with a TFS 2010 server and work similar (but better) than the Team Explorer 2010 client.
  • The opposite of the previous bullet point is true as well.  If you do upgrade to Team Foundation Server “11”, you do not need to also upgrade your Visual Studio edition.  You can connect from Visual Studio 2008 and Visual Studio 2010 to a TFS “11” server instance.  You’ll want to install the forward-compatibility update for earlier editions:

This is a subtle but huge change in this next release that we need to stress with all development teams.  It will help increase the speed at which teams will adopt Visual Studio “11” and future releases.


Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS

Difference Between Microsoft Test Manager and Visual Studio Test Professional

Microsoft Visual Studio Test Professional 2010 BoxWhen talking with our consulting customers and leading our 4-Hour Testing Workshops across North America, there is some common confusion about what exactly the differences are between Microsoft Test Manager and Visual Studio Test Professional.  It’s a pretty simple difference that I’ll see if I can help clarify and share some additional news for the vNext release of the Visual Studio family of products at the same time.  Once you get the difference, it will make perfect sense!

Visual Studio Test Professional

Visual Studio Test Professional is one of the different SKUs that you can purchase from the Visual Studio family of products.  What this means is that this is the “box” that you buy.  You can’t buy Microsoft Test Manager.  You buy an edition of Visual Studio that includes Microsoft Test Manager.  Visual Studio Test Professional happens to be the edition that many people will get when they are looking only to get Microsoft Test Manager (in addition to a TFS CAL and MSDN Subscription).

Microsoft Test Manager

Microsoft Test Manager IconMicrosoft Test Manager is the application you use to interact with Team Foundation Server to:

  • Create and manage test plans
  • Create, author, and maintain manual and automated test cases
  • Manage association of automation for test case artifacts
  • Run exploratory tests
  • Analyze previous manual, automated, or exploratory test runs
  • File rich actionable bugs while executing manual test runs or from automated test runs
  • Create and provision individual or shared lab environments with multiple machines for development or testing with Lab Management
  • Connect to physical or virtual lab environments for development or testing with Lab Management
  • Facilitate structured User Acceptance Testing (UAT) from business users
  • And lots more…

Microsoft Test Manager actually is included with two of the different SKUs or Visual Studio editions in the Visual Studio 2010 release.  You can acquire either Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate or Visual Studio 2010 Test Professional to receive Microsoft Test Manager.

Visual Studio “11” Release Changes – So Far

(Written for Beta) Microsoft has announced that Microsoft Test Manager will now be included in the Visual Studio Premium edition in addition to Visual Studio Ultimate and Visual Studio Test Professional.  That’s a great change and brings a lot of value to the Visual Studio Premium SKU!  You can find out some additional comparisons (that have been publicly announced so far) here on the Microsoft site:

Visual Studio "11" Beta Edition Comparison - Microsoft Test Manager

Need Help?

Let me know if you have any additional questions!  We help customers all the time figure out what types of licenses they should get, advocate to get the best pricing for their company, and sort through all of the licensing details to come up with the best scenario.  Contact me and I’ll be happy to get you started down the right path.  BTW – if there is also one thing to remember, don’t pay retail prices for any Visual Studio licenses before you come talk to us!

Ed Blankenship

TFS Users No Longer Need CAL for Viewing Reporting Data

Effective for Team Foundation Server 2010 users and assumingly going forward for Team Foundation Server 11, users who view read-only data for reporting purposes no longer need a TFS Client Access License (CAL).  More information about the announcement from Brian Harry is available here:

The definition of “reporting data” is not defined completely but the spirit of the licensing change is to address a challenge the Microsoft MVPs and other customer channels have brought up:  occasional stakeholders who are looking at reporting data should not be required to be licensed fully with a TFS CAL as other team members who contribute regularly to a software release.  They traditionally want to view progress or see potential issues.

Reporting data is exposed in several different places in Team Foundation Server:

  • Excel Workbooks
  • SQL Reporting Services Reports
  • Rich Dashboards with SharePoint Team Portals (using SharePoint 2010 Enterprise)
  • Custom Applications Displaying Read-Only Reporting Data
  • Other Self-Service Business Intelligence Tools

You may need other types of CALs depending on the particular scenario but thankfully you won’t need a TFS CAL.  Also, if these users are “writing” or “updating” information back to TFS, then that wouldn’t be considered viewing reporting data.  You’ll likely need a TFS CAL for those scenarios.  Remember though that users have always been able to create new bugs & feature requests without needing a TFS 2010 CAL as well using Work Item Only View.  This is a great improvement with this new addition to the CAL exclusions for TFS.

This licensing change is retroactive and in addition to the announcement that the Visual Studio Team Explorer Everywhere client for Eclipse-based IDEs is now free!

Ed Blankenship

Visual Studio Team Explorer Everywhere Now Available for Free

Visual Studio Team Explorer Everywhere 2010 BoxThe cross-platform (Windows, Linux, and Apple Mac OS) Eclipse-based Team Explorer, Visual Studio Team Explorer Everywhere, is now available without any costs!  The free version will continue to not include a TFS Client Access License (CAL) so just be sure you are covered elsewhere for CALs if you happen to need one in your environment!

It’s really great news for all those software engineers not using Visual Studio for building applications or for those using Linux or Mac OS and want to interact with the rest of the software engineering teams using Team Foundation Server.

Additional Information

Announcement Details

Previously sold as a separate product, Visual Studio Team Explorer Everywhere 2010 works with your favorite Eclipse-based IDE, in the operating system of your choice, and helps you collaborate across your .NET and Java development teams using Team Foundation Server 2010. It’s an easy-to-install standalone plug-in that's now a free download. A Team Foundation Server CAL may be required. See Visual Studio 2010 and MSDN Licensing for details.

Download Here


Ed Blankenship

Posted in Licensing | TFS | VSTS

Comparing TFS Process Templates Across Team Projects

I have a new favorite tool for managing and administering a Team Foundation Server environment from day to day.  It has been so helpful both internally with administering our TFS environment but also as I go from site to site.  A great part about the tool is that the source code is completely available with an open license for use.  The product is maintained transparently and there have been a few occasions where I will request a feature and it’s literally done and released the next morning when I wake up.

CodePlex LogoTFS Team Project Manager LogoIntroducing the TFS Team Project Manager on CodePlex!  It’s a tool that helps you take care of common administration and maintenance tasks across lots of multiple team projects.  I have found it to be so useful in tons of different ways.  One of them is something that I’m particularly finding useful this week with a customer that is upgrading from Team Foundation Server 2008 to Team Foundation Server 2010.  They have 117 team projects on their instance and as you know, it can get tedious to manage that many team projects.  This tool helps out in scenarios like this.  We’ll talk with them later about potential consolidation of all of those team projects though!

Viewing Multiple Team Projects in TFS Team Project Manager

One of the things I need to do is figure what’s the best course of action after upgrade for the work item type definitions (and other process template features) for all of the existing team projects.  Everyone will be functional if we don’t do anything but I wouldn’t mind giving the teams a few of the new features in TFS 2010.  The feature of TFS Team Project Manager that can let me get a good sense of where the team projects currently sit with their process template choice & customizations is a “Compare” feature for work item type definitions.

The way that it works is that you load up different sets of work item type definitions from a process template.  You can even use an existing team project’s work item type definitions as a base set as well.

Defining Process Template Source Sets in TFS Team Project Manager

Once you have defined a few different sets that you want to compare against, you just select the team projects that you want to compare and click “Compare Team Projects With Sources.”  The tool has a fairly rudimentary compare algorithm but the summary & detailed data you can get is very handy.  It’s pretty magical if you were to ask me.

Process Template Comparison Results in TFS Team Project Manager

The grid lists all of the results including:

  • What is the best matching process template based on the source sets that are available?
  • What is the best matching percentage?
  • What were matching percentages for the other source sets of process templates?

Initially seeing the results may uncover a little chaos in your TFS environments. That’s okay because there are options. You might want to tame some of that chaos by moving your process templates and storing them in the version control repository. Once it is in version control, you can attempt to “merge” similar process templates together as best as you can and consolidate. You could then use my handy custom build process template for managing deployments of changes to the process templates to existing team projects on your system.

Shameless Plug: We end up talking about these concepts in our book, Professional Team Foundation Server 2010 by Wrox if you are interested in more information!

First, I like to sort by the “Best Matching Percentage” column in the results to see which team projects have attempted to go off the path and made individual customizations.  I don’t really need to worry about the other ones because I can take care of them in bulk.  The key in this particular case is to get them to same the base so that we can deal with them altogether in bulk after the upgrade.  (Customer’s Desire)

If you want to dive into a little more detail for any of the rows, you can choose “View Comparison Details” or double-click the row entry to pop up a great dialog that will help you with understanding the changes even more.  You can see which work item types are changed and if you can even open up the changes in a diff tool that is configurable.

Process Template Comparison Details in TFS Team Project Manager

There was even a new feature implemented last night that detects whether you have Visual Studio vNext (currently Visual Studio “11” Beta) and will use that nice new diff & compare experience in Team Explorer!

Work Item Type Definition Diff Compare Experience in Visual Studio 11 with TFS Team Project Manager

How about that?  This just makes things a ton easier for me!

This tool has a lot of other great features for TFS administration tasks across team projects.  that I’ll talk about in the future.  Just wanted to mention this one and how useful it can be!  Please make sure that you Donate Donate to Jelle Druyts if you find the tool useful to you as well.  It’s absolutely free and he puts a lot of work into keeping the project going.  At least buy him a drink for his hard work! Smile

Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | Tools | VSTS | VSTS Process

Visual Studio and TFS Updates through Windows Updates

I have run into a new situation more often that caused a few concerns for me that I thought I would discuss it some here.  Let’s face it:  there are bugs in the Visual Studio family of products.  People have reported performance problems (and thankfully PerfWatson has been helping out tremendously with rich actionable data for the Visual Studio product teams.)  However, did  you know that a ton of these bugs are resolved & released after initial release?  There are been great stability and performance improvements that have been released since the initial RTM of each of the Visual Studio versions.

Starting with the Visual Studio 2010 and Team Foundation Server 2010 release cycle, Microsoft has started to put more and more of these updates through the Windows Updates distribution system.  It’s great!  They are easily discoverable and can be part of your regular updating schedule.  However, this only works if they are actually available to you.

I have found more and more that people aren’t actually seeing these Windows Updates for Visual Studio and TFS in corporate environments.  When I started looking into this with a few companies, I discovered that IT departments are purposely either ignoring anything “developer” related in the Windows Updates system or rejecting them completely.  What?!  There were some that didn’t even know to look at these important categories. 

If they do see them but have been ignoring them, the reasoning has typically been because IT groups don’t understand the impact of those changes so they just would rather ignore them until they understand them more.  I think that’s fair but there didn’t seem to be any drive for already over-burdened IT teams to actually figure out those impacts.  IT departments are not traditionally using Visual Studio from day to day and don’t typically have the right expertise to understand the impacts.  There has traditionally been a gap between Software Engineering groups and IT departments at companies.  That’s a bigger problem to tackle for a different day. Smile  However, this is where a software engineering team can collaborate and help IT departments out.

Distributed Updates in Corporate Environments

You may have been asking, “why would my IT department have anything to do with the Windows Updates on my development or testing machines?”  That’s a great question.  In some corporate environments, you can actually setup internal servers to act as an intermediary between the machines on the internal network and the central Windows Update system.  IT departments do this for many reasons including making sure that certain updates won’t impact existing applications on business users machines.  Let’s face it – your VB6 invoicing & order processing app that you built 15 years ago that is still limping along but vitally important to your business may or may not get impacted by a new update that’s available for Windows 7.  It happens, right?

To help you feel better about the updates we’re discussing in this blog article: there is a very high cost internally for anyone on the Visual Studio product teams to push an update through the Windows Updates system.  There’s a very high quality bar before they are approved internally.  They also wait for several weeks to a couple of months to make sure that no critical issues are reported from early adopters of those updates.  Not every update is sent through the Windows Updates system so the ones that do really are important.  There are many updates that are beneficial that never get released through Windows Updates.

There are many commercially available tools for “pushing” updates to customers.  Off the top of my head, Microsoft has a high-end version called System Center Configuration Manager and a free version included with Windows called Windows Server Update Services (WSUS).  Additionally, there are group policies in Active Directory that IT Administrators can apply to have machines in the domain talk back to one of these servers for their updates.  You can usually tell if you are in this situation by heading to Windows Updates from your Control Panel and checking to see if it says something like “Managed by your system administrator.”

Check out the Best Practices for Group Policies when using WSUS

Windows Updates Managed by System Administrators or IT Departments

You could click the link that says “Check online for updates from Microsoft Update” but some IT departments have even disabled that link from working through Global Policy.  If any of this is setup internally, it means that all updates basically go through a gatekeeper which is someone who is actively (or inactively) managing the updates in your IT department in one of these internal update servers.  This can be a good thing or a bad thing from what I am seeing more often.

Approve the Visual Studio Family Updates

This is the time when you might want to setup a meeting with your IT department to indicate that your software engineering teams actually do care about these updates and want them approved or even delivered automatically.  They may not even know that they even exist now with this new release.  Here are the categories that the teams should think about covering:

  • Visual Studio (including Agents)
  • Team Foundation Server
  • Expression
  • .NET Framework

There was improvements that helped performance in the Workflow Designer when editing TFS Build process templates in Visual Studio 2010.  These improvements were actually delivered as a .NET Framework QFE.  BTW, There are also additional steps that you could take that I have discussed previously on my blog.  My point by mentioning this is that IT Departments still need to monitor for even .NET Framework updates to help improve the stability and performance for the development environment for software engineering teams.

Enabling Microsoft Update

If your machine isn’t dictated by an internal Windows Updates server by global policy (or if you use check for updates online using the central Windows/Microsoft Updates infrastructure) you may still not see the Visual Studio updates.  This is because by default Windows only checks for Windows Updates.  If you want to check for updates for all Microsoft software then you actually need to enable Microsoft Update.  There is a small distinction but has a large impact on what’s available for your machine.  Smile

Enabling Microsoft Update to Receive Additional Updates for Microsoft Products

Product Updates Improvements in Visual Studio vNext

For those that seem to still have issues with Windows Updates internally, you’ll like seeing that Visual Studio “11” now has Product Updates shown with other types of tools & extensions updates in the Extension Manager.  I doubt that this will include Microsoft Test Manager or Team Foundation Server updates though. Sad smile  I hope I am very wrong about it though and would be very happy if they do send those types of updates down through this new mechanism!

You can see these by heading to Tools –> Extension Manager and then look at the Updates section of the window as shown below.  I can imagine us seeing all sorts of new updates that will come through this system including feature packs, power tools, cumulative updates, etc.  I would imagine that there will be quite a few more updates then would even traditionally be sent through Windows Updates.  That’s a big win for us especially when you want to have the latest features & stability improvements available for your development environment.

Visual Studio Product Updates in Extension Manager

Go have that discussion with your IT department now and if you can see what might be missing by checking for updates from Microsoft’s centralized Windows or Microsoft Update.

Ed Blankenship

Providing Actionable Feedback & Bugs for the Microsoft Visual Studio and TFS Product Teams

Now that the new Visual Studio and TFS “11” Beta release is available for you to use for evaluation or even “Go-Live” in production, you’ll likely find some bugs or suggestions for rough spots in the product that might be able to be addressed before the final release.  Even so that feedback can be acted on in a subsequent patch, feature pack, or service pack so it’s always good to at least put it on the product team’s backlog.

The traditional way to provide feedback in the past for the Visual Studio 2010 release and before was to use Microsoft Connect for Visual Studio to file your bugs for the .NET Framework, Visual Studio, Team Foundation Server, Microsoft Test Manager, etc.  It still is but now you have another tool in your tool belt to provide some great information for the product team that’s new for the Visual Studio “11” family release now in Beta.

Introducing the Microsoft Visual Studio “11” Feedback Tool available on the Visual Studio Extension Gallery.  It’s easy – after installing the extension you’ll get an option in the Help menu for “Report a Bug” which will start a nice wizard process that will create an awesome Connect bug for you.  You can use this wizard for anything you would normally create a bug for like the .NET framework, TFS, Visual Studio, Microsoft Test Manager, etc.

Report a Bug in Visual Studio 11

One of the awesome pieces of this tool and very important is that it captures all sorts of logs and valuable information to be used in helping reproduce the problem.  You can review all of those files before you submit the feedback to make sure you are comfortable with that data.  The Microsoft Connect item is also marked as “private” so that your details aren’t exposed to the public.  You can always go in to the Microsoft Connect site to change it to Public if you want it available for other people to vote it as something that is important to fix.  That’s not required though.

After you have started the tool, you can access it from the Windows Notification Area (aka System Tray) by clicking the tool’s icon.

Visual Studio Feedback Tool System Tray Icon

Here are some things you can also do to make your bug reports super stellar and give it some traction whenever someone looks at it:

  • What are the steps to reproduce your problem?  Be sure to give all the steps. Some things may seem extremely obvious to you but when you are looking at lots of bug reports, something obvious to you may not be obvious to them.  If the problem is intermittent, describe the best you can to provide what you can to help the person reading your bug report to attempt to reproduce it.
  • Provide screenshots in a logical manner and show someone what’s going on with annotations like .
  • Even better – you could always create a quick screen recording using a tool like Screenr (free) to show someone what’s going on.  Feel free to put the link inside your bug report.
  • Help the team understand how many people or the types of customers you think this would impact.
  • Are there any others with similar machine specs or environmental conditions that are experiencing this problem?
  • Provide some information about your environment and computer.  What versions of Visual Studio do you have installed including older versions?  Did you have a previous pre-release edition on your computer?  How did you get that one removed from your machine?
  • Is the bug preventing your business from functioning?  Honestly answer this.  Remember that not everything can be Priority 1.  If the bug is truly keeping your business from functioning, then I would file the Connect bug and note the ID number.  After that, pick up the phone for Microsoft Product Support Services and help them with understanding the severity.  You can provide the support technicians with the Connect ID and that can get them started with working through the issue.  Don’t file a Connect item though if it’s not a bug.  You can always call the Support team for non-bug issues to help you through your problems too so keep that in mind!
  • Any others that I might have missed that would be important?

If you want to take a look at all the other details about using the Visual Studio Feedback Tool, check out the documentation here:

If you have a feature request, instead of a bug report, then I would head on over to the Visual Studio User Voice site.  You’ll have the opportunity to create new feature requests and vote on those coming from other people.

Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | Tools | VSTS

Feature Request: Treat TFS as an Enterprise Symbol Server

If you haven’t talked to me before, I am a serious fan of the Symbol Server and Source Integration in Team Foundation Server.  Recently, I thought about reducing the complexity of the entire story especially for those using Team Foundation Server.  You still have to have a file share available for symbols which is just something else to have to request, manage, deal with for disaster recovery, and is particularly problematic when users are in geographically remote offices.  Individual developers also have to manually register the symbol server in the Visual Studio options for each of the development machines they ever use.  Why though?  It shouldn’t be this difficult especially when you have already adopted TFS.

User Voice LogoI submitted a new feature request on the Visual Studio Team Foundation Server product team’s User Voice site specifically for assisting with this complexity.  I would like TFS just to be treated like an enterprise symbol server and Visual Studio can just take advantage.  My good friend and colleague, Adam Cogan, encouraged me to share with my blog readers more details about this feature request.

I would also like to ask for your help with voting on the feature request if you like the idea and would be important for your team & organization.


User Voice Feature Request Details - Treat TFS as an Enterprise Symbol Server

Additional Details for the Feature Request

Version Control Folder to Hold Symbol Server Files

The main part of this would be something like a version control folder to hold the symbol server files such as $/Symbols.  This would be a special folder that would only be used for Symbols.  You would then be able to have a URL endpoint that TFS recognizes and handles appropriately (i.e.

With this type of feature in TFS you can take advantage of many side benefits including:

· No file share to worry about getting provisioned by IT or backed up

· Takes advantage of TFS Proxy caching for geographically distributed locations

· This could be a special version control folder type where it doesn’t have to keep history – only the latest version (T)

· Would work out really well for those using TFS on Azure (especially with on-premises build servers)

· Potentially Symbol Server for CodePlex projects!

· IntelliTrace & the VS Profiler benefits greatly from this as well!


Automatic TFS Build Configuration

If this feature is setup & configured, then why not just go ahead and auto-configure new TFS build definitions as well?  Pop it right in there…


Automatic Client-Side Configuration

If I connect to a Team Project Collection, I want my Visual Studio (and other clients that use symbol server) to be auto-configured for the symbol server to be used.  It should just be automatic!  This would be very similar to how the client auto-configuration for TFS Proxy just works for anyone doing a version control get.


Build Retention Policies

If you have symbols turned on for TFS builds to handle when retention policies are run, you could configure it to either destroy or delete the symbols from the special version control folder.  As an administrator, I may want to actually destroy the symbols with retention policies for some of my build definitions just to save on space.



Help me everyone out with your votes!

Ed Blankenship

Using Exchange Server with TFS for Delivering E-Mail Alerts

Team Foundation Server has the ability to deliver e-mail alerts.  I have talked about this feature a few times (like here, here,  and here) and it’s a very handy feature of any work item tracking system let alone version control, automated builds, test case management, etc.  In the TFS Administration Console window, you just need to enable and specify the e-mail alert settings from the Application Tier node.

Enabling E-Mail Alerts in TFS Administration Console

Here’s the one caveat about this functionality:  TFS needs the SMTP server to allow unauthenticated requests.  Notice that TFS doesn’t allow you to specify a user name and password.  Other applications do allow this -- for example, my Windows Home Server 2011 instance at home asks for additional information.

Specifying E-Mail Alert SMTP Settings for Windows Home Server 2011

Several e-mail servers on the market, including Microsoft Exchange Server, do not allow unauthenticated SMTP requests by default.  In general, you actually don’t want to open up your SMTP server for unauthenticated requests or have an open SMTP server on your network.  This can open you up to security issues and would allow malware or compromised servers to use it as a relay.  Not fun stuff at all.

The preferred approach would be to let your e-mail server know to allow unauthenticated e-mails from each of your TFS application tier servers.  (Note:  You may have multiple application tier servers if you have setup your TFS environment to be highly available using network load balancing and created an AT web farm.)  Since most of the customers I visit have adopted Microsoft Exchange Server, here are the steps for you to pass on to your Exchange Administrator to take to “trust” TFS to deliver e-mail alerts.  As a TFS Administrator, you will not like have the permissions necessary to make these changes in your internal Exchange environment.

Thanks to the Imaginet Infrastructure team (specifically Kelsey Epps)  for help with these instructions!

Configuring the Exchange Hub Transport for TFS E-Mail Delivery

Your first step is to open the Exchange Management Console and head to the Hub Transport node underneath Server Configuration.  This will show you all of the receive connectors that are currently defined when you select the appropriate hub transport server from this list.

Hub Transport Receive Connects in Exchange Management Console

What we will end up doing is creating a new receive connector specifically for use by each of the TFS application tier servers.  In the Actions pane for the Exchange Management Console, choose “New Receive Connector…”

Creating a New Hub Transport Receive Connector in Exchange Management Console

On the Introduction page for the New Receive Connector wizard, enter a friendly name to help other Exchange Administrators understand the purpose of this receive connector and choose “Custom” for the intended use.

New Exchange Hub Transport Receive Connector Wizard - Introduction Page

On the next page for specifying the Local Network Settings, you’ll likely just want to leave the defaults and specify the fully-qualified DNS entry that will be used in the SMTP response when a client like TFS connects to it.

New Exchange Hub Transport Receive Connector Wizard - Local Network Settings Page

The next screen for specifying the Remote Network Settings is the important one.  This tells Exchange server which IP addresses should be allowed to use this receive connector.  You’ll want to remove the default entry that exists in the list and then add each of the IP addresses of each of the TFS application tier servers.  (Remember from above, you might have multiple application tier servers in your TFS environment.)

New Exchange Hub Transport Receive Connector Wizard - Remote Network Settings Page

At this point, you are ready to complete the wizard and it will create the new custom receive connector to be used by the TFS application tier servers.  Once the wizard has completed and created the new receive connector, you’ll want to open the properties dialog window for the new receive connector and enable “Anonymous Users” on the Permissions Group tab.

Enabling Anonymous Users on Custom Exchange Hub Transport Receive Connector

Now, give the fully-qualified DNS name for the Exchange hub transport server to the TFS Administration and they will be able to enter it in the TFS Administration Console in the appropriate spot.  The TFS Administrator will want to monitor the event logs for any error messages after this has been enabled in TFS to make sure that the e-mail delivery TFS jobs that run periodically when there are new e-mail alerts complete successfully.

Using an Office 365 Hosted Exchange Instance

If you happen to be using Office 365 for your Exchange instance, then you will have to setup a local SMTP Relay.  Here are a few online resources for how to do that:

Ed Blankenship

Creating E-Mail Alerts for Team Members in TFS

In TFS 2005, TFS 2008, and TFS 2010, the alerting system has always been based on a “self-subscription” model which means if you want an e-mail alert then you need to create it for yourself.  This could be problematic if new team members didn’t know about the self-subscription model.  Now, you could use the Alerts Explorer from the TFS Power Tools to create e-mail alerts for other people but then those alerts are actually owned by the person creating them and not able to be managed, edited, or disabled for the person they are intended.  There are other potential workarounds that people have discussed for any of the TFS versions I mentioned above.  A good question on Stack Overflow has some discussion as well.

Team Foundation Service Preview LogoIn the latest builds of the Team Foundation Service Preview (which ultimately will be features we will see in the next version of TFS – TFS 11), we can now see that administrators are able to create team alerts that help the scenario I described above.  Managing personal and team alerts are exposed in Team Web Access.  Notice in this Work Item alert, the new [Me] value that is available for the filter clauses.

Creating a Team Work Item Alert in TFS

You can also create other types of alerts like Build Alerts and Code Review Alerts.

Creating a Team Build Alert in TFS


What I also noticed is that administrators can view & troubleshoot other user’s e-mail alerts that they have created including personal alerts.  That was particularly troublesome for TFS Administration in the past but should help out quite a bit for user’s who report problems in the future.  An administrator can now even help craft the appropriate e-mail alert for the user using the right filters and grouping of clauses which I find to be the most commonly reported issues with creating alerts.

Administering TFS Alerts for Other Users

Ed Blankenship

Replacing Compare and Diff Tools for TFS Version Control

Even though the TFS product team is planning to completely replace the awful source compare experience in the next version of TFS, I need something for use with prior versions of Visual Studio including Visual Studio 2010.  The new version inside of Visual Studio 11 is pretty awesome.  I have actually decided on Code Compare Pro by Devart for my legacy versions.  They have both a free version and a Pro version that includes a 30-day trial.

During the installation, you can specify whether you want to integrate Code Compare with the TFS tools and when you do that, it adds the relevant settings automatically to your Visual Studio options for TFS Version Control.  That’s classy and a nice touch for the installer.  BTW – this is the exact way you would do this manually if you have a different compare tool that you like better.  There are plenty out there…

Code Compare Options Set for Compare and Merge in TFS for Visual Studio Options Dialog

This now allows you to use your new specified tool anytime you would do a compare or merge operation even from the Windows Explorer Shell Extensions plug-in from the TFS Power Tools.  It will even allow for a three-way merge & diff experience which can be quite helpful at times if you are in need of it.

Code Compare Pro Compare Diff with TFS Version Control

Ed Blankenship

Integrating Red Gate SmartAssembly Into TFS 2010 Build

Updates – I plan on making updates to this blog article from time to time as I learn more and changes are made to TFS & SmartAssembly to smooth out some of the rough edges.  Come back again for the latest & greatest!

I really like tools that provide assistance with the release management & maintenance cycles of ALM.  I think some of the features really add a particular shine to your application.  It’s something that I’m currently writing an article about but I wanted to share how to integrate one of those tools into your Team Foundation Server 2010 Build Process.  This first tool to be reviewed is Red Gate’s SmartAssembly product.Red Gate SmartAssembly

SmartAssembly is a product that can help you out with obfuscation if you need it but I primarily want to focus on two of its other major features:

  • Automated Error Reporting – When an exception occurs, the end user can be prompted to send back the exception details so that the development team can review those details.  This can also work with server-side & web applications without requiring end user prompting.
  • Feature Usage Reporting – This is essentially telemetry for your application to figure out how your users are using the application so that you can make good decisions in the future about where to invest for future releases.  It does this by sending back anonymous data for users who opt-in at runtime.  It will even automatically send back data about the machine the software is being run like the operating system.  This can be extremely useful data to product managers.

You don’t have to worry about any of the details because once you run your assemblies through SmartAssembly, it instruments all of the necessary functionality automatically for you.  If you acquire the Professional edition, you can customize the reporting experience including the ability to host your own web server to accept the error & feature usage reports.

Aside:  Too many teams & companies have blindly adopted obfuscation for their assemblies in the past without taking into consideration the true “total cost” of obfuscating your applications.  I’m all for obfuscation where it makes sense to protect IP as long as the value of the protection of that IP is worth more than the extra cost, resources, and maintenance complexity to truly support an obfuscated product.  Each team & company is going to have to make that decision based on the resources available and the value of the IP to be protected  – just don’t go into it blindly.

FYI – PreEmptive’s Dotfuscator tool is a competing product line with a similar feature set that I hope to be covering in a future blog post.

Ignoring obfuscation, these two features are absolutely great for gaining visibility about your application once it has been released.  For all of those teams that aren’t traditional software vendors but building applications for internal use, these are great features for those applications as well.  Software engineering teams building internal applications are very much in need of the same type of information as ISVs about how their internal “customers” are interacting with their applications.  Internal applications don’t necessarily need obfuscation but they can definitely benefit from automated error & feature usage reporting!

One part that I absolutely love about SmartAssembly is that even though the tool instruments and changes your assembly, it also provides the ability to produce a set of matching symbols (.PDBs) that are extremely important for several scenarios in TFS, the Visual Studio ALM family of tools, as well as basic debugging.

I am going to be spending some time in this blog article to walkthrough how to integrate SmartAssembly into your automated TFS build process so that your teams can take advantage of these features.  I am going to take the approach of not creating any custom workflow activities for this particular effort.  Jim Lamb has a good discussion about when to make customizations to the MSBuild file (essentially the Visual Studio project file) and when to make your customizations in the Windows Workflow-based build process template.  As much as I very much prefer customizing my build process templates using custom workflow activities, in this case I choose to do a little customization of both without using any custom workflow activities.  I would much rather have done this using only native Windows Workflow activities but I’ll talk more about that a little later.

Disclaimer:  As a Microsoft MVP, I have been a part of the Friends of Red Gate group for the last four years and I have been provided Not For Resale licenses of the Red Gate family of products though I reserve the right to offer unbiased opinions and criticisms.  I was not paid for these contributions.  However, I may or may not get a complimentary round the next time I see the Red Gaters at the pub in Cambridge. Smile

Works on My Machine LogoWorks on My Machine Disclaimer:  Everything in this blog article works on my machine when I wrote it.  I have the latest version of SmartAssembly and TFS 2010 installed & configured correctly.  I’ve done my best to make this as reusable as possible for most team’s scenarios but I can’t tell you that it will work for you.  Hopefully it gets you started on the right path though!  Please don’t contact me and let me know that my code killed your cat.  I feel for you… I do – I just can’t do anything about it.  You’ve been warned.  I take the same approach that Scott does with blog contributions.

Configuring SmartAssembly for Team Use

SmartAssembly has actually been designed out of the box to handle the single-developer team scenario.  If you are using TFS, you are likely not a single-developer team so you’ll want to a few things to get SmartAssembly setup for use with a team.  The architecture for SmartAssembly can best be described with this architecture diagram:

Smart Assembly Architecture Diagram

You’ll need to get the Professional edition of SmartAssembly since it allows you to store everything in a shared SQL Server database.  One nice thing is that each developer who will need to interact with error & feature usage reports only needs a Developer edition license instead of a full Professional edition license.  You’ll need to install & configure the Professional edition on each of your build servers.  You might as well go ahead and create a build agent tag called “SmartAssembly” to indicate which build agents in your build farm are hosted on servers that have SmartAssembly installed.

When you first start SmartAssembly, you will want to setup the desktop machines & build servers to use the same SQL connection settings for the shared SmartAssembly database.  I even like to use the friendly TFS DNS names that I already have setup for my particular TFS environment.  Remember that if you are using the limited use license of SQL that is included with TFS, you won’t be able to house the SmartAssembly database on that instance.  You’ll need to purchase a legitimate SQL Server license.  It’s a great time to upgrade to the SQL Enterprise edition if you can for TFS!  TFS will definitely take advantage of several of the features.

It is pretty easy to setup from there:

Configuring SmartAssembly Database Connection 

Be sure to also indicate that you want to use relative paths.  Relative paths will be very important when you are using it in a team environment with Team Foundation Server.

BTW, if you need to setup SmartAssembly to use SQL Authentication instead of Windows Authentication, you can do that using this particular article. You do this by basically updating the settings configuration file available on a Windows 7 machine at C:\ProgramData\Red Gate\SmartAssembly\SmartAssembly.settings.

Creating & Storing the SmartAssembly Configuration File in Version Control

I am going to make this easy by just using a quick Windows Forms application however you are able to process any type of assembly including Silverlight apps, ASP.NET web applications, class libraries, etc. using SmartAssembly.

You will want to compile your assembly at least once and then start a new SmartAssembly project.  It actually doesn’t matter where the source & destination location of the assembly is set to in the configuration but you might want to pick a location that all of the developers will be using.  Don’t worry about the build server locations because we will override those later in the build process!  To keep it simple, I’m only going to enable the following features in my SmartAssembly configuration file:

  • Automated Error Reporting,
  • Feature Usage Reporting, and
  • Generate Debugging Information

You can research more on the other options that are available but I am going to keep this walkthrough very simple.  Once you are satisfied with your settings, click the “Save As…” button and save the configuration file in the same folder as your Visual Studio project file.  I even like to include the file in my Visual Studio project so that I can work with it and check it into the version control repository along with the rest of my project.  The SmartAssembly configuration file has a “.saproj” file extension.

Visual Studio Project with Smart Assembly Configuration File

The next thing you might want to do is open the configuration file using the XML Editor in Visual Studio to verify all of the settings look correct. You can use the “Open With…” context menu command from the Solution Explorer window to help you out.

Using the Open With Command in Visual Studio Solution Explorer

The main thing you want to do is be very mindful of using relative file paths everywhere in the configuration file since the location of the source code location changes on the build server & developer machines.  For example, TFS Build allows you to have multiple build agents running on any build server.  I might have three build agents on a build server which means three builds could be running at any given time on the build server.  You isolate each build agent on a build server by setting the working directory to something that will be a unique value.  The default setting is $(SystemDrive)\Builds\$(BuildAgentId)\$(BuildDefinitionName) but I usually change it to $(SystemDrive)\Builds\$(BuildAgentId)\$(BuildDefinitionId) to give me a few extra characters since we also have path length limitations to go up against.


Defining Custom MSBuild Properties

At this point, we are going to define a few custom MSBuild properties that we are going to use to trigger the SmartAssembly functionality.  The table lists the properties I am going to define in this process.

Property Name Value(s) Description
TfsBuild True, False Indicates whether this build is occurring using TFS.
RunSmartAssembly True, False Indicates whether the SmartAssembly processing should occur after compilation.
SmartAssemblyConfigurationFileRelativePath <Relative File Path> Stores the relative path location to the .saproj configuration file for the project.

Modifying the Visual Studio Project Files

For many of the common project types, Visual Studio project files are in fact actually MSBuild scripts under the covers.  What we are going to do is add some custom functionality at the end of the project file that we will later “turn on” during the build process.  You could modify this so that you could “turn on” the functionality at development time locally but this additional script excerpt will leave it turned off during normal development.

To edit a Visual Studio Project file, you can “unload” the project from the context menu in Solution Explorer and then double-click it to open it in a new editor document window.  You will add the following excerpt close to the bottom of your Visual Studio project file just before the final </Project> ending tag. In my case it is a .csproj file.

<!-- Red Gate SmartAssembly Custom Post-Compile Processing for TFS Builds -->
<UsingTask TaskName="SmartAssembly.MSBuild.Tasks.Build" AssemblyName="SmartAssembly.MSBuild.Tasks, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=7f465a1c156d4d57" Condition="'$(TfsBuild)' == 'True' and '$(RunSmartAssembly)' == 'True'" />
<PropertyGroup Condition="'$(TfsBuild)' == 'True' and '$(RunSmartAssembly)' == 'True'">
  <!-- Uncomment this next line if the configuration file is not located in the same directory and uses the same name as the project. -->
  <!-- This will set the default name of the configuration file to the same name as the project name if the property is not defined elsewhere. -->
  <SmartAssemblyConfigurationFileRelativePath Condition="'$(SmartAssemblyConfigurationFileRelativePath)' == ''">$(ProjectName).saproj</SmartAssemblyConfigurationFileRelativePath>
<Target Name="AfterBuild" Condition="'$(TfsBuild)' == 'True' and '$(RunSmartAssembly)' == 'True'">
  <!-- Archiving the original compiled assembly and matching debugging symbols file. -->
  <Message Text="Archiving the original compiled assembly and matching debugging symbols file." />
  <Copy SourceFiles="@(_DebugSymbolsOutputPath)" DestinationFolder="$(OutDir)Original" Condition="'$(_DebugSymbolsProduced)' == 'true' and '$(CopyBuildOutputToOutputDirectory)' == 'true' and '$(SkipCopyBuildProduct)' != 'true'" />
  <Copy SourceFiles="@(MainAssembly)" DestinationFolder="$(OutDir)Original" Condition="'$(CopyBuildOutputToOutputDirectory)' == 'true' and '$(SkipCopyBuildProduct)' != 'true'" />
  <!-- Process Assembly through SmartAssembly -->
  <SmartAssembly.MSBuild.Tasks.Build ProjectFile="$(SmartAssemblyConfigurationFileRelativePath)" Input="@(MainAssembly)" Output="@(MainAssembly)" OverwriteAssembly="True" />

It is a modified version of the snippet from the SmartAssembly help documentation for integrating with MSBuild:  You’ll see a little later where we are going to “turn on” the functionality by editing the TFS build process template.  If you named your configuration file the same name as the project name and stored it in the same location in version control you actually don’t need to modify anything in the snippet at all.

Notice that the snippet keeps the original copies of the assemblies and matching symbols (.PDB) file so that they later get copied to the TFS build’s drop folder.  It is copying the original assembly and matching symbols into another subdirectory named “Original” instead of just outputting the SmartAssembly instrumented assembly & matching symbols to a subfolder called “Obfuscated”, “Instrumented”, or “Protected.”  I used to use the latter approach (as some people suggest) but if you are also compiling installers, it is useful to create an installer during specific builds that include the original assemblies instead of the instrumented ones.  In my installer definition (like a WiX file) I’ll just refer to the regular location and it will pickup whatever version the build process created.  If I want an installer to have the original assemblies then I just queue a new build and will set the SmartAssembly process parameter to false for that build.  I don’t have to do anything additional in my WiX definition files to handle this scenario. 

Another side effect you get by using this approach is that if your build process runs any automated tests, static code analysis, test impact analysis, etc., then it will use the instrumented versions of the assemblies as the target of the tests and other post-processing tools!  There are several ways to skin this particular cat but I have fallen back to this approach after a few years of dealing with these issues.

Modifying the Build Process Template in Windows Workflow Foundation

Technically, we could just hard-code the extra MSBuild process parameters that we need using the default TFS build process template on the Process tab of the build definition editor window:

Setting Additional MSBuild Property Values in TFS 2010 Build Definition Editor

If you are okay with this approach then you don’t really need to go any further.  However, we could make this a richer experience for people who will edit and queue these builds from day to day.  This is where we can go through and create a custom process template.

The first thing you will want to do is create a new build process template to start your customizations.  I have included mine for download at the end of this blog post but you may want to walk along.  I usually start by creating a copy of the default build process template available from TFS.  If you aren’t familiar with the basics of this particular process, I would highly suggest going through the walkthrough in either of these books:

You can then change your build definition over to the newly copied build process template using the following combo box.

Selecting a New TFS Build Process Template

If you click on the hyperlink, it will take you to the location in Source Control Explorer where you can get the latest version into your workspace and then open the build process template file for editing in the Windows Workflow Foundation Designer.

Defining Build Definition Process Parameters

The first thing we can do is specify a new build process parameter that is exposed to the end user of the builds by going to the “Arguments” tab in the lower left-hand corner of the Workflow designer.

Arguments Tab for Windows Workflow Designer

I am going to create a Boolean process parameter simply named “RunSmartAssembly” and set the default value to False.  This isn’t an MSBuild property but a workflow process parameter that will be exposed to the end user when they are queuing a new build or when editing the build definition.

Creating New TFS Build Process Parameter

This next step is just to make things that much nicer.  We can give the TFS Build system some additional metadata to make sure the parameter is exposed to the end user in a nice fashion.  There are more details about the process parameter metadata field in either of the book chapters mentioned above in case you would like to learn more!  You edit the collection information for the Metadata parameter that is already defined in the default build process template.  (It’s two above the parameter we created in the previous screenshot.)  Just click the ellipsis button in the default value field column to open up the metadata editor window.

TFS Build Process Parameter Metadata Editor

Fill out the details as indicated above and save your build process template. You won’t see the changes immediately if you were to go back to the build definition editor because we haven’t checked-in the build process template back to the version control repository yet.

Verify SmartAssembly is Installed on Build Server

Whenever I architect a build that requires the use of a custom tool and it isn’t stored in version control (or even if it is but someone forgot to add that workspace mapping) I usually want to add a check in the build process to make sure that the tools are actually available to the build server.  If the check doesn’t locate the tool I have it give a nice build error.

Add an If workflow activity inside the Build Agent Scope activity (labeled “Run on Agent”) but before the section that starts the compilation.  It doesn’t exactly matter where as long as you get them in the agent scope but before any type of compilation begins.  I am going to set my condition to something like the following:

RunSmartAssembly AndAlso Not System.IO.File.Exists(String.Format("{0}\{1}\{2}", Environment.GetFolderPath(Environment.SpecialFolder.ProgramFiles), "Red Gate\SmartAssembly 6", "SmartAssembly.exe"))

You can then add a Write Build Error activity with an appropriate message to indicate that SmartAssembly was not found.  It should look something along the lines of this following example.

Verifying SmartAssembly is Installed on TFS Build Server

Appending Additional MSBuild Properties

We can now work on passing in the additional MSBuild properties.  I’m going to do this in two steps.  The first step is to append the TfsBuild MSBuild property to the pre-defined workflow variable that is used for this purpose named MSBuildArguments.  I’m going to do this immediately after the workflow activities we added for the previous step using another native primitive workflow activity:  Assign.  It’s a super simple activity that is great for this particular purpose.  The assignment expression that I am going to use for the Value parameter is:

String.Format("{0} {1}", MSBuildArguments, " /p:TfsBuild=True")


After that, we will add another If activity where the conditional will be set to the RunSmartAssembly workflow parameter we created earlier.  We will also add add another Assign activity and append our remaining MSBuild property to pass into the compilation process.  You can use this assignment expression for the Value parameter of the Assign activity:

String.Format("{0} {1}", MSBuildArguments, " /p:RunSmartAssembly=True")

The final sequence looks similar to the following screenshot.


You may be asking “Why did we define the $(TfsBuild) MSBuild property when we could have just used the $(RunSmartAssembly) property?” That’s a great question… You don’t need it if you aren’t going to do any additional customization. However, in general, I like to always define the $(TfsBuild) MSBuild property so that you could customize the project files to modify the conditions based on whether it is occurring during a TFS Build or if it’s occurring on a developer’s machine. It’s quite handy when you need it.

Notice that we are also performing all of the SmartAssembly processing steps before the Source Server Indexing and Symbol Server Publishing phase of the build process so that both the original symbols and the symbols that match the instrumented assemblies are published correctly to Symbol Server and have the appropriate indexing for Source Server support included in those symbols.  That will be extremely useful later whenever you need to debug against either the original or instrumented assemblies in the future.  You can also open IntelliTrace log files & take advantage of Test Impact Analysis if you keep obfuscation turned off in the SmartAssembly configuration.


That’s it!  Just save the changes to your build process template and check the file into the version control repository so it can now be used by your build definitions.  Be sure to set your new custom workflow parameter to True and then queue a new build!

Setting Custom SmartAssembly Process Parameter

You’ll now notice that it runs correctly even if you have defined for your build process to compile multiple build configurations (i.e. Debug | x86, Release | AnyCPU, etc.)

Potential Improvement Areas

  • Licensing & Activation for Build Servers – Unfortunately, the way SmartAssembly is licensed you have to purchase a license for each of the build servers you might have and activate the software on those build servers.  The accompanying side effect is that the developer licenses are cheaper.
    This can be problematic in a TFS environment where you might have a build farm that has one build controller with 20 build servers that have three agents on each of those build servers.  It’s not that SmartAssembly would be used at the same time on all 60 of those build agents but you also don’t know which build agent will be reserved for a particular build at any given time.  I have resorted to using the build agent tagging feature of TFS Build to handle making sure particular builds only reserve an agent with SmartAssembly configured & activated.  However, this causes a complete underuse of the hardware resources available in a build farm. 
    I would rather tool vendors achieve their revenue targets by increasing the per-user license fee because and specifically for users who benefit from the advantages that the particular tool brings to them. This licensing model if very similar to how the Visual Studio & third-party components licensing model works.  Microsoft and other third-party component vendors give you the ability to install and use the their tools on a build server without charge.
    I consider build agent machines throw-away machines.  They should remain completely clean but don’t need to be backed up or monitored.  I usually will have a virtual machine base image that has everything already installed & ready to go so that I can add/remove to the build farm “pool” as needed.  I even prefer to throw away machines after 30 days and bring new build agents online to ensure the whole build farm is kept as clean as possible.  When you have tools that require activation & licensing, this scenario quickly becomes problematic.  This leads me to another potential area for improvement.
  • Installation on Build Servers – If you know me well, this is a slightly less critical criticism than the first bullet point but also a pretty big pet peeve of mine. Smile  If you make tools, please don’t require them to be installed on the build server. It’s another thing that has to be kept up to date on potentially many machines and in a base system image.  I would rather be able to check them into a known version control folder and then have the build servers download the latest version during the build process.  There is even a supported mechanism in TFS Build that allows the build controllers & agents to watch for custom assemblies & tools and whenever it notices a new version of those assemblies then it gracefully updates all of the machines in the build farm automatically.  This allows team members to focus & introduce changes to the tools using version control instead of having to update the base image of the build server every time there is a new update.
    You also benefit from having full auditing of what exact tools version were used to produce a specific set of assemblies.  That allows you to potentially recreate a build you created a year ago by simply specifying what version of the source code (including build tools) to use during that build process.
  • Native Workflow Activity for TFS 2010 Build Process Templates -  The process I described in this blog article is definitely much more difficult than what it could be.  Instead of introducing customizations in the MSBuild-portion of the TFS build process, I much rather prefer dropping in a native workflow activity after the compilation process.  SmartAssembly unfortunately doesn’t have a custom TFS build workflow activity at this time.  I would love to see one that allowed me to specify multiple assembly inputs for each build configuration that occurs in the build process and then the appropriate SmartAssembly configuration file for each of the assemblies.  You can do some nice things with it to really make this process super easy.
  • Database Endpoint Instead of a Web Service Layer – SmartAssembly requires the entire team to have access to the centralized database to manage the automated error & feature usage reports.  The software makes direct database calls instead of going through a service layer is which is very different from the way that tools built for TFS are designed in general.  This can be problematic especially if you have TFS setup for your team to be able to access remotely over HTTPS (port 443) without the use of a VPN.  Several IT organizations,really don’t want to open their database ports or even give access to production database instances.  My suggestion would be to have an intermediate service layer that can “integrate” with the existing TFS IIS web sites.  This allows the tool’s service layer to piggy back on the existing infrastructure already setup for TFS.  If you have an SSL certificate and HTTPS configured, then you can take advantage of it.  If you have load balancing setup for scalability, then you could potentially leverage that as well!  We did this with our Notion Timesheet for TFS tools and one of the benefits we end up getting is that we are able to access the service layer from anywhere we can access TFS including over the Public Internet.  No worries about giving people access to the SQL Server instance as well.
  • Source Server Support – This isn’t necessarily a TFS-specific topic but really something for anyone using build servers & Source Server indexing.  When you compile on a build server, the location of the source code is included in the symbol information.  Your developers will normally not download the source code to the same location as other developers and particularly not the same location that the build server does since that changes depending on what TFS build agent is used on a build server for any particular TFS build.  Source Server Indexing helps to combat this particular problem by replacing the physical location with the location in the version control repository including the branch and version of the code used.  SmartAssembly has a feature that allows you to review details of stack trace, object values, etc. when you open an error report.  However, it doesn’t use the Source Server information even if it is stored in the symbol files.  This is particularly a problem when you are in a TFS environment and using automated builds.  SmartAssembly just ignores those additional streams in the symbols file.  SmartAssembly should use the Source Server information if it exists in the symbols to pull the appropriate version of source code from the version control repository.  (Red Gate Support Ticket Number:  F0041570)
  • Additional ALM Integration with TFS – There are so many different areas where SmartAssembly could shine if it had some additional ALM-specific integration with TFS!

Download Process Template

If you are interested in downloading the completely customized version of the build process template, I have included a link to it below.

Download SmartAssembly Process Template



Take care,

Ed Blankenship

Deploying Visual Studio 2008 ClickOnce Projects in TFS 2010 Build

I wanted to wring my hair on this one… but it was actually rather simple to get solved.  I’m helping a customer this week upgrading their server to TFS 2010 from TFS 2008.  They had TFS 2008 builds compiling & publishing Visual Studio 2008 solutions & builds.  When you upgrade to TFS 2010, those existing build definitions will end up using the UpgradeTemplate.xaml build process template in TFS 2010.  Not a problem there.  This customer was not able to upgrade their solutions & projects immediately to Visual Studio 2010 in tandem with the TFS 2010 upgrade.  That should normally not be a problem but having done a few of these upgrades, I know that I usually need to set out some time just to get the existing builds working again.  There’s always something wrong. Smile  Never huge but enough to irritate you after an upgrade.

We went through a few hurdles to get those solutions & projects compiling and then we moved on to the deployment builds.  They seemed to just work which was great!  In their legacy TFSBuild.proj files, they had an entry in the AfterCompile MSBuild target essentially like this:

<MSBuild Projects="$(SolutionRoot)\Branch\ClickOnceProject.csproj" 
Targets="Publish" />

It was great until we went to go actually fire up the app… CRASH!  It is complaining in the ClickOnce deployment log that the deployment manifest wasn’t semantically valid and that the deployment manifest was missing the <compatibleFrameworks> node.  Here’s the full (redcated) log: (emphasis mine)

    Windows             : 6.1.7601.65536 (Win32NT)
    Common Language Runtime     : 4.0.30319.239
    System.Deployment.dll         : 4.0.30319.1 (RTMRel.030319-0100)
    clr.dll             : 4.0.30319.239 (RTMGDR.030319-2300)
    dfdll.dll             : 4.0.30319.1 (RTMRel.030319-0100)
    dfshim.dll             : 4.0.31106.0 (Main.031106-0000)

    Deployment url            :
                        Server        : Microsoft-IIS/6.0
                        X-Powered-By    : ASP.NET
    Application url            :
                        Server        : Microsoft-IIS/6.0
                        X-Powered-By    : ASP.NET

    Deployment Identity        : PolicyManagement.application, Version=1.11.1026.3, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=3801d6f74f2e8cd7, processorArchitecture=x86
    Application Identity        : PolicyManagement.exe, Version=1.11.1026.3, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=3801d6f74f2e8cd7, processorArchitecture=x86, type=win32

    * Online only application.
    * Trust url parameter is set.
    Below is a summary of the errors, details of these errors are listed later in the log.
    * Activation of http://webserver/ClickOnceProject.application 
resulted in exception. Following failure messages were detected:
        + Deployment manifest is not semantically valid.
        + Deployment manifest is missing <compatibleFrameworks>.

    No transaction error was detected.

    There were no warnings during this operation.

    * [10/26/2011 1:49:41 PM] : Activation of
http://webserver/ClickOnceProject.application has started.
    * [10/26/2011 1:49:42 PM] : Processing of deployment manifest has successfully completed.
    * [10/26/2011 1:49:42 PM] : Installation of the application has started.
    * [10/26/2011 1:49:42 PM] : Processing of application manifest has successfully completed.

    Following errors were detected during this operation.
    * [10/26/2011 1:49:43 PM] System.Deployment.Application.InvalidDeploymentException (ManifestSemanticValidation)
        - Deployment manifest is not semantically valid.
        - Source: System.Deployment
        - Stack trace:
            at System.Deployment.Application.PlatformDetector.VerifyPlatformDependencies(AssemblyManifest appManifest, AssemblyManifest deployManifest, String tempDir)
            at System.Deployment.Application.ApplicationActivator.DownloadApplication(SubscriptionState subState, ActivationDescription actDesc, Int64 transactionId, TempDirectory& downloadTemp)
            at System.Deployment.Application.ApplicationActivator.InstallApplication(SubscriptionState& subState, ActivationDescription actDesc)
            at System.Deployment.Application.ApplicationActivator.PerformDeploymentActivation(Uri activationUri, Boolean isShortcut, String textualSubId, String deploymentProviderUrlFromExtension, BrowserSettings browserSettings, String& errorPageUrl)
            at System.Deployment.Application.ApplicationActivator.ActivateDeploymentWorker(Object state)
        --- Inner Exception ---
        System.Deployment.Application.InvalidDeploymentException (InvalidManifest)
        - Deployment manifest is missing <compatibleFrameworks>.
        - Source:
        - Stack trace:

    No transaction information is available.

Now what I remember is that the <compatibleFrameworks> node was actually introduced in the deployment manifests for .NET / ClickOnce 4.0 in Visual Studio 2010 and we shouldn’t be expecting them for Visual Studio 2008 ClickOnce projects.  Sounds like the build process is not picking up the right version.  In the TFS 2010 version of the TeamFoundationBuild.targets file, it handles compilation correctly by setting the appropriate MSBuild tools version number.  Why wasn’t it picking that up for our publish?

Oh yeah… since TFS 2010 build had to specify it for the legacy UpgradeTemplate.xaml and TeamFoundationBuild.targets files, we have to do the same thing.  Duh.  It ended up being an easy fix and we just updated that portion of the legacy TFSBuild.proj build script to explicitly set the MSBuild tools version and pass in the framework version as well for the ClickOnce project.

<MSBuild ToolsVersion="3.5" Projects="$(SolutionRoot)\Branch\ClickOnceProject.csproj"
Targets="Publish" =""/>

BTW – you can do this in the new Windows Workflow-based build process templates as well but instead you would use the MSBuild workflow activity.


However, I would highly suggest upgrading to Visual Studio 2010 when you get a chance since it will handle ClickOnce projects that target .NET 2.0, .NET 3.0, .NET 3.5, and .NET 4.0 seamlessly.

Now that all of the legacy TFS 2008 builds are working in TFS 2010, it’s time to start helping my current customer get their Visual Studio 2008 solutions & projects upgraded to Visual Studio 2010 and leverage the new Windows Workflow-based build process template!


Ed Blankenship

Many thanks to Josh Winfree for helping out with the discover of this one!

Free ALM Roadshow Events in 2011

I’m pretty happy to be heading out in a few weeks to lead a few ALM Road Show Events around the US.  There’s actually several more that are going to be led by others on the Imaginet ALM team (Dave McKinstry & Anna Russo) so find one that’s close to you and bring your questions!  I’ll be leading the ALM Road Show events in:

  • Boston, MA
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Dallas, TX
  • Houston, TX

Here’s the full list of the Roadshow Events:

Visual Studio 2010 ALM Tools Live Roadshow
October 27,2011
Microsoft Corporation
St.Louis, MO

Visual Studio 2010 ALM Tools Live Roadshow
October 28, 2011
Microsoft Corporation
Columbus, OH

Visual Studio 2010 ALM Tools Live Roadshow
November 2, 2011
Microsoft Corporation
Salt Lake City/Lehi, UT

Visual Studio 2010 ALM Tools Live Roadshow
November 3, 2011
Microsoft Corporation
Irvine, CA

Visual Studio 2010 ALM Tools Live Roadshow
November 8, 2011
Microsoft Corporation
Presenter:  Ed Blankenship
Waltham, MA

Visual Studio 2010 ALM Tools Live Roadshow
November 9, 2011
Microsoft Corporation
Presenter:  Ed Blankenship
Alpharetta, GA

Visual Studio 2010 ALM Tools Live Roadshow
November 29, 2011
Microsoft Corporation
Presenter:  Ed Blankenship
Dallas/Irving, TX

Visual Studio 2010 ALM Tools Live Roadshow
November 30, 2011
Microsoft Corporation
Denver, CO

Visual Studio 2010 ALM Tools Live Roadshow
December 1, 2011
Microsoft Corporation
Presenter:  Ed Blankenship
Houston, TX

If you can’t visit us at the local ALM Roadshow events, try out some of the ALM Webcasts we are doing!  Dave McKinstry has a full write up of each of them available here:

Test Management in Agile Teams
October 24, 2011
Free Online Workshop
1:00-2:00pm (CST)

Manual Testing in Agile Teams
October 26, 2011
Free Online Workshop
1:00-2:30 (CST)

Testing in an Agile Team
November 1, 2011
Free Online Workshop
1:00-2:30pm (CST)
Automated Load and UI Testing for SharePoint Projects
December 6, 2011
Free Online Workshop
1:00-2:30pm (CST)

Testing with SharePoint Projects
December 12, 2011
Free Online Workshop
1:00-2:30pm (CST)

Using Lab Management with SharePoint Development
December 13, 2011
Free Online Workshop
1:00-2:00pm (CST)
Automated Load and UI Testing for SharePoint Projects
December 20, 2011
Free Online Workshop
1:00-2:30pm (CST)


Take care and hope to see you there!

Ed Blankenship

Posted in Community | Speaking | TFS | VSTS

August 2011 – New TFS 2010 Power Tools Released

A new TFS 2010 Power Tools release is now available!  As always, I recommend that all team members (including those with only Team Explorer installed) to have the latest version of the TFS 2010 Power Tools installed.

I won’t go into too many details about all of the new features since Brian Harry has done a great job of explaining each of the new features in the release on his blog.  There are a few that are worth noting though!

One of the new features is “Rollback of a Changeset” in the Team Explorer UI.  You have been able to rollback a changeset in TFS 2010 without the Power Tools but it was something that you had to do from the command-line.  Another handy feature is comparing two build definition’s using the tfpt.exe builddefinition /diff tool that is now available.  You can also use tfpt.exe builddefinition /dump to give you a nice listing of all of a build definition’s details.

If you hated having to uninstall a Power Tools release before you could install a new version in the past, we don’t have to worry about it any longer!  You can now fire up the installer for newer versions and it will upgrade the previous version appropriately.  No excuses now for not having the latest version installed. Smile

For all of those that wished they could just search through some work items, we finally have “the search box” that we have all been waiting for!  Look at the help file (C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Team Foundation Server 2010 Power Tools\Help\WorkItemSearch.mht) for some interesting tricks & tips you can use to make searching for work items quicker for you.

Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | Tools | VSTS

Speaking at Austin TFS User Group – Customizing TFS Builds

I’m pretty excited about being in Austin this week (one of my favorite cities) and while I’m here, I’m going to be speaking at the Austin TFS User Group this Thursday night.  Here are some more details:
Special Event: TFS 2010 Build Customization with Ed Blankenship

Date: Thursday, August 4th, 6:30 to 8 PM at Overwatch Systems, 5301 SW Parkway

To attend please register at:

Don't miss this one-time event and deep dive on "Customizing the Build Process with TFS 2010 Build and Workflow Foundation." In TFS 2010, the automated build infrastructure has been revamped to use Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) instead of MSBuild. Ed will present and answer questions on how to customize the default build process template and how to leverage multiple aspects of the workflow implementation for TFS 2010 Build.


Overwatch Systems, 6:30 to 8 PM

NOTE: park in the parking garage, signs will direct you to the meeting

5301 Southwest Parkway

Austin, TX 78735


Looking forward to seeing everywhere in the area there!

Ed Blankenship

First Release of Community TFS Build Extensions

Wow – I’ve been seeing the discussions in the last few weeks from the team members but I’m happy to announce that they have done a great job and released the first release of the Community TFS Build Extensions on CodePlex!  There have been several months of effort put into putting this collection together and you’ll see some of the best contributors that are available.   You’ll find all sorts of custom build activities and there are many more included on the backlog.  Be sure to vote for you favorite.  The best part of this CodePlex project is that the source code is fully available for your use internally.

Release Notes

  • This is our first Stable release providing in the region of 100 Activities / Actions
  • This release contains assemblies and a CHM file.
  • We anticipate shipping every 2 to 3 months with ad-hoc updates provided to the documentation.
  • We welcome your candid and constructive feedback and look forward to improving the quality with and for you.
  • Please use the Discussion and Issue Tracker tabs for providing feedback.

The Visual Studio ALM Rangers have also released a set of guidance documents for customizing builds in TFS 2010 including the use of the Community TFS Build Extensions.  Check out more details here:

If you are looking for a book with information about how to customize build definitions, check out Professional Team Foundation Server 2010 as well which goes through one example which uses an activity from the Community TFS Build Extensions to stamp the version number on assemblies.


Ed Blankenship

Visual Studio ALM and TFS vNext Announcements at TechEd 2011

I’m here at Microsoft TechEd 2011 North America and just wanted to fill you in on some of the news coming about in the TFS and Visual Studio ALM space for the next major release.

  • Stakeholder Feedback Tools
    • Storyboarding Assistant – Add-In for PowerPoint that allows for rich storyboarding
    • “Feedback Tool” – Very similar to Microsoft Test Runner in Microsoft Test Manager and allows for stakeholders to perform feedback sessions and collect rich data.  Easy to provide rich feedback including creating bugs in the Feedback Session
      • Collects Audio & Video Recording
      • Action Step
    • Microsoft Test Manager – “Create Test Case from Bug”
  • Additional Agile Planning Tools
    • New Team Web Access (TWA) for TFS  (Metro UI)
    • “Teams”
    • Product Backlogs in New Team Web Access – Re-prioritizing quickly and live updates
    • Sprint Backlogs in New Team Web Access
      • Capacity Planning (by Team and Person)
      • Work Breakdown into Tasks
      • Moving Backlog Items to New Sprints (Drag & Drop)
    • New Task Board
      • State Changes Using Drag & Drop  (Cameron even showed a touch-enabled monitor)
    • Iteration/Sprint Burndown Charts in New Team Web Access
  • New “Team Navigator” Window in Visual Studio
    • “Pause” Working with Visual Context Saving
    • “Start” Working on New Task
      • Tracks individually edited files with pending changes.  Allows checking-in just those files that were edited for that new work session.
    • “Resume” Working on Previous Task and Resets Visual Studio Context
  • Code Review Tools  (Just Mentioned by Cameron)
  • Tools for Interacting with the Operations Team
    • Based on System Center
    • “TFS Connector”
    • Escalate Monitoring Issues to Engineering Team in TFS
    • Create Rich Work Item in TFS with Collected Information from Production
    • Shows TFS Work Item ID in System Center
    • Full Call Stack, Parameters, Navigate to Source Code
    • IntelliTrace Logs from Production!
  • Rich Text in Work Items Including Screenshots & Pictures Smile (Shown with Feedback Collection Tool)

More information about each of them coming soon!  I’ll update as more information is publicly announced.

If you are in town for the conference and want to learn more, there are several great sessions that you can attend as well as meeting up with several of the MVPs and Microsoft product team members at the TFS and Visual Studio ALM booths in the Exhibition Hall.  Come find us and we’ll be happy to chat!


Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS

Project Server 2010 and TFS 2010 Integration VM with Labs

I’m pretty excited that a new virtual machine is now available that has everything you need to start working with the integration between Project Server 2010 and Team Foundation Server 2010 SP1.  A lot of work by a good group of people has gone in to get this VM out and now it should be super easy to learn & play with the integration.  Not only is everything setup and configured already (which is half the battle when trying out new things) but you also get:

  • Four hands on labs that walk through the main scenarios that are supported by the integration.
    • One of them that is particular interesting is how to give visibility to the Project Management Office (PMO) when you have development teams practicing one of the many Agile methodologies.  Those two concepts can come at odds with one another and I think the integration plays nicely with that scenario if your company finds itself in this position.
  • Tons of sample active directory users that are available in both Team Foundation Server and the Project Server Enterprise Resource Pool that allow you to setup lots of different scenarios.
  • Sample data, team projects, and enterprise project plans to get you started.

If you are interested more about this topic and are attending TechEd North America, be sure to catch our talk: Application Lifecycle Management: Microsoft Project Server 2010 and Microsoft Team Foundation Server 2010, Better Together

Both Brian Keller and Christophe Fiessinger have some additional information available on their blogs:

Project Server TFS Integration Topology


Virtual Machine Download Details


Download for the Virtual Machine

Project Server TFS Integration VM Download - Microsoft Tag

Here’s some other resources if you are interesting in learning more:


Have fun!

Ed Blankenship

Speaking at TechEd North America 2011 - TFS and Project Server ALM Integration

Really excited to announce that Christophe Fiessinger and I will be speaking at TechEd North America 2011 about the new ALM integration between Team Foundation Server and Project Server!  Here is the session details so be sure to add it to your conference schedule


OSP203 Application Lifecycle Management: Microsoft Project Server 2010 and Microsoft Team Foundation Server 2010, Better Together

Session Type:  Breakout Session

Level:  200 – Intermediate

Track:  Office & SharePoint

Speakers:  Christophe Fiessinger, Ed Blankenship

The Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 and Project Server Integration Feature Pack further strengthens the Microsoft Application Lifecycle Management Solution by bridging the gap between Project Portfolio Management and Application Development. By bringing the best of these two worlds together, it creates a win-win situation that enables developers and project managers to use the tools and processes of their choice and collaborate at the granularity they desire. Bi-directional data synchronization between Team Foundation Server and Project Server allows the PMO and Development teams to share project information transparently and provide management with insight into resource utilization, portfolio execution and alignment with strategic objectives. This session provides an overview and demonstrates the Team Foundation Server and Project Server Integration feature pack.

Product/Technology:  Microsoft® Visual Studio® Team Foundation Server

Key Learning:  How to bridge the gap between agil/scrum and waterfall teams by facilitating better coordination


Ed Blankenship

Posted in Community | EPM | Project Server | Speaking | TFS | VSTS

Book – Professional Team Foundation Server 2010 from Wrox


I am really pleased to announce that we have finished our new book for Team Foundation Server 2010! I really want to thank all of the authors (Martin Woodward, Grant Holliday, and Brian Keller) as well as all of the technical editors (Mickey Gousset and Steve St. Jean) for all of their hard work that was put into this book over the past ten months. I also wanted to thank Brian Harry for his help by writing a great foreword for the book. We would love for you to get a copy and let us know what you think! It’s really not so much for the royalties but more to let our publisher know that you are interested in future books about Team Foundation Server.

I have some additional information below about the book and I’ll come back and update this blog post as I get even more information.

ISBN: 978-0470943328



Paperback Now!
imageDRM-Free PDF Now!
Amazon Kindle Now!
Apple iBooks TBD TBD
Google Books Now!

Promotional Code

Web commerce_40percent_64 We are also pretty excited to announce that Wiley has put together a promo code that will allow you to order either the printed copy or the DRM-free PDF copy of the book for 40% off. Here are the details for that promo code: To purchase, call 1-877-762-2974 and mention promo code WPTFS, or go to ( and upon checkout, enter WPTFS in the Promotion Code field. Click the “apply discount” button and finish the checkout process. Offer valid until May 31st, 2011.

Source Code Downloads

We have put together a source code download package and it is available from here:,descCd-DOWNLOAD.html

Sample Chapters

Wrox will have two chapters available to download for free.

Book Description

Authoritative guide to TFS 2010 from a dream team of Microsoft insiders and MVPs!

Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server (TFS) has evolved until it is now an essential tool for Microsoft s Application Lifestyle Management suite of productivity tools, enabling collaboration within and among software development teams. By 2011, TFS will replace Microsoft s leading source control system, Visual SourceSafe (VSS), resulting in an even greater demand for information about it. Professional Team Foundation Server 2010, written by an accomplished team of Microsoft insiders and Microsoft MVPs, provides the thorough, step-by-step instruction you need to use TFS 2010 efficiently so you can more effectively manage and deliver software products in an enterprise.

  • Provides a broad overview of Team Foundation Server for developers, software project managers, testers, business analysts, and others wanting to learn how to use TFS
  • Gives TFS administrators the tools they need to efficiently monitor and manage the TFS environment
  • Covers core TFS functions including project management, work item tracking, version control, test case management, build automation, reporting, and more
  • Explains extensibility options and how to write extensions for TFS 2010
  • Helps certification candidates prepare for the Microsoft Team Foundation Server 2010 certification exam (Exam 70-512)

The clear, programmer-to-programmer Wrox style of Professional Team Foundation Server 2010 will soon have you thoroughly up to speed.


  • Ed Blankenship is an ALM consultant with Notion Solutions and the Microsoft MVP of the Year (Visual Studio ALM & Team Foundation Server)
  • Martin Woodward is a program manager on the Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server product team and a former Microsoft MVP of the Year (Visual Studio Team System & Team Foundation Server)
  • Grant Holliday is a program manager on the Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server product team and a former Microsoft MVP (Visual Studio Team System & Team Foundation Server)
  • Brian Keller is a senior technical evangelist for Microsoft, specializing in Visual Studio, ALM, and Team Foundation Server

Table of Contents

  • Foreword by Brian Harry
  • Introduction
  • Part I: Getting Started
    • Chapter 1: Introducing Team Foundation Server 2010
    • Chapter 2: Planning a Deployment
    • Chapter 3: Installation and Configuration
    • Chapter 4: Connecting to Team Foundation Server
  • Part II: Version Control
    • Chapter 5: Overview of Version Control
    • Chapter 6: Using Team Foundation Version Control
    • Chapter 7: Ensuring Code Quality
    • Chapter 8: Migration from Legacy Version Control Systems
    • Chapter 9: Branching and Merging
    • Chapter 10: Common Version Control Scenarios
  • Part III: Project Management
    • Chapter 11: Introducing Work Item Tracking
    • Chapter 12: Customizing Process Templates
    • Chapter 13: Reporting and SharePoint Dashboards
  • Part IV: Team Foundation Build
    • Chapter 14: Overview of Build Automation
    • Chapter 15: Using Team Foundation Build
    • Chapter 16: Customizing the Build Process
  • Part V: Administration
    • Chapter 17: Introduction to Team Foundation Server Administration
    • Chapter 18: Scalability and High Availability
    • Chapter 19: Disaster Recovery
    • Chapter 20: Security and Privileges
    • Chapter 21: Monitoring Server Health and Performance
    • Chapter 22: Testing and Lab Management
    • Chapter 23: Upgrading from Earlier Versions
    • Chapter 24: Working with Geographically Distributed Teams
    • Chapter 25: Extending Team Foundation Server

Bulk Orders

If you are purchasing in bulk, feel free to contact me using the Contact Me link on my blog and I can get you the details for purchasing bulk orders directly from Wiley.

Ed Blankenship

Lab Management Deploy TFS Build Process Process Template for Physical Environments

imageWith the Lab Management features of Visual Studio 2010 and Team Foundation Server 2010, you can create a build definition that deploys a build to a virtual environment being managed by Lab Management.   However, it doesn’t work if you have setup a physical environment that is being managed by Lab Management.

FYI – If you don’t have servers to host Hyper-V machines you can create “physical environments” and register them for use with Lab Management.  This allows testers to run tests and collect information coming from those physical environments just as they would from the virtual environments.  This is a good intermediate step for those organizations wanting to take advantage of Lab Management, haven’t invested in the virtual infrastructure necessary, and want to leverage existing physical environments (like QA, DEV, Staging, etc.).

Darshan, from the Lab Management product team at Microsoft, released a new build process template (XAML) file that adds limited support for deploying to physical environments and is similar to the standard deploy build process template available out of the box.  However, there are some shortcomings in that implementation including not being as rich of an experience since it doesn’t use a custom designer.

Not a problem… Colin Dembovsky who is one of our newer ALM/TFS Consultants at Notion Solutions helping customers in South Africa has put together a Lab Management deploy build process template for physical environments that attempts to address those shortcomings and provides for a rich experience that is similar to the experience that is used for deploying to virtual environments.

Check it out!


Ed Blankenship

Source Server and Symbol Server Support in TFS 2010

As Jim Lamb announced in June 2009, TFS 2010 introduces support for Source Server and Symbol Server as part of the default automated build process template. This is a really key feature addition but I have found that many developers ask about why it would be so important and why it would help them. Ultimately, we are starting to have more and more tools that need access to the symbol file information and the original source code that was used for compilation. For example, some of the tools that come to mind are:

By setting up Source Server and Symbol Server support during your build process, you’ll be able to work with assemblies & executables that come from the build servers and still use tools that need information from them.

What are Symbols?

imageJohn Robbins has an excellent blog post to get started about learning what symbols are titled: “PDB Files: What Every Developer Must Know.” I highly recommend you take a moment to read through it.

So to summarize from John’s article, the symbol files are the .PDB files that match a particular assembly and contain important information that’s necessary for debugging tools. Specifically for .NET assemblies, the symbol files include:

  • Source File Names and Line Numbers
  • Local Variable Names

He also reminds us one very important statement about symbol files: “PDB files are as important as source code!” That is absolutely true! I cringe any time I hear from a developer that says “oh, those .PDB files take up so much space so I’m going to delete them.” Ouch – The sad thing is those are developers that keep people like John in business whenever they run into problems in production. Smile Save yourself some time, money, and effort and keep your symbol files around. Not to say that John doesn’t earn every penny but I’m sure his life is much better whenever you do have your symbols!

This is exactly where Symbol Server helps out. Essentially, the Symbol Server is a central location for your company that keeps the .PDB files for you. Therefore, you can install your application (without symbols) that was compiled from a build server and whenever you want to use a debugging tool like Visual Studio, it will know how to contact the Symbol Server location to get the matching set of symbols. More about how to configure Visual Studio to look for a Symbol Server further down in this blog post.

John also mentions how to manually perform the steps necessary for completing the loop with Source Server and Symbol Server. Thankfully, since you are using TFS 2010 Build, you don’t have to go through those steps. The functionality is included in the default build build process template (but not the Upgrade Template).

Aside: If you are performing obfuscation using your favorite .NET obfuscation utility, you will want to make sure you produce symbol files that match the newly created assemblies. This is because the variable names and other information change by the obfuscator. What I will normally do will do is keep both the original assemblies with their matching symbol files in addition to the obfuscated assemblies with match symbol files. I store the artifacts for the obfuscated assemblies in a sub-folder called “Obfuscated.”


How to Setup Symbol Server

A common misconception about Symbol Server is that you actually have to set up a server and install the Symbol Server software. Not at all! All you have to do is setup a file share on another server. If you are using my suggestion about using friendly DNS names with TFS, you might extend that for the symbol server as well:


On my particular demonstration machine, I have a local file share that contains some of the symbols that were published from my TFS 2010 Builds:


How to Configure Build to Index for Source Server and Publish to Symbol Server

Configuring the build definition to use the new Symbol Server location, couldn’t be easier. Open up the build definition editor and navigate to the Process tab. There, you will see all of the process parameters. If you are using the default build process template then you will find the Source Server and Symbol Server settings underneath the “2. Basic” category as shown below.


The build process will then do all the work for you!

Source Server Indexing

What actually happens when the build process is actually running it’s Source Server indexing? Let me first start by discussing the problems with symbols that come from a build server (or another machine.) One of the pieces of information that is stored inside of the symbol file is the location of the original source file that was used for compilation into the assembly you are debugging. This can be a problem because for my particular case, the local location of the source code file on the build server is:

C:\LocalBuilds\1\2\Sources\Source\Calculator\Calculator\Form1.cs at version 32 from the MAIN branch

Not only do you to have put all of the source files in the same exact spot but you would have to get it from the right branch and even the exact same changeset version from the TFS version control repository. That’s a lot of manual work… This is where the indexing for Source Server helps you out. You’ll also notice that if you are producing symbols from your obfuscation utility, those can indexed for Source Server support as well.


When the TFS 2010 Build runs the source indexing for Source Server, it writes an alternate stream of information in the symbol files that will provide the following information for each source file:

  • Source Control provider’s information and the command-line utility to use to get the file (In our case that would be using tf.exe)
  • Full TFS Version Control Repository Server Path including the branch name
  • Version

The default build process template uses the srctool.exe command-line utility first to list all of the local source file locations that are stored in the symbol file. Then, it generates a temporary file that contains the exact alternate stream information for Source Server. The Source Server stream is named srcsrv. Finally, the build process uses the pdbstr.exe command-utility to add that stream information to write the relevant information. If you are ever curious about what that srcsrv stream actually contains, you can run this command-line utility:

C:\Builds\Calculator MAIN\Calculator MAIN_11.02.11.06\Debug\Obfuscated>pdbstr.exe –r -p:Calculator.pdb -s:srcsrv
SRCSRV: ini ------------------------------------------------
VERCTRL=Team Foundation Server
DATETIME=Fri Feb 11 00:41:58 2011
SRCSRV: variables ------------------------------------------
TFS_EXTRACT_CMD=tf.exe view /version:%var4% /noprompt "$%var3%" /server:%fnvar%(%var2%) /console >%srcsrvtrg%
SRCSRV: source files ---------------------------------------
SRCSRV: end ------------------------------------------------

Publishing to Symbol Server

Publishing the symbols is the easier part of it. Essentially, the default build process template calls the symstore.exe add utility to publish the symbol files to the specified symbol server path. Additionally, there is some metadata added for the build information in TFS that will specify that symbols were published. This will be useful whenever the build retention policies kick in which we’ll cover further down.

Configuring Visual Studio to Use Symbol Server and Enabling Source Server Support

The next step is for each of the developers to configure Visual Studio 2010 to look for symbols if they aren’t found in the symbol server location for the company. You can get to it by going to Tools –> Options and then the Debugging –> Symbols options pages as shown below. Other debugging tools have similar options.


The next thing you will want to do is to enable source server support in Visual Studio. You can do that by going to the Debugging –> General options tab as shown below.


Now, just start using your debugging tool and in my case I have attached my Visual Studio Debugger to the process of my application that came from the build drop folder. Visual Studio gives me a small warning before it attempts to grab the source code from the TFS Version Control repository as shown below. You can see the exact command-line utility including arguments that is used by the debugger to retrieve the correct version of the file. Pure magic…


Update:  (2/14/2011) John Robbins has helped out by letting us know how we can disable this really annoying Source Server security dialog any time the debugger wants to get something from Source Server.  Thanks John!

Aside: If you notice, in my situation I have a particular problem. Since the TFS 2010 Build services are installed on the same machine as my application tier on my laptop, the default configuration for the build service to connect to TFS used http://localhost. Sad smile That’s not going to be good whenever I have another developer start debugging using the assembly from my build server and the symbols. Their Visual Studio Debugger instance will try to hit localhost on their machine (where the source doesn’t exist).

For this reason, it’s important to make sure when you are configuring the build service to use the fully-qualified friendly DNS name for your application tier server. (Check out the blog post that’s linked to find out more information about this topic).


How Does Visual Studio Know Which Symbols Match for the Executable?

You have to always have symbol files that exactly match the assemblies you are debugging. How does Visual Studio know this though? There is actually a GUID that is embedded to both the assembly and the symbol file. You can find out what that GUID is by running the DUMPBIN command-line utility as shown below.

C:\Builds\Calculator MAIN\Calculator MAIN_11.02.11.06\Debug>dumpbin Calculator.exe /HEADERS

Microsoft (R) COFF/PE Dumper Version 10.00.31118.01
Copyright (C) Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

Dump of file Calculator.exe

Debug Directories

Time Type Size RVA Pointer
-------- ------ -------- -------- --------
4D54CC09 cv 69 00003864 1A64 Format: RSDS, {B7C62014-02BD-4F35-9718-104CE8CFB14C}, 1, c:\LocalBuilds\1\2\Sources\Source\Calculator\Calculator\obj\Debug\Calculator.pdb

You can see the GUID highlighted above. If you were to go check out the Symbol Server file share, you can also find the GUID used to differentiate between all of the different versions of the symbol files that are stored for a particular assembly.

Update:  (2/15/2011) I learned something new from Chris Schmich from the Visual Studio Diagnostics team.  He indicated that the PDB age (which is highlighted above in green) is also used to match the symbols.  You’ll notice that the PDB age for all of my symbols is 1 and is appended to the end of the GUID when stored in Symbol Server.  Thanks Chris for the extra information!


IntelliTrace Files and Symbol Server

I also wanted to mention that when testers use Microsoft Test Manager and run manual test cases where they have collected IntelliTrace logs, you’ll notice that when you open one of those IntelliTrace logs (for example attached to a bug work item) you will see the Symbol Server location that was collected from the assembly being tested as well:


This green-light should be awesome for you as a developer now because you can connect to the Symbol Server location and start debugging using the IntelliTrace log and the Source Server information contained inside of the symbols.

Retention Policies

One other thing to consider: as you have more and more builds performed using TFS 2010 Build, you’ll want to set up your retention policies. The Symbol Server file share can start to go up in size pretty quickly so you can have the retention policies also delete the corresponding symbols from Symbol Server if you choose by setting the “What to Delete” option.



You want to also make sure, however, that any “Released” builds should be marked as “Retain Indefinitely” to ensure that the retention policies never delete the symbols (or anything else about the build for that matter!)



There you go! Your developers will be very appreciative whenever all of this is setup. You’ll have a system that stores your symbols for whenever you need them and those symbols will have information to let the debugging utilities know where to grab the original source code from the TFS version control repository.

Ed Blankenship

Replying to TFS E-Mail Alerts

If you have been using the Alerts Editor that is part of the TFS Power Tools, you will notice that you can get e-mail alerts from the TFS server based on subscriptions that you create.  You may not have noticed but there is a subtle feature that allows you to easily reply to the person who made the change (such as creating a new work item).

I just got a notification that my colleague Chris at Notion has just confirmed a task for me to go to the ALM Roadshow in Dallas next month.  I have a few questions about the assignment so if I click “Reply” in my e-mail program, you’ll notice that the new e-mail doesn’t reply to the TFS Service Account but instead to the person who made the change that triggered the e-mail.  Quite handy.



Ed Blankenship

Third-Party Support for Visual Studio Coded UI Testing

Bookmark this page! I’ll be updating this blog post article as I am informed of support for Coded UI testing in each of the products. Let me know if I’m missing any that should be in the list!

If you have been using Visual Studio 2010 and Microsoft Test Manager for automated UI testing, you may have experienced some issues with building the Coded UI tests if your application is using third-party components. It has been quite frustrating having been to several customer sites over the past year and running into this issue. My suggestion for anyone that has run into these issues is to open a support case with the component vendor and request that they add the necessary accessibility support to their component libraries. This will allow each of them to track the interest for this type of support in their products and then also provide a way to inform you whenever it is supported.

FYI – This is also the necessary implementation to get the “Fast-Forward” functionality from Microsoft Test Manager to work to record the actions of manual test cases.

There doesn’t seem to be a definitive list of the third-party controls that do or don’t support Coded UI testing at the moment. I have attempted to gather all of the information to provide a one-stop shop for this support. I’ll include links to updates, add-ons, etc. as I receive them.

Product Infragistics DevExpress Telerik ComponentOne Xceed
ASP.NET Controls Green Green Green Green N/A
Windows Forms Controls Green5 Green4 Green3 Red Red2
Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)Controls Red Red Red Red Green1
Silverlight Controls Red Red Red Red Red2


  1. Added support Xceed WPF Controls:!/Kosmatos/status/32527169318027264
  2. Added updates for other products for Xceed:!/Kosmatos/status/32527901526065153
  3. Added update for Telerik Windows Forms controls. Now available in each release of Windows Forms after 2011 Q1.
  4. Added update for DevExpress Windows Forms controls. Introducing support in the DevExpress 12.1 release. Check out more information DevExpress here: Additionally, Brian Harry has some details in his announcement as well:
  5. Jason Beres has announced that support for Coded UI testing will be included with the Infragistics Windows Forms 12.2 release scheduled for early October 2012.  This first release will support the most popular subset of the Infragistics Windows Forms controls with more to follow in the future.  More information:

Blog Post Updates

  • 2/1/2011: Updates for Xceed.
  • 2/1/2011: Added some links for implementing the appropriate accessibility hooks. Thanks to Jeff Levinson!
  • 2/16/2011: Added additional information about the Accessibility Checker. Thanks to Vinod Malhotra!
  • 3/24/2011: Update for Telerik Windows Forms controls.
  • 7/11/2012: Upgrade for DevExpress Windows Forms controls support.
  • 7/11/2012: Added additional details about the Coded UI Support Blog Post by Shubhra.
  • 10/1/2012:  Upgrade for Infragistics Windows Forms controls support.

Accessibility Support for Custom Controls

If you are building custom controls that are for internal use in your organization, you’ll want to make sure you implement the appropriate accessibility hooks to get full support from the Visual Studio Coded UI testing platform. Here are some links for you to get started:

Additionally, there is a tool called the UI Accessiblity Checker (also known as AccChecker) that is available to help you check your controls to make sure that the necessary accessibility implementation is correct. The tool can check for both MSAA and UIA implementations. It even has a plug-in architecture so that third parties can add additional verifications to the tool. All the source code and the binaries are available on the CodePlex site.

Additional Information

Shubhra Maji from the Visual Studio Test & Lab Management product team at Microsoft put together a great “basics” blog post about the different levels of Coded UI support for custom controls: The goal for all third-party custom controls should be to get to Level 4 which is the “Intent-Aware” stage.


Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS | VSTS Testing

Hiring ALM Consultants at Notion Solutions and Imaginet

Thankfully, the business at Notion Solutions and Imaginet has just been booming for the last couple of years with Visual Studio Application Lifecycle Management, Team Foundation Server, and the legacy Visual Studio Team System products.  We have been hiring left and right over the past few months and still looking for plenty more ALM Consultants in the United States and Canada.  If you are interested, just shoot an e-mail over my way and I’ll be happy to answer any questions:  edb AT

Here’s the official posting

Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) Consultant

Notion Solutions, Inc. is looking for a dynamic individual to join our team. For the past six years, Notion Solutions has been leading the way in implementing Team Foundation Server and the Microsoft ALM tools at companies across the country. We work with our clients to help them to define an improved software development processes for their organization and then help them implement that software process using the Microsoft tools and follow that up with mentoring on how to use their process.

We are looking for someone that enjoys a challenge and adapts to working in a rapidly changing environment. All applicants should have a strong interest in software development process and TFS. If you think of software development more as an engineering discipline, and less of an art - and would like to help companies become more successful at building software, then this could be the job for you. A knowledge of software process is a must, whether it's waterfall, SCRUM, Agile, CMMI, etc.  An understanding of Quality Assurance, Project Management, Business Analysis, and Development are all needed.

This position will work with clients nationally, your location is flexible.

Travel: Approximately 80%


  • Software Development Process Consulting
    • Project management
    • Risk management
    • Change management
    • Defect tracking
    • Developer workflow
    • Automated build
    • Automated Testing
    • Release management
    • Database management
  • Be self disciplined to learn new technology


  • Knowledge of Visual Studio Premium and Ultimate features and Team Foundation Server
  • Familiarity with a variety of software processes
  • Experience with automated build, source control and testing tools

Helpful Skills

  • Knowledge of .NET 2.0+ architecture and development practices
  • Knowledge of C# and VB.NET

Ed Blankenship

Posted in Community | TFS | VSTS

Customizable Output Directories for TFS 2010 Build

By default, when you are setting up a new build definition in TFS 2010 that uses multiple Visual Studio solutions and projects, you end up with a drop folder with all of the compiled assemblies dropped in the root.  One notable exception to this is for web application projects where you will end up with a subfolder underneath the _PublishedWebsites folder for each of the web application projects.  You may not want everything to be in the root and instead want it organized.  There were several methods for how to do this using TFS 2005 or TFS 2008 but let me show you a way to do it for a TFS 2010 Build.

Create Workflow Parameter

Open up your build process template file and go to your “Arguments” tab (available in the lower-left hand corner of the workflow designer) to add a new workflow parameter.  My suggestion would be to use a new Boolean argument named “CustomizableOutputDirectory” as shown below.


Next, open up the Process Parameter Metadata Editor by clicking on the editor button for the Metadata workflow argument that is already defined.  Next, give your new process parameter some extra information so that someone editing the build definition will understand what this parameter is for.  You’ll notice that I’m also putting this parameter in the Advanced category since I don’t really need to create another category for only one new parameter.  Feel free to create a new grouping if you have more custom parameters in your build process template.


Once you finish these steps and check-in the file to version control, you’ll see your new parameter in the build definition editor as shown below.


Add Functionality to the Workflow

The next step is to add in the appropriate functionality for the customizable output directory.  What we will end up doing is adding an alternate path for when MSBuild is called to compile the Visual Studio solution or project each time.  I want to leave the default functionality though if the process parameter we created above is set to False.  So, the first step is to find the default functionality for compilation.  You can find it by navigating deep into the workflow and finding the “Compile the Project” sequence activity that contains the MSBuild activity that is used for compilation.  You can find it by navigating through these activities:

  • Sequence
  • Run on Agent (AgentScope)
  • Type Compile, Test, and Associate Changesets and Work Items (TryCatch)
  • Sequence
  • Compile, Test, and Associate Changesets and Work Items (Parallel)
  • Try Compile and Test (TryCatch)
  • Compile and Test (Sequence)
  • For Each Configuration in BuildSettings.PlatformConfigurations (ForEach<T>)
  • Compile and Test for Configuration (Sequence)
  • If BuildSettings.HasProjectsToBuild (If)
  • For Each Project in BuildSettings.ProjectsToBuild (ForEach<T>)
  • Try to Compile the Project (TryCatch)
  • Compile the Project (Sequence)


The next step I would take is to drag and drop a new If activity and place the existing MSBuild activity in the Else container.  This allows for the default functionality to still continue if the value of the custom process parameter is False.  Set the Condition parameter for the If activity to the name of the custom process parameter that was defined earlier as shown below.


You will notice in the MSBuild activity that exists for default functionality, the CommandLineArguments workflow activity argument is set to the following.

String.Format("/p:SkipInvalidConfigurations=true {0}", MSBuildArguments)

To implement our custom output directory functionality, we are essentially going to modify this one activity parameter to pass in a new value.  This will be the new expression that we will use for the MSBuild activity parameter:

String.Format("/p:SkipInvalidConfigurations=true;TeamBuildOutDir=""{0}"" {1}", outputDirectory, MSBuildArguments)

The easiest way to do this would be to copy the existing MSBuild activity and paste it in the Then container for our If activity.  You can then set the CommandLineArguments parameter for the copied activity to the new value that defines the new MSBuild parameter.


Extra Credit Aside:  Anyone know why we used outputDirectory instead of BinariesDirectory?

Opt-In for Visual Studio Projects

Once you have done all of the steps, you’ll notice that it didn’t actually change anything Smile.  For each of the Visual Studio projects that you want to use the new functionality, you will need to “opt-in” by editing the .csproj or .vbproj Visual Studio project files and adding the new MSBuild property group shown below.

<!-- Customizable Output Directory Opt-In for TFS Build (non-web application projects) -->
PropertyGroup Condition="$(TeamBuildOutDir) != '' "

The change does break the _PublishedWebsites functionality for any web application projects though and you will need to use a different opt-in below for every web application project that is included in the build.

<!-- Customizable Output Directory Opt-In for TFS Build (web application projects) -->
PropertyGroup Condition="$(TeamBuildOutDir) != '' "

There you go… Check those project file changes into version control and you can now queue a new build and the outputs for each of the projects that are opting-in to this new functionality are created in subfolders in the drop folder.  It was also still continue to put web application projects into the _PublishedWebsites folders.


Ed Blankenship

Using Friendly DNS Names in Your TFS Environment

Over the past few years of dealing with plenty of TFS environments, one thing that I am glad to have done is setup friendly DNS names for TFS to use for it’s individual parts. This has helped extremely to make for a smooth transition for administrators & end users when needing to move TFS to a new hardware environment, upgrading TFS to a new version, or in several disaster recovery scenarios. Not to mention having to tell new users to connect to some odd server with a weird name like ADGKSDFU308234NT. Smile You can obfuscate all of the connection points that TFS uses. The concept is easy and if you haven’t done it already, it’s never too late.

Why use Friendly DNS Names?

I mentioned a few examples above but let me expand on it a little further by presenting two scenarios that I have run across. There are plenty of other scenarios that have been handy in the past as well. You’ll be surprised the options you have for different types of changes to the infrastructure and topology that you’ll run across in the future by using friendly DNS names.

Hardware Migration Upgrade

During a future upgrade, it is decided that new hardware is to be used for scaling out to increase the availability and performance of the TFS environment. By using friendly DNS names, end users and custom tools can continue to point to the same address (tfs.contoso.local) without making any changes. This allows for having the old environment up at the same time as having the new upgraded environment up. This helps out with rollback plans in case the upgrade was not successful.

Scale Out Analysis Services

A company has noticed that heavy usage of the OLAP warehouse cube in SQL Analysis Services has started to use a lot of the RAM on the data tier server. They would like to separate SQL Analysis Services from the database services in SQL Server to a separate server. By changing the friendly DNS name (warehouse.tfs.contoso.local) to the new Analysis Services instance, end users who have created custom Excel pivot table reports in workbooks won’t have to update each workbook.

Any others you can think of?

DNS Entries

First, you will want to create either A or CNAME records in your DNS infrastructure. If you are using Active Directory then your DNS infrastructure will more than likely be managed by your domain controller(s).

This guide assumes that you are using the following friendly DNS names throughout the configuration. In this example, the internal network uses the DNS suffix of contoso.local. You could also have addresses point to internal servers if they are setup appropriately in DNS. Check with your DNS administrator to discuss which format should be used. Be sure to use fully-qualified DNS names especially for those clients that use VPN or have remote offices. You will want to be sure to follow the guide in order since some steps are dependent on previous steps to have been performed.

DNS Entry

Points To


Application Tier or Network Load Balance IP for TFS AT Farm

Used For: TFS Web Services, Team Web Access, SQL Reporting Services, and SharePoint (if on same box)


Data Tier or SQL Server Cluster IP

Used For: Location of Configuration, TPC, and Relational Warehouse Databases


SQL Analysis Services Instance


One friendly DNS entry for each remote location. (Optional)


Separate friendly DNS entry for the SharePoint server if separate from the application tier. (Optional)

lab.tfs.contoso.local System Center Virtual Machine Manager Server for TFS Lab Management (Optional)
builds.tfs.contoso.local Drop folder share for build outputs.  When setting up a build definition I will use a file share like this in the settings:  \\builds.tfs.contoso.local\Builds
symbols.tfs.contoso.local Symbol Server file share for builds.  When setting up a build definition, I will use a file share like this in the settings:  \\symbols.tfs.contoso.local\Symbols

In my particular example below, I have a single server that has both the application tier components and the data tier components. SQL Analysis Services is also installed on the same server. However, I am using a separate SharePoint server and a different server for TFS Lab Management.


Disable Loopback Check

Often when you are logging into a server and using a friendly DNS name that resolves back to itself (localhost) you will find that you end up having authentication issues because of a security feature in Windows Server. You can disable this security feature by following the directions in this KB support article: You will want to do this for each of the servers that may resolve back to itself using the friendly DNS name. For example: application tier servers, data tier, Analysis Services server, SharePoint servers, etc.

To set the DisableLoopbackCheck registry key, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, click Run, type regedit, and then click OK.
  2. In Registry Editor, locate and then click the following registry key:


  1. Right-click Lsa, point to New, and then click DWORD Value.
  2. Type DisableLoopbackCheck, and then press ENTER.
  3. Right-click DisableLoopbackCheck, and then click Modify.
  4. In the Value data box, type 1, and then click OK.
  5. Quit Registry Editor, and then restart your computer.

Installing TFS to use the Friendly DNS Name for the Data Tier

When initially configuring Team Foundation Server, use the fully-qualified friendly DNS name for the data tier server: data.tfs.contoso.local. If this is done correctly, then the Application Tier information page on the TFS Administration Console will show that friendly DNS name in the connection string.


Also use this location for each team project collection that is created as well. If it done correctly then you will see it shown for the connection string to the team project collection database.


If TFS has already been setup and configured not using the friendly DNS name, you can alternatively use the TFSConfig.exe RemapDBs and RegisterDB command on each application tier server to update its data tier server connection string to use the friendly DNS name.

tfsconfig.exe remapdbs /DatabaseName:data.tfs.contoso.local;Tfs_Configuration /SQLInstances:data.tfs.contoso.local

More information about the RemapDBs command can be found on MSDN:


tfsconfig.exe registerDB /SQLInstance:data.tfs.contoso.local /DatabaseName:Tfs_Configuration

More information about the RegisterDB command can be found on MSDN:


Configuring Reporting Services to Use Friendly DNS Name

  1. Open the Reporting Services Configuration Manager by clicking Start –> All Programs –> Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 –> Configuration Tools –> Reporting Services Configuration Manager
  2. Connect to the appropriate SQL Reporting Services instance.
  3. Click on Report Manager URL settings page.
  4. Click on the Advanced button.


  1. In the Advanced Multiple Web Site Configuration dialog click on the Add button.
  2. Enter the fully-qualified DNS name: tfs.contoso.local. You can optionally remove the other entry if it is not needed.



  1. Click OK and the URL should be reserved.


  1. Go to the Web Service URL settings and repeat steps 4-7 and use the same fully-qualified friendly DNS name: tfs.contoso.local.

Configuring SharePoint to Use Friendly DNS Name

  1. Open SharePoint Central Administration by clicking Start –> Administrative Tools –> SharePoint Central Administration
  2. Click on the Configure alternate access mappings command under the System Settings section


  1. Click on Edit Public URLs in the toolbar.


  1. On the Edit Public Zone URLs page, enter the fully-qualified friendly DNS name into the Internet field for the separate SharePoint server or the friendly DNS name for the application tier server if it is installed there.


  1. Click on Save
  2. Verify that you are able to resolve the friendly DNS address and that the SharePoint web application recognizes it appropriately. You can do this by opening an Internet Explorer browser and navigating to http://tfs.contoso.local or http://sharepoint.tfs.contoso.local depending on your configuration.

You may want to also update the public URL for SharePoint to use for the Central Administration site as well. Perform the same steps except choose the SharePoint Central Administration in the Alternate Access Mapping Collection combo box.


Configuring TFS to Use Friendly DNS Name

  1. Open the TFS Administration Console and navigate to the Application Tier settings page.
  2. Click on the Change URLs action.


  1. On the Change URLs dialog, enter the fully-qualified friendly DNS name: http://tfs.contoso.local:8080/tfs.


  1. Don’t change the Server URL since it is used for intra-server communication (like warehouse adapter jobs, etc.)
  2. Click OK. Verify that the TFS Administration Console page has been updated and that e-mail alerts now use the friendly DNS name in the URL links within the e-mail.

Configuring TFS Reporting to Use Friendly DNS Name

  1. Open the TFS Administration Console and navigate to Application Tier –> Reporting.
  2. Click the Stop Jobs action before editing the configuration.


  1. Click OK on the warning dialog.


  1. Click on the Edit action.
  2. On the Warehouse tab, type the fully-qualified friendly DNS name for the data tier server that houses the relational warehouse database: data.tfs.contoso.local.


  1. Click on the Analysis Services tab and enter the fully-qualified friendly DNS name for the Analysis Services server: warehouse.tfs.contoso.local.


  1. Re-enter the password for the Account for accessing data sources.
  2. Click on the Reports tab and click on the Populate URLs button.
  3. In the URLs for Report Server group, select the URLs that were setup in the Reporting Services Configuration utility that were setup earlier.


  1. Re-enter the password for the Account for accessing data sources.
  2. Click OK.
  3. Click the Start Jobs action.

The Team Foundation Server Administration Console should now display the appropriate information as shown below.


Configuring TFS SharePoint Integration to Use Friendly DNS Name

  1. Open the TFS Administration Console and navigate to Application Tier –> SharePoint Web Applications.
  2. Click on the SharePoint Web Application item in the list box and click Change.


  1. On the SharePoint Web Application Settings dialog box, change the Web Application URL to the fully-qualified friendly DNS name you used earlier. (You can optionally set the Friendly Name to this address as well but this is more for a friendly label that distinguishes the SharePoint web application from multiple SharePoint web applications if configured.) Click OK.


  1. You should receive an information dialog box. Click OK on that dialog.
  2. The SharePoint Web Applications list should be updated with the entry that lists the friendly DNS name.

Build Servers & Proxy Servers

Be sure to also configure all of the build servers and proxy servers to point to the friendly DNS name when connecting to the application tier server(s). This will allow for the same type of flexibility whenever you need to make any TFS environment topology changes.


Let me know if you have any additional questions!

Ed Blankenship

Microsoft MVP for Visual Studio ALM in 2011

Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) LogoI am really happy to announce that I received the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award again for 2011!  The award is for the Visual Studio ALM products which includes Team Foundation Server.  This will be my fourth year as an MVP and it has been truly an honor working with all of the great colleagues and the product teams that I work with pretty much every day!  I’m looking forward to going to the MVP Summit next month and handing off the MVP of the Year award to the next new awardee and for another exciting year!


Thanks to everyone who has helped support me with my developer community contributions!

Ed Blankenship

Posted in Community | TFS | VSTS

Locating Controls Using UI Map Editor for Coded UI Tests

One of the great new features of Visual Studio 2010  and Microsoft Test Manager is the ability to record action recordings and then covert them into automated UI tests called “Coded UI Tests.”  The recorded steps turn into a UI Map that is an XML-based file format that is used by Visual Studio to generate source code.  Editing the UIMap was pretty tedious before so Microsoft released a new UI Map Editor in the latest feature packVisual Studio 2010 Feature Pack 2.  Feature Pack 2 is available to active MSDN Subscribers and contains the following additional features;

Cumulative feature pack that extends testing, code visualization and modeling capabilities in Visual Studio 2010.

Testing features:

  • Use Microsoft Test Manager to capture and playback action recordings for Silverlight 4 applications.
  • Create coded UI tests for Silverlight 4 applications with Visual Studio 2010 Premium or Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate.
  • Edit coded UI tests using a graphical editor with Visual Studio 2010 Premium or Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate.
  • Use action recordings to fast forward through manual tests that need to support Mozilla Firefox 3.5 and 3.6.
  • Run coded UI tests for web applications using Mozilla Firefox 3.5 and 3.6 with Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Premium or Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate.

Code visualization and modeling features (requires Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate):

  • Use the Generate Code command to generate skeleton code from elements on UML class diagrams. You can use the default transformations, or you can write custom transformations to translate UML types into code.
  • Create UML class diagrams from existing code.
  • Explore the organization and relationships in C, C++, and ASP.NET projects by generating dependency graphs.
  • Import elements from UML sequence diagrams, class diagrams, and use case diagrams as XMI 2.1 files that are exported from other modeling tools.
  • Create links and view links from work items to model elements.
  • Create layer diagrams from C or C++ code and validate dependencies.
  • Write code to modify layer diagrams and to validate code against layer diagrams.

Once you get the Feature Pack installed, you will be able to open the UI Map and in a new editor as shown below.  It’s great because it allows you to see each of the methods that have been created and allows you to rename, remove, and edit the actions that have been recorded.  It even shows you all of the windows, controls, etc. that are included in the UI Map that describe the UI components in your application that are used by the Coded UI Tests.  You can also edit the properties for those so that you can maintain the automated tests to continue to work after UI changes are made in the application you are testing.


Some really cool features that I found today was the ability to locate a control on your application and also to verify that the UI Map is still correct by locating all of the controls.  First, you can find a specific UI control or element by choosing the “Locate the UI Control” toolbar button after you select the control you are interested.


You’ll want to have the particular application and window running before you do this (so it can find it) but it will put a little blue rectangle around the control as shown below.


Nice!  If you want to make sure that all of the UI control or elements on a window are still valid in the UI Map then you can select the window in the UI control’s tree and then choose the “Locate All” toolbar command.  You’ll see it go through each of the controls in the window and verify that it can still find it and mark it with a green check mark if it can be found.  How about that?





Have fun!

Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS | VSTS Testing

Set Associate to Default Action Instead of Resolved for TFS Work Item Changeset Associations

In Team Foundation Server 2010, a new registry key was added to provide the ability to specify that “Associate” should be the default when associating work items to a changeset instead of the “Resolve” action.  This needs to be applied to each development machine that would like to change the default instead of editing the process template and work item type definitions.


All you have to do is set the ResolveAsDefaultCheckinAction value to False in this registry key:  HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\10.0\TeamFoundation\SourceControl\Behavior



Ed Blankenship

Raffle for Two MSDN Subscriptions with Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate at Charleston Bar Camp

Charleston Bar Camp Logo

Earlier this year following the Visual Studio 2010 release, I got a great package from Microsoft (MVP Program and Visual Studio Product Team) that included some complimentary Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN Subscription activation cards to give away.  I hadn’t found the right opportunity but this Saturday I will be attending (and have submitted a session proposal) the Charleston Bar Camp.  This should be a very interesting experience since it will be my first bar camp.  Anyhow, I have been looking for ways to contribute and foster our local software development community in Charleston and decided I would like to give two MSDN subscriptions out during the event.

What is Included?

Two winners will receive a prize package that contains:

Professional Application Lifecycle Management with Visual Studio 2010 Book Cover

One (1) copy of Professional Application Lifecycle Management with Visual Studio 2010 by Wrox



One (1) MSDN Subscription with Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate (Not for Resale) Includes:

· Team Foundation Server 2010

· SQL Server 2008 R2

· Windows 7

· Windows Server 2008 R2

· Office 2010

· Office 2011 for Mac

· One-year of updates

Professional Team Foundation Server 2010 Book Cover

One (1) copy of Professional Team Foundation Server 2010 by Wrox

(When Released)



 Total Retail Value for Prize Packages: $24,007.96


Option 1 - Lab Management Session Attendees

Attendees to the Virtual Lab Management with Team Foundation Server 2010 session (if selected and scheduled) will have an opportunity to win one of the prize packages. Bring a business card with your name, company/occupation, city, e-mail address, and Twitter account. One lucky winner will be selected from the submitted business cards after the session has completed.


Option 2 - All Bar Camp Charleston Attendees

On the back of this page, write your “pitch” for why you think you should win one of the prize packages and what you would do with it if you were to win. The best pitch, as determined by the judge(s) will be selected to win the prize package. Bonus points are given for impactful local projects, giving back to the local developer community, or volunteering time & talents for a local non-profit organization.


Good luck!

Download Flyer


MSDN Subscriptions donated by the Microsoft MVP Program, Visual Studio Product Team, and...


Ed Blankenship

Microsoft MVP of the Year, Visual Studio ALM
Co-Author, Professional Team Foundation Server 2010 by Wrox


Application Lifecycle Management & Team Foundation Server Consultant
Notion Solutions

Twitter: @EdBlankenship


Displaying Release Status Dashboard Information Around Office Using Ethernet

I just noticed an interesting product that I could see used for those folks wanting to shine some light and transparency with their release status around the office.  You can use one of the many third-party products that show a “dashboard” of information, like TeamPulse or the TFS Project Dashboard,  from Team Foundation Server or you can always roll your own.  However, in several office layouts, I have always found it awkward to get a computer situated near enough the high traffic areas.  I didn’t realize it but they actually make VGA extenders that allow you to push a monitor signal across your Ethernet infrastructure (CAT5 or CAT6) up to 490 feet!  This particular one even splits the VGA and audio signals so that you can have two monitors with a duplicate signal at the receiving end.  Neat.


VGA Extender across Ethernet CAT5 or CAT6   Telerik TFS Project Dashboard


I’m wondering if you could couple it with a huge multi-touch monitor and then have an awesome Scrum or Kanban board?


Ed Blankenship

Offline SharePoint TFS Team Portal Sites with SharePoint Workspace

Office SharePoint Workspace 2010 Box ShotI recently re-discovered a feature of Office SharePoint Server 2010 and Office SharePoint Workspace 2010 that allows you to create local workspaces stored on your computer that syncs with a SharePoint site like the team portal site that gets associated with a Team Foundation Server project.  The nice thing about this is you can access synchronized SharePoint libraries and lists even when you are disconnected from the SharePoint server.  This allows you to read and edit content which become cached so that it will synchronize whenever you

You have access to this Office application if you have Office Professional Plus 2010.


The Office SharePoint Workspace product originally came out of Microsoft’s acquisition of a product formerly known as Groove back in around March 2005.  Groove was kind of neat because it essentially created these workspaces that could be shared across multiple computers and synced anytime you had an Internet connection.

Fast forward to Office 2010 and Microsoft has enabled synchronization with a SharePoint site!

Connecting to Your TFS Team Portal Site

First thing you will need to do is make sure you get to the team project’s portal site.  You can do this by opening Visual Studio 2010 and choosing “Show Project Portal…” on the context menu for the team project you are interested in.


Next, choose “Sync to SharePoint Workspace” from the Site Actions drop-down available in the top-right corner of your SharePoint 2010 team portal site.


Once you do that Office SharePoint Workspace 2010 will prompt you about whether you want to sync the site.  By default it will sync all document libraries and lists but if you choose “Configure…” then you can select the libraries and lists that you want to synchronize with your local SharePoint workspace.



After you confirm your configuration, the workspace will immediately begin to synchronize!


Quite a handy utility for users of SharePoint 2010 sites!

Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | Tools | VSTS

Speaking at the Visual Studio ALM Virtual User Group about TFS 2010 Build

Recording AvailableView Recording
Recording Details
    Subject: VSALM UG - Customizing the Build Process with TFS 2010 Build and Workflow Foundation
    Recording URL:
    Recording ID: H274M4


Okay… Let’s try this again.  Last time we had some issues with Live Meeting and needed to reschedule this user group presentation.  The cool part is that I already have slides and my demo created!  I have included my slides again below for future reference.


November 1st: Customizing the Build Process with TFS 2010 Build and Workflow Foundation

Date: November 1st, 2010

  • Central European Standard Time [CEST] - 19:00
  • UTC [without Summer Time] – 17:00
  • Eastern Daylight Time [EDT] - 2:00 PM
  • Pacific Daylight Time [PDT] – 11:00 AM

Add to Calendar:
Join meeting:

In TFS 2010, the automated build infrastructure has been revamped to use Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) instead of MSBuild. In this session, we will explore how to customize the default build process template and how to leverage multiple aspects of the workflow implementation for TFS 2010 Build.

We will cover:
• Explore the basics of Windows Workflow Foundation as it is used in TFS 2010 Build
• Review the high-level parts of the default build process template in TFS 2010 Build
• Adding new functionality to the build process using out of the box workflow activities
• Creating variables and process parameters that can be exposed to the end user
• Thoughts about designing & architecting your build process for reuse
• Building a custom activity for use in the build process template
• Deploying the custom activity to all of the build servers in the build farm




Ed Blankenship

CodePlex Team Web Access Site

I was looking through my blogging backlog and noticed that I never published this one!


I recently just finished up listening to the latest episode for the Radio TFS podcast and really enjoyed the discussion.  They had Jonathan Wanagel from the CodePlex team to talk about their use of TFS for the CodePlex site.  One interesting tidbit that I had never realized is that since they upgraded to TFS 2010, we all now have access to a load-balanced Team Web Access site as well!  Take a look below.

CodePlex Team Web Access Site

CodePlex TFS Team Web Access Site

We haven’t ever really needed a web access site since the CodePlex web software does a lot what we would need but just in case you have a use for it then it is completely available for you.


Ed Blankenship

Posted in Community | TFS | VSTS

Postponed: User Group Talk about Customizing TFS 2010 Builds and Slides Available

Recording AvailableView Recording
Recording Details
    Subject: VSALM UG - Customizing the Build Process with TFS 2010 Build and Workflow Foundation
    Recording URL:
    Recording ID: H274M4


Thomas and I were sitting in the Live Meeting conference room for today’s user group presentation and waited for about ten minutes without any new attendees.  We decided to go ahead and postpone the meeting but unsure of the new date at the moment.  Stay tuned to the Visual Studio ALM User Group website for the details of the postponed meeting.

We ended up discovering, thanks to some on Twitter, that the attendees were in a completely separate Live Meeting room!  We’re unsure how that exactly happened but in the meantime, I went ahead and posted my slides which are available below.  (Visit this post’s page if you are reading this inside a blog reader.)  We apologize for the mix up!


Please forgive the formatting of some of the slides.  The conversion process doesn’t seem to work out too well with layout issues.


Ed Blankenship

Speaking at the Visual Studio ALM Virtual User Group about TFS 2010 Build

Recording AvailableView Recording
Recording Details
    Subject: VSALM UG - Customizing the Build Process with TFS 2010 Build and Workflow Foundation
    Recording URL:
    Recording ID: H274M4


Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking at the Visual Studio ALM Virtual User Group European chapter about TFS 2010 Build.  The full details are below.  Hope to see you there with your questions!


October 7th: Customizing the Build Process with TFS 2010 Build and Workflow Foundation

Date: October 7th, 2010
Time: 19:00 Central European Standard Time [CEST] (17:00 UTC without summertime)
Add to Calendar:
Join meeting:

In TFS 2010, the automated build infrastructure has been revamped to use Windows Workflow Foundation (WF) instead of MSBuild. In this session, we will explore how to customize the default build process template and how to leverage multiple aspects of the workflow implementation for TFS 2010 Build.

We will cover:
• Explore the basics of Windows Workflow Foundation as it is used in TFS 2010 Build
• Review the high-level parts of the default build process template in TFS 2010 Build
• Adding new functionality to the build process using out of the box workflow activities
• Creating variables and process parameters that can be exposed to the end user
• Thoughts about designing & architecting your build process for reuse
• Building a custom activity for use in the build process template
• Deploying the custom activity to all of the build servers in the build farm


Ed Blankenship

DevSmackdown Podcast Episode about TFS Migrations with Ed Blankenship

Awesome!    I found out over the weekend that the Developer Smackdown podcast show where I was a guest has been posted online!  Go check it out.  Clark Sell and Mark Nichols are the co-hosts for the show and it was a fun chat about migrating to Team Foundation Server from legacy systems.

Show: TFS Migrations with Ed Blankenship


Here is the list of sites and\or resources mentioned in this show:

When doing a TFS Migration make sure you think about some of the following items:

  • Are you a big TFS project or little TFS Project kind of guy?  Think about your organization and their reporting structures when considering "the size" of your TFS projects.
  • Think about how you would report on things?  What types of questions are you trying to answer with your reports?
  • Did you know that Branch Visualization doesn't work across Team Projects ( at least as of the time of writing this )
  • Treat the migration just like any other product development you would do.
  • 1 GB of source typically takes 24 hours to migrate.  That is execution time.  (Conservative Estimate)
  • How much history do you really need?  Was it worth the cost to migrate?

Follow Show On Twitter

Subscribe to Podcast in Zune

Subscribe to Podcast in iTunes



Ed Blankenship

Increase Performance When Editing TFS 2010 Build Process Templates

For the longest time, opening a build process template (.xaml) file for TFS 2010 has been pretty painful.  It took a while for the workflow designer to eventually show up and the toolbox to be populated with the TFS Build Activities.  Nearly 30-45 seconds at times!

Recently, I applied a workaround that has dramatically reduced the time down to around 2 seconds!  Try it out:

    1. Create a file called empty.xaml and place the following text in it:
      <Activity xmlns="">
    2. Open this file in Visual Studio.
    3. In the toolbox panel, add a new tab called “Team Foundation Build Activities”.  Note that it is important to get the tab name correct because if it is not correct then the activities will be reloaded.
    4. Inside the new tab, right click and select “Choose Items”
    5. Click the Browse button
    6. Load the file C:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\assembly\GAC_MSIL\Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Build.Workflow\v4.0_10.0.0.0__b03f5f7f11d50a3a\Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Build.Workflow.dll
    7. Click OK to add the toolbox items to the tab.
    8. Create another new tab called “Team Foundation LabManagement Activities”.
    9. Inside the new tab, right click and select “Choose Items”
    10. Click the Browse button
    11. Load the file C:\Windows\Microsoft.NET\assembly\GAC_MSIL\Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Lab.Workflow.Activities\v4.0_10.0.0.0__b03f5f7f11d50a3a\Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Lab.Workflow.Activities.dll
    12. Click OK to add the toolbox items to the tab.


Ed Blankenship

Connecting to TFS from Microsoft Office Outlook

Office Outlook 2010 LogoWe recently got awesome new laptops at work (which are just awesome BTW) and on the standard image included a Team Foundation Server tool that I haven’t used in a while:  TeamCompanion 3.0.  I had used earlier releases of the tool but always seem to forget to install it whenever I pave my machine as I do quite frequently.  It’s been a while and I must say… the 3.0 version is just awesome.  I’d like to go over a few things that I really like in the latest release.


The experience of connecting to TFS inside Outlook is just first-class.  The same icons that are used in Visual Studio Team Explorer are the ones that appear in Outlook.  That really does make a difference for me…  Notice that I can also add certain work item queries that I’m interested in to the Favorites area as well.

If you are using Outlook 2010, you’ll notice that TeamCompanion adds a handy ribbon tab:


Work Items Galore

There are so many things you can do whenever working with work items with TeamCompanion!  For instance, let’s say you get an e-mail for a customer of a great feature request.  It’s super quick to create a new feature request work item or attach the e-mail to an existing work item.


What’s even cooler is that if the e-mail refers to a specific work item in the content (i.e. “Bug 1234”) then TeamCompanion can let you open the rich work item form to look at the details or edit the work item.  This is especially helpful for alert e-mails that you may get from TFS.


Even cooler is that all of the normal Outlook features work like replying, forwarding, flagging, categorizing, setting alerts, etc.

Other Work Item Features:

  • Offline Work Item Support
  • Scheduling Work Item Queries to Run
  • Great Rendering of a Work Item
  • Creating Tasks/Meeting Requests from Work Items
  • Printing
  • Editing Areas & Iterations
  • Bulk Editing
  • Searching Work Items
  • “Query By Example”


I think my favorite feature of TeamCompanion has to do with handling reports.  By default, the rich reports you get with TFS are all scoped at the Team Project level.  However, I find myself frequently needing to filter to a particular Area Path and Iteration Path.  TeamCompanion actually allows you to save those common filters that you perform every day and store them.  Allows you to have all of the presets that you want.

Another handy feature is the ability to send an e-mail with the report easily within Outlook.  Nice!


I’m certainly not doing the latest release of the product justice.  They did a great job with improvements and new features from previous versions that I have used.  I’d suggest you’d download the trial and kick the tires.


Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | Tools | VSTS | VSTS Process

Proposed New Visual Studio ALM Stack Exchange Site

Stack Exchange Area 51 LogoSome of the Visual Studio ALM MVPs have gotten together to drive the creation of a new Stack Exchange site dedicated to the Visual Studio ALM family of products (which includes Team Foundation Server.)  We were able to get past the “Definition” phase and now need to enough people to “Commit” to using it so that we can get the site off the ground.  If you aren’t familiar with the Stack Exchange concept, it’s an interesting way to ask questions and help answer them as well.  One of the sites that has been around for a while that I have participated in from time to time is Stack Overflow.  You basically end up with high-quality answers because others can agree/disagree with the answer and provide feedback or more information.

Help us out by indicating that you are going to commit to contributing to the site whenever it gets created.  Thanks for all your help!

Link:  Commit to Visual Studio ALM at Stack Exchange


Ed Blankenship

Posted in Community | TFS | VSTS

Microsoft’s Islands in the Stream

There is a great article in the August 1, 2010 edition of the SD Times by Dave Worthington (@dcworthington) about the Visual Studio 2010 ALM tools including Team Foundation Server 2010.  It’s titled Microsoft’s islands in the stream.”  Some really great colleagues in the ALM community have been interviewed and provided some pretty honest feedback from what we have been seeing over the last year or so.  Check it out!


Ed Blankenship

Lab Management Released and Included with MSDN Subscriptions

This is some really exciting news for customers of Visual Studio 2010 and Team Foundation Server 2010!  Today, Microsoft has announced that customers who have purchased Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate with MSDN or Visual Studio 2010 Test Professional with MSDN now receive the Lab Management capabilities for Team Foundation Server!  That means no per-processor licensing fees for your physical host servers that will be hosting your virtual machines!

Earlier this year, I passed on Lab Management news that indicated that it would cost $1,599 per processor (retail.)  Microsoft has listened to the feedback and has also made it a “feature” in the Visual Studio family instead of a completely separate product.

Microsoft has also announced an update to the Lab Management functionality in the different products to bring it to full RTM/RTW status.  You’ll recall that when Visual Studio 2010 released earlier this year that the Lab Management features ended up still being released in a “Release Candidate” status.  The product team has spent the last few months gathering feedback and include updates to improve performance throughout the product.  The “patch” will be available later this month.  I highly recommend updating to the latest version by installing the patch as soon as it becomes available.

When it is released, you will see the following “extra” installation media become available in your MSDN Subscriber Download listings:

  • System Center Virtual Machine Manager* (SCVMM)
  • Visual Studio 2010 Agents

*A grant of “limited use” rights for SCVMM are included.  This means that you can only use SCVMM for your Visual Studio 2010 Lab Management test lab.

This is a great move for customers.  Creating a virtual lab management can be an expensive endeavor for business.  I recall visiting customers who have spent tens of thousands of dollars on competing products like VMWare Lab Manager.  This is really bringing virtual lab management to everyone!

If you are curious about more information, see Brian Harry’s announcement.


Ed Blankenship

Milestone: Microsoft Developer Division and TFS 2010 Build

For quite a while, the Developer Division at Microsoft continued to use their internal build systems to build Visual Studio.  TFS Build had only been used by certain teams within the division but not standard across the division.  I had the opportunity to visit one of the huge build labs last time I was in Redmond and it’s impressive.  It was just one of them too. Smile  I really got an appreciation for the complexity that was involved in building .NET, Visual Studio, and Team Foundation Server.   We’re talking huge builds that take up a lot of time.

Brian Harry just mentioned that they had hit a huge milestone for the division during their MQ phase and have gotten a build to run through the TFS 2010 Build system!  Sounds like they still have some work to go to get it tuned but getting a Visual Studio build through TFS Build is huge accomplishment!  Looks like they have even taken some of the experiences they gathered and already integrated improvements into the next version of the product.  That just benefits all of us as customers whenever Microsoft is eating their own dogfood. 



Ed Blankenship

Recursively Finding Files in TFS Build 2010

One of my favorite new build workflow activities is the FindingMatchingFiles activity.  It’s an activity that is provided out of the box for use during Team Build that returns an IEnumerable<string> of all of the files that match a particular wild card string.

It’s available in the toolbox under the Team Foundation Build Activities tab.  The full name of the activity is:  Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Build.Workflow.Activities.FindMatchingFiles.

TFS 2010 Build Workflow Activities Toolbox

Here is a typical usage if you are looking for all .CSS files in a particular folder.

TFS 2010 Build Workflow FindMatchingFiles Activity

The problem I was attempting to solve is how to find all of the files recursively in all of the subfolders as well.  All I had to do was change the match pattern argument to include a “**” in front of the original pattern and it worked like a charm!

TFS 2010 Build Workflow FindMatchingFiles Activity

Ed Blankenship

Comparing with the Latest Version in the Pending Changes Window

Usually before checking in to TFS Version Control, I will navigate to the pending changes window and compare/diff with the latest version to see what changes I have made.  It’s a good habit to go through just to make sure you aren’t checking anything in that you don’t intend to be committed.

I’ve just been doing it the long way every time by choosing the option from the context menu.

Compare with Latest Version in TFS Pending Changes Window

A client asked if there was a quicker way and I ended up finding out that there are two undocumented features to diff the files in the pending changes window:

  • Shift + Double-Click on the Item
  • Shift + Enter on the Item

Updated – (7/1/2010 11:45 AM)

You can use a registry key to even swap the view/diff behavior in the Pending Changes tool window.  Setting this registry key will make double-click/enter run compare, and shift+double-click/enter view the file.

  • Path:     HKCU\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\<ver>\TeamFoundation\SourceControl\Behavior
    • <ver> = 10.0 for Visual Studio 2010 & Team Foundation Server 2010
    • <ver> = 9.0 for Visual Studio 2008 & Team Foundation Server 2008
    • <ver> = 8.0 for Visual Studio 2005 & Team Foundation Server 2005
  • Value:   DoubleClickOnChange (DWORD)
    • 0 for view as the primary command (default)
    • 1 for compare as primary command

How about that?


Ed Blankenship

Deploying Process Template Changes Using TFS 2010 Build

UPDATED (24 June 2013):  This should work now with TFS 2012 as well.  Have included a download link to the SkyDrive folder with both versions of the build process template XAML file.  Thanks a ton to Neno Loje for figuring out what updates were necessary to get it to work for TFS 2012!


I mentioned in my last blog post about using TFS to manage TFS that I’d talk a little about how I use TFS 2010 to manage and deploy process template changes. I’m excited to be able to provide some more details about it!


I use to create batch files for deploying process template changes and store them in version control. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that approach but I really wanted have an easier way to maintain this process that allowed reusability and even continuous integration. Whenever I checked in a change to the process template branch for the test environment, I wanted it to immediately deploy those changes to that environment. I also wanted to make it super easy for others to be able to make changes and then queue a deployment.

I need a build definition using TFS 2010 Build!

Build Process Template

So I have created a build process template that does exactly this. My goals for this process template were to not require any custom workflow activities or custom assemblies to be required to get the build process template to work. You simply only need to check-in the XAML file and begin using it. That one requirement ended up being tougher to follow than I originally thought. I had to take a few alternate methods that didn’t always end up with the best user experience but I think you’ll see that the template is still helpful. (If you have ideas for improvements, please let me know!)

I hope you’ll see it as an example for creating “builds” that don’t necessarily compile & run tests. Using Windows Workflow Foundation in Team Build 2010 makes it extremely useful for any type of process you want to automate.


At a high level, here is what this build process template attempts to accomplish:

  • Standard Build Features:
    • Build Versioning
    • Label the source using the version number
    • Getting Latest Version or Specific Version
    • Associate Changesets & Work Items
    • Gated Check-In, Continuous Integration, etc.
  • Ability to specify multiple team projects to update
  • Ability to specify multiple work item types to update
  • Backup each of the the work item type definitions that are currently being used in each team project (just in case!)
  • Copy the version of the work item type definitions that are used and backups to a drop folder

Disclaimer: I’m going to give this template the “works on my machine” label. This template may not perform as advertised including blowing up your server, deleting everything on your hard drive, or cause your hair to fall out. Use at your own risk! You have been warned. If it works for you, awesome! If not, please let me know about any issues or areas of improvement.

How to Use the Build Process Template

After you downloaded the template and check the XAML file into your build process templates folder, you’ll want to create a new build definition to use it. Make sure you have also checked in your process template to a version control folder.

Workspace Definition

Specify the version control folder that contains your process template. By default it will download the entire team project and scoping down the build process template allows your build to run quicker since it is not downloading everything in the team project.


Process Tab

Choose the new build process template file from the available process templates:

Note: If you don’t see the build process template as an available item in the combo box, you’ll want to click New and then choose the XAML file you checked in as the existing build process template.


The next thing you’ll want to do is specify the team projects you want to update and the URL for your TFS 2010 team project collection.


The last two required process parameters are extremely important. You need to specify the work item type names and the server path locations to the work item type definition (XML) files. Each of the process parameters are string lists so you’ll want to make sure you match them up in the exact order in both lists.

Work Item Type Names (for MSF Agile)


Work Item Type Definition Files

Make sure you specify the server path location for each of the WITD files! I ended up reusing a dialog for this purpose that you may have been used to seeing in other builds you have configured. It’s the same editor that allows you to choose solution and project files to build. We can use it for this purpose too! Just be sure to select the “All files (*.*)” filter for the Items of Type combo-box.


Again – make sure you put each of the XML files in the same order that you used for the work item type names. For example, your Bug.xml file will be the first in the collection and UserStory.xml will be the last if we are using the same WITs as the figure above.

Other Details

Make sure that your build agents have Visual Studio Team Explorer 2010 installed so that witadmin.exe will be located. You can always use the new build agent tagging functionality to identify which agents have Team Explorer available and then use the Agent Settings process parameters to limit the build to only reserve agents with the tags you specify.

Finally, make sure your build service account has the appropriate permissions to be able to import new work item type definitions to your team projects.

[Updated – 6/24/2013]

Thanks for reporting feedback and bugs! Latest version includes the following bug fixes and improvements:

  • 10/26/2010: Will properly associate work items and changesets correctly now.
  • 10/26/2010: Discovers location of witadmin.exe on build servers with a 32-bit OS installed.
  • 10/26/2010: Detects error on import and writes as build error instead of message. Allows for the build to not succeed in this circumstance.
  • 3/24/2011: Reduced the verbosity of some of the build workflow activities. This should reduce the noise in the build log and show what is most important. Be sure to set the entire build’s verbosity higher if you need to troubleshoot issues. (If you are interested in how to lower a particular workflow activity’s tracking verbosity, check out page 402 in our new TFS 2010 book).
  • 6/24/2013Neno provided an update of the build process template .XAML that works with Team Foundation Server 2012 as well.  Check out our new TFS 2012 book!

Download the Build Process Template for TFS 2010 or TFS 2012

Let me know if you have any feedback about things you like or areas for improvement! Feel free to comment below so I don’t lose track of the suggestions. Smile

Ed Blankenship

Managing TFS Artifacts Using TFS

Many years ago, I really thought the fact that SQL used itself to manage itself was pretty cool (i.e. master database.)  For the past several years, I have been doing something pretty similar and someone just reminded me that it was an interesting concept.  I use TFS to manage the artifacts needed to manage TFS.

TFS Team Project

The first thing I end up doing is creating a team project usually named “TFS” to hold all of the artifacts.  I personally only give the TFS Administrator permissions to the project.  As you’ll see, there may be security sensitive content that may be stored in this team project.  From time to time, other developers may help out with some of the custom tools that can be created to extend TFS.  I’ll create special team project security groups and permissions to those security groups for those particular scenarios.

Reporting Service Encryption Key Backup

After I have setup the TFS team project, the first thing I check-in is the backup of the encryption key from SQL Reporting Services.  It’s extremely important for disaster recovery scenarios that you have a backup of the key since the encrypted contents of SQL Reporting Services won’t be recovered if you don’t have the key.  By checking the key file into version control, you can always make sure you’ll have it backed up with the regular SQL backup process of the databases.


See for more information:  Back Up the Reporting Services Encryption Key

Process Templates

image Managing changes to process templates is one of the main reasons I had originally had the idea of creating a team project to manage TFS artifacts.  I think version control is the perfect place to manage changes to all parts of your process templates, especially work item type definition files.  I even create two branches of the process template folders:  one for the production environment and one for the test environment.  This allows you to manage changes just as you would your software releases.  Work item type definition changes definitely require some testing especially since there are risks in causing issues with certain changes.  (Has anyone ever messed up the warehouse?) :)

Build Process Templates

I keep all of the “golden” copies of build process templates in this team project.  I usually perform my actual development work for build process templates in this team project as well and will usually have some test build definitions to try them out.  You could also easily use your staging or test TFS server for this effort too.

Custom Build Assemblies for Build Controllers

One of the awesome new features for TFS 2010 is the ability to store custom build assemblies (like workflow activities, build tasks, build process parameter custom editors, etc.) in a version control folder that the build controller can notify build agents to monitor to deploy those assemblies to each of the build servers in your build lab.

If you want to deploy a new version of those assemblies, just check in the new version and all of the controllers & agents will use them for the next build they perform.  Pretty awesome if you ask me.  I create a folder in the TFS team project just for this purpose.


Source Code

imageThe TFS team project is usually the main location where I will store source code for all of the different extensibility points for TFS and Visual Studio.  This list of custom tools isn’t exhaustive by any means but should give you some ideas of the type of source code that could be contained in this team project:

  • Custom Check-In Policies
  • Custom Build Workflow Activities and Build Tasks
  • Custom Work Item Controls
  • Web Service Event Handlers for TFS Events
  • Custom Testing Data Collectors (Diagnostic Data Adapters)
  • Migration Utilities and Adapters
  • Custom Code Analysis Rules
  • Global Code Analysis Spelling Dictionary
  • Custom IntelliTrace Event Collectors
  • Other Visual Studio or TFS Tools


As I already mentioned above with testing out build process templates, I have several build definitions in this team project:

  • Testing Team Build 2010
  • Deploying Process Template Changes to Test & Production TFS Servers (I plan on having more information about this process in a future blog post.)
  • Custom Tool Builds


Don’t stop with this list.  If it’s something that helps to manage TFS, feel free to store it in this team project.  Here are a few other examples of the types of artifacts I use this team project for:

  • SQL Queries to manage the data tier
  • Custom SQL Reporting Services Reports


What other types of things do you think, dear reader, are important to store in this team project for managing TFS?

Ed Blankenship

Need a List of Strings as a TFS 2010 Build Process Parameter?

I’ve been hitting my head against the table today trying to have a nice experience for editing a collection of string values as a custom build process parameter in my TFS 2010 build definition.  The problem comes with what editor is actually used to edit the process parameter at design time.  You can specify a custom editor for any of your custom build process parameters which is really handy but I needed the ability to use editors that were out of the box but still provided a sufficient experience to the end user.

My journey towards a solution…

Attempt 1

I began really wanting to have one build process parameter that had the type of Dictionary<string, string>.  That didn’t work out so well because when I went to edit it in my build definition, I received this editor and the add/remove members buttons.

TFS 2010 Build String Collection Editor

Attempt 2

I gave up on the Dictionary<T, T> approach and decided that I could handle it by specifying two collections of type Collection<string>.  I also attempted to try List<string> and even a String[] but ended up with this editor that seemed to not like System.String.

TFS 2010 Build String Collection Editor

Attempt 3

I found Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Build.Workflow.Activities.StringList.  It is a custom type that is known to Team Build 2010 and even has a custom editor that is registered to it that shows up.  That editor is Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Build.Controls.WpfStringListEditor.  Works great for me!  Take a look:

TFS 2010 Build String List Editor


Ed Blankenship

TFS 2010 Microsoft Certification Exam (70-512) Available

Looks like this past weekend Don from Microsoft Learning announced the public availability of the Team Foundation Server 2010 Microsoft certification exam.  I had several people ask about what happened to the Beta exam for 70-512 and the only thing I can see is that it was released directly to the public without a Beta phase.

If you pass this exam, you will receive the Microsoft Certified Technical Specialist certification for TFS 2010.  Officially it will indicate:
MCTS: Visual Studio 2010 Team Foundation Server, Administration

I’ll be taking the exam this weekend so I’ll let everyone know how it goes.  Well… as much as I can!  Exam candidates agree not to disclose details about the exam when they take it.

There aren’t any preparation materials available just yet as listed on the Exam Details site.  It does however list the topics that are covered on the exam:

About this Exam

This exam is designed to test the candidate's knowledge and skills on installing, configuring and maintaining Visual Studio 2010 Team Foundation Server.

Audience Profile

This exam is intended for candidates who install, configure, and manage a Microsoft Visual Studio Team Foundation Server (TFS) 2010 implementation. Candidates typically work in an enterprise development organization that provides process automation services by using TFS.

The qualified candidate has:

  • a solid understanding of the TFS architecture and components.
  • experience installing and configuring a TFS in both single-server and multi-server configurations.
  • experience managing security for TFS components.
  • experience configuring and using Team Build.
  • experience adapting process templates to an organization.
  • experience managing project artifacts with TFS version control.
  • experience configuring and using work item tracking.

Skills Being Measured

This exam measures your ability to accomplish the technical tasks listed below.The percentages indicate the relative weight of each major topic area on the exam.

Installing and Configuring TFS (27%)

  • Install TFS.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: SQL Server version support, installing TFS in a multi-tier or multi-machine environment, installing TFS in a load-balanced environment, setting up version control proxy

  • Configure application tier

    This objective may include but is not limited to: validating an installation, configuring SMTP for TFS, changing the URL (friendly name), changing the default SharePoint Web application, setting up reporting (SQL Server Analysis Services)

  • Migrate and upgrade TFS.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: upgrading TFS 2005 or TFS 2008 to TFS 2010, importing a source base from Microsoft Visual Source Safe (VSS), a third-party revision control system, or a sub-version

  • Install and configure team lab.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: set up environment templates, installing and configuring test agents, installing and configuring Virtual Machine Manager (basic Virtual Machine Manager installation), creating library shares or resource pools

  • Install and configure multiple build agents and controllers.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: tagging, binding a controller to a project collection, adding as build agent

Managing TFS (27%)

  • Manage Team Project Collections.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: moving project collections, managing team collections and projects, creating and configuring team project collections, moving team projects from one collection to another, creating a team project with SharePoint and SQL Server Reporting Services, cloning (splitting team project collections, partitioning)

  • Configure for backup and recovery. 

    This objective may include but is not limited to: backup and recovery of TFS and related components, recover a failed application tier, recover a failed database tier, implement a disaster recovery plan

  • Monitor server health and performance.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: application tier logs, monitoring the server for performance issues (monitoring activity logging database and TFS server manager), monitoring job infrastructure for failed jobs (monitoring warehouse adapters and warehouse jobs), cleanup of stale workspaces and shelvesets, cleanup builds (applying retention policies), setting up team build to use a version control proxy server

  • Administer TFS application tier.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: retiring or archiving projects and purging the system, rebuilding a warehouse, configuring user permissions by using Active Directory Domain Services  and TFS groups, moving a TFS instance to a new server or a new domain, configuring security for TFS Work Item Only View

  • Manage reporting for TFS.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: basic reporting using Microsoft Office Excel Services, adding a custom report to a SharePoint project portal, uploading a new SQL Server Reporting Services TFS report, configuring to enable a report to appear in a SharePoint project portal

  • Set up automated functional and UI tests.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: setting up a build definition, configuring the build definition to use the proper lab environment, setting up tests to work on an installed agent, setting up a service as interactive, setting up data collectors

Customizing TFS for Team Use (24%)

  • Configure a team build definition.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: setting up for a Symbol Server and Source Server, setting up for test impact analysis, setting up for custom build numbers, configuring build log verbosity, setting up for code analysis, setting up for automated unit testing, setting up for architecture validation

  • Configure and execute a build. 

    This objective may include but is not limited to: queuing a build with parameters, reconciling workspaces as part of a gated check-in workflow, setting up build triggers (gated check-in, continuous integration, scheduled build)

  • Modify a process template.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: customizing a process template by changing the workflow for a work item, adding a new work item type as a child of an existing work item (WI), uploading and downloading process templates

  • Configure a team project.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: areas and iterations, default security groups, portal settings (team project portal site URL, process guidance URL)

  • Apply work item customizations.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: link types, Global list, creating a new WI category and adding existing WI types to the new category, adding or removing fields, transitions, queries, customizing a workflow, creating or editing a work item type, importing and exporting work item types, renaming work item types

  • Create Work Item Query Language (WIQL) queries.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: query folders and permissions, query types (tree, flat, directed), defining WIQL keywords, adding fields to a query, creating a WIQL query by using Team Explorer, identify built-in macros

  • Configure client connectivity to TFS.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: configuring Visual Studio, Team Explorer, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Project, and other tools to connect to TFS, configuring clients for proxy server

Administering Version Control (23%)

  • Create and manage workspaces.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: cloaking, undo delete, modifying a workspace, deleting a workspace, specifying the workspace visibility, restoring deleted items, unlocking other users’ checkouts, pending changes, and code

  • Configure shelvesets. 

    This objective may include but is not limited to: private builds, creating a shelveset, deleting a shelveset, opening another user’s shelveset

  • Branch and merge source artifacts.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: track change visualizations, converting a folder into a proper branch and creating a new branch, merging and resolving file conflicts, viewing branch hierarchy, creating a branch, deleting a branch

  • Configure version control proxy.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: cache hit ratio, setting up the cache size, setting up for multiple TFS servers

  • Configure team project version control settings.

    This objective may include but is not limited to: enable multiple checkout, enable get latest on checkout, configuring check-in policies for a team project (work items, builds, code analysis, testing policies)

Good luck!  Let me know how you end up doing on the exam.

Ed Blankenship

Book Review for Wrox Professional Application Lifecycle Management with Visual Studio 2010

During the first week of April, a little package was sitting on my front porch with the first book to be released on the Visual Studio 2010 release that deals with the new Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) features.  For those of you who don’t know, this essentially means the former “Team System” line of products as we were exposed to it in the 2005 and 2008 releases.  Although the entire Visual Studio suite of products is considered something that helps you with ALM, the book primarily focused on Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate, Visual Studio 2010 Premium, Visual Studio 2010 Test Professional, Visual Studio 2010 Lab Management, and Team Foundation Server 2010.  During the Introduction, I even appreciated how the authors discussed about “where Team System went.”  It’s the best explanation of the branding change that I’ve seen to date.

I was extremely excited to start immediately reading the book.  Even though I have been closely involved with the 2010 release as a Microsoft MVP, when I started to read this book my goal was to be exposed deeper in the feature set being introduced in the 2010 release.

At the time of writing this blog post, the book was selling for $34.64 at Amazon.  The suggested retail price is $54.99.  It is currently #7 in the Software Development books category!


If you are new to the ALM features in Visual Studio, I felt this book really offered you the ability to get the high-level overview of all of those features.  It’s essentially similar to a “survey” course that you would have taken in college.   It’s 696 pages that ends up going through all of the Visual Studio client and server features at just the right level of detail. There were even some areas that I felt that I learned more about and hadn’t been exposed to heavily in the past.

The architecture features were something that I had hoped to learn the most from.  They have just never been something that I dived into great detail during the 2010 release cycle.   All of the new UML diagrams that are available including the new architecture features like Use Case, Activity, Sequence, Component, Class, Dependency, and Layer Diagrams.  There was a also a great introduction to the Architecture Explorer.

The testing features have really been what has made up a majority of the Visual Studio 2010 release and the book definitely reflects that.  Going through the testing features, I really felt like I understood the end to end story.  It felt very rounded out!  These chapters are where I picked up a majority of the nuggets of information.  I can’t tell you how many times I said “wow, I didn’t know you could do that.”  I also feel like this is a great place to pick up some introductory knowledge about how Visual Studio Team Lab Management fits into the ALM story.  I also kept thinking how great this book would be for the testers on your team that are new to the Microsoft testing platform and Team Foundation Server.

There are so many changes to TFS, I can’t even begin to start describing them.  Thankfully, the book did a great job.  Especially with the revamp of Team Build to use Windows Workflow Foundation.  You can even download the Team Build chapter from the book for free here:  Team Foundation Build.  Other than automated builds, you’ll get a good pass by all of the rest of the new TFS 2010 features and architecture/topology changes.

There was a whole chapter dedicated to debugging with IntelliTrace!  That’s awesome.  I’m very much a fan of IntelliTrace and think that will truly change the way you develop.


I have been hoping to have a book available out there that really only discusses TFS.  The book definitely has a few chapters available on TFS and spends a good amount of time but that discussion is not the nitty gritty that I think some readers out there are really looking for.  With that said, I don’t think this book was positioned for the “TFS Administrator” exclusively.  Again, I really think this is a survey-level review of the entire ALM stack of features for Visual Studio.  That doesn’t allow you to go into the depths of any particular product.  There currently isn’t a book available for TFS 2010 with the level of detail that I am sure some readers out there are hoping for.  We’ll see what happens in the months to come…

My next criticism isn’t so much for the content of the book as what is media choices are available.  I own a Kindle DX and I imagine a few other techies in the world have some type of eBook reader as well.  I was hoping to have a CD that contained a DRM-free PDF that I could copy over to my Kindle DX whenever I’m traveling and need a quick resource for reference.  Wrox certainly does allow you to get a PDF of books but you have to order them separately even if you had purchased the hard copy.

Finally, the only other thing that I noticed was in that chapter about IntelliTrace (see above) there wasn’t a mention of Symbol & Source Server.  I couldn’t believe it.  There is definitely a discussion later in the book about Team Build’s integration with Symbol & Source server but I was hoping to have seen some more detail in the IntelliTrace chapter about the importance of having them setup for your organization.  You’ll want to put two and two together.


Now that I’m finished scrounging from the bottom of the barrel to find some criticisms… :)

My Recommendation

Hands down, get this book.  I think it’s well worth it.   I know each of the authors and it really looks like they put a tremendous amount of effort into writing the book.  The topics are really presented well and at the right level of detail for someone really wanting a crash course in all of the Visual Studio ALM features.  I can’t even tell you how many new nuggets of information that I ran across of things that I didn’t even realize were in the product.

It certainly gets my stamp of approval! :)  Kudos to the authors.


Very respectfully,

Ed Blankenship

Microsoft MVP of the Year, Visual Studio ALM and Team Foundation Server

Can I Use Microsoft Test Manager for User Acceptance Tests?

Microsoft Visual Studio Test Professional 2010 Box

That answer is a resoundingly yes, in my opinion, and I believe you would find some real value in having your UAT testers using Microsoft Test Manager to perform those UAT tests.  However, I think the real question that should be asked is do you have to purchase a license for Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Test Professional to use Microsoft Test Manager to perform those User Acceptance Tests (UAT?)



What are you talking about, Ed? 

There is a licensing exclusion that exists that really helps out when business users connect to development/test environments to perform user acceptance testing.  This exclusion really kicks in and helps when those development/test servers have used Operating Systems, SQL  Server, etc. licenses that conform to the MSDN EULA.  The exclusion basically says those non-technical business users don’t require an MSDN subscription to connect to those development/test servers if they are only performing user acceptance tests.  Normally, each person who connects to a development/test environment that has MSDN software installed on it (like the OS) requires that each of them has an active MSDN subscription.

Here’s the full description directly from the Visual Studio 2010 Licensing Whitepaper:

User Acceptance Testing

At the end of a software development project, end users (or team members acting as proxies for end users) typically review an application and determine whether it meets the necessary criteria for release—a process sometimes called user acceptance testing or UAT. MSDN software may be accessed by end users who do not have MSDN subscriptions for purposes of acceptance testing, provided that the use of the software otherwise complies with all MSDN licensing terms.

Under MSDN subscription licenses, user acceptance testing must not use live production data. If a copy of any live production data is used, then that copy of the data must be discarded after the testing is complete and cannot be incorporated back into the live production data.

So back to the real question…


Do you have to purchase a license to use Microsoft Test Manager to perform UAT?

Well that’s the question that a client brought up.  Did they have to purchase a license of at least Visual Studio 2010 Test Professional for those business users if they wanted to use Microsoft Test Manager to perform the UAT tests?

Microsoft’s answer is:  Yes

The fact that you are using Microsoft Test Manager, in their opinion, is that you are doing more technical & formalized testing than what they would consider to be in the UAT licensing exclusion for MSDN software.


Ed Blankenship

Team Explorer Everywhere Announced and Launched

One of the announcements made yesterday was the new product Microsoft Visual Studio Team Explorer Everywhere 2010!  If you are not familiar with the former Teamprise products that were purchased late last year by Microsoft, this new product is essentially the Microsoft branded version of Team Explorer that works inside most Eclipse-based IDEs.

Visual Studio Team Explorer Everywhere 2010 Logo

You can download this new product from the Microsoft Downloads site or from  MSDN Subscriber Downloads.  There is even a new forum dedicated on the MSDN Forums site.

If you are curious about this product, be sure to follow Martin Woodward’s blog site for more information.  Martin Woodward is now the Program Manager on the TFS Product Team who works with this line of tools.


Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS

Team Explorer Included in Visual Studio 2010 Installation

One of the really great things about the Visual Studio 2010 installers is the fact that Team Explorer is installed with all of the Visual Studio editions (except Express.)  This even includes Visual Studio 2010 Test Professional.  In previous versions of Visual Studio, you would have to install Team Explorer additionally after you installed Visual Studio.  Thankfully those days are long past us…

However, if you do have users that only need the functionality of Team Explorer 2010 (like the add-ins and integration for Microsoft Office Excel and Microsoft Office Project) then you can download them separately either from MSDN Subscriber Downloads or from the Microsoft Downloads site

Visual Studio 2010 Team Explorer on MSDN Subscriber Downloads

Just a reminder, you can download Team Explorer 2010 for free but you still need to make sure that each user has a TFS 2010 CAL (unless they meet certain exclusions.)   If you purchased Visual Studio 2010 with a full MSDN subscription then you already receive a TFS 2010 CAL included.   The complimentary MSDN Essentials subscription that is included with Visual Studio 2010 Professional does not include a TFS 2010 CAL though.


Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS

Visual Studio 2010 and TFS 2010 Launch Today

imageEven more important news… is that Visual Studio 2010, .NET Framework 4,  and Team Foundation Server 2010 are being launched today!  It’s been a really long time coming but super excited that this day is here.

Microsoft .NET Framwork LogoVisual Studio 2010 Logo

You can watch the launch event live from Las Vegas here. I believe the coverage will start at 8:30 AM (PDT) / 12:30 PM (EDT.)

Trial downloads should be available sometime today at the Visual Studio 2010 Marketing Site.  MSDN Subscribers will be able to download the CDs for Visual Studio and TFS later today starting at 10:00 (PDT) / 2:00 PM (EDT.)  I doubt that Volume Licensing customers will be able to download the 2010 CDs today from the Volume Licensing Center.  It may take some time before it is available through the VL channel.  If you are unable to get the media through MSDN, you can always download the trial CDs today and then apply the product key later on when you get it from MSDN or the Volume Licensing site.  It doesn’t require you to uninstall and reinstall.  You can just activate your trial copy!

  • In Visual Studio 2010, go to Help –> Register Product
  • In Team Foundation Server 2010 Administration Console, click the root node in the navigation pane and then click Update License.

Visual Studio 2010 Product KeyTFS 2010 Product Key

Happy Launch Day!

Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS

Notion Solutions acquired by Imaginet Resources Corp

In other news today… Imaginet Resources Corp has announced that they will be acquiring Notion Solutions.  Branding has even been updated on the Notion website already:

Notion Solutions An Imaginet Company

I have been working with the ALM folks over at Imaginet for a few years now including their co-founder Joel Semeniuk who is also an MVP in Visual Studio ALM (Team System) and a Microsoft Regional Director.  They’re a good group and definitely looking forward to working with them closely after the acquisition.  The Imaginet folks are also the ones who have been doing the software development effort around the freely available tools for TFS (Work Item Manager, Project Dashboard) and newly available TeamPulse.


Posted in TFS | VSTS

Which Edition of Visual Studio 2010 Do I Buy?

Visual Studio 2010 LogoThe launch of Visual Studio 2010 and Team Foundation Server 2010 is just around the corner and I’m starting to hear this question quite a bit:  Which edition of Visual Studio 2010 do I need to buy for my team members?  My usual attempt at humor  would be responding with the question “How much money do you have?” but that doesn’t usually go very well for those with tight budgets. 

The first thing I want to say before we move any further in this discussion is:

  • The first rule of buying any type of Microsoft license is don’t buy retail if you don’t have to.  Say that a few times to yourself.  There are so many different volume licensing programs available that would end up working well for your team and organization size.  Do a little work and phone up your local Microsoft Sales representative to see about your options.  You’ll find that you could save a ton of money and most of them that I have worked with on behalf of my clients are willing to work out what’s best for you and your budget.  Give it a try – it’s really not difficult and could save your team quite a bit of money.

Earlier this year, the suggested retail prices were announced for each of the Visual Studio 2010 editions.  This should be a baseline of how to relatively compare the prices between each edition; not that you would ever pay retail prices right?


The Editions

Thankfully, we don’t have all of the editions that we had in the 2008 and 2005 releases.  In the 2010 release, there are essentially now three editions plus a new edition for generalist/non-technical testers.

Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate BoxVisual Studio 2010 Premium BoxVisual Studio 2010 Professional BoxVisual Studio 2010 Test Professional Box

I won’t spend time talking about which features are available in each edition and how to compare them because I believe the Microsoft Visual Studio marketing site is doing a really great job with the high-level overview.

Personal aside/opinion:  I believe IntelliTrace, alone, is worth the cost of Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate for you junior/senior developers.  I’m talking about both the local debugging scenario and the ability for testers to gather IntelliTrace logs while testing and then opening those up to troubleshoot a bug.  Both scenarios have been extremely valuable to me personally when I have both my developer & tester hats on.  I do understand that it takes some work getting the latter scenario to work correctly (symbol server, source serverTFS builds, etc.)  and also takes some effort around getting developers to actually learn how to use it well but it’s totally worth it in the long run.  Don’t hesitate to find some help from an excellent Microsoft Partner specializing in the Visual Studio ALM products, like Notion Solutions, if you want some assistance getting your developers/testers trained and setting up all of the nuts & bolts to get everything working.  (Shameless plug, I know, but what can I say?)



Seriously, just be sure to get the MSDN Professional subscription included when you purchase your Visual Studio licenses.  (More information about MSDN Subscriptions)

Not only that, make sure your IT department (officially, the volume licensing administrator at your organization) gives all of your team members the “benefit access number” so that each team member can register for the MSDN benefits.  I can’t believe how many IT organizations don’t want their team members to access their benefits because “they might download the software at home” or heaven forbid “install it on their machines themselves.”  Come on…  You can tell I’ve heard several excuses.

Some of the new benefits of an MSDN Professional subscription are now that you receive priority forums support in addition to the included technical support calls, a real TFS 2010 CAL and a real TFS 2010 production license among many of the other benefits.



Scenario-Based Purchase Decisions

Microsoft did a good job reducing the number of editions but for some reason I’m still getting the question about what to purchase.  That tells me that people are still confused about deciding what’s appropriate for each team member especially when they have to consider the cost difference.  (Aside:  BTW, comparable ALM products on the market are SO much more expensive for what they deliver.)

More than likely, you are going to want to look at what scenarios you want to enable for your team.  Earlier this week, some colleagues at work and I were able to put together this presentation that goes through the different scenarios that I think most people would be interested in taking advantage of when adopting Visual Studio 2010 and TFS 2010.  You can look at each individual scenario and it will point out what you need to purchase for the different roles on your team.  After each of the individual scenarios are mentioned, you can even start to look at the most common combinations and see what that looks like.  Of course, I couldn’t go through every combination but if you don’t see one, post a comment.

Final Thoughts

I hope that you were able to get some information to help you make a better purchase decision.  Any suggestions?  I’ll be happy to update this blog post or the PowerPoint deck from time to time with those suggestions or other common combination requests.  Just leave me a comment below!


Take care,

Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS

Feature Support for Unmanaged Code in Visual Studio 2010 and TFS 2010

Just got exposed to a great table about what features are available in Visual Studio 2010 and Team Foundation Server 2010 for unmanaged code (C++.)  Thanks to Anna Russo for sharing!  Anyone know the source of this information?

Product Features (Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate)
Team Foundation Server
Version Control Yes
Work Item Tracking Yes
Build Automation Yes
Team Portal Yes
Reporting & Business Intelligence Yes
Agile Planning Workbook Yes
Test Case Management Yes
Visual Studio Team Explorer 2010 Yes
Development Platform Support
Windows Development Yes
Web Development N/A
Office and SharePoint Development N/A
Cloud Development N/A
Customizable Development Experience Yes
Unit Testing No
Code Coverage No
Test Impact Analysis No
Coded UI Test No
Web Performance Testing N/A
Load Testing N/A
Database Development
Database Deployment Yes
Database Change Management Yes
Database Unit Testing Yes
Database Test Data Generation Yes
Debugging & Diagnostics
"Pinnable" DataTips for easier data inspection N/A
Post-mortem debugging support for .NET (dump debugging) No
Breakpoint improvements (search in Breakpoints window, label, import/export) No
New WPF Visualizer N/A
Enhancements for debugging multi-threaded applications (Parallel Stack and Tasks) Yes
64-bit support for mixed-mode debugging Yes
Static Code Analysis Yes
Code Metrics No
Profiling Yes
IntelliTrace (Historical Debugging) No
Architecture and Modeling
UML & Layer Diagram Viewer Yes
Architecture Explorer Yes
UML 2.0 Compliant Diagrams (Activity, Use Case, Sequence, Class, Component) Yes
Layer Diagram and Dependency Validation No
Lab Management
Microsoft Test Manager Yes
Virtual environment setup & tear down Yes
Test Case Management Yes
Manual Test Execution Yes
Manual Test Record & Playback Yes
Lab Management Configuration Yes


Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS

When Will Microsoft Test Manager and Testing Tools Support Silverlight?

Microsoft Visual Studio Test Professional 2010 Boxsilverlight_logoA lot of people have been asking about whether the new Coded UI automated testing & Microsoft Test Manager test runner features would support Silverlight and I haven’t really had a good answer for them other than “not at 2010 RTM.”  There’s been a ton of reasons why that wasn’t the case but thankfully we received a little more information about timeline for that type of support.  We were also able to make this information available publicly so check out the raw info coming in below.  Notice my particular emphasis added around the release mechanism that was mentioned.

Whenever we talk about platform coverage for UI automation one of the frequent requests is support for Silverlight app testing. We have been hard at work trying to cater to this need and I wanted to update you all on where we are with this effort and provide a roadmap.

We are working on adding support for Silverlight controls for “Fast forward for manual testing” and “Coded UI Tests”. The focus is on line-of-business applications built with Silverlight 4 for both in-browser and on the desktop. The initial investigation is in progress and we are working with the Silverlight team to close on the overall design. We are planning to release a CTP version of a plug-in by Q2CY2010. This will be delivered out of band to active MSDN subscribers (Visual Studio Test Professional or Visual Studio Ultimate) customers only. […]

- Ram Cherala, Visual Studio Team Test Product Team

Make sure you have active MSDN subscriptions if you want to get out of band value from the product teams.  Anyone have any questions?

Ed Blankenship

Speaking at the TFS Product Team All Hands Meeting

Once of the nice things about having moved to Charleston, SC is being relatively around the corner from half of the Team Foundation Server team in Raleigh, North Carolina.Microsoft Corporation Office in Raleigh North Carolina TFS Product Team  I get plenty of opportunities to talk with the TFS product team in Redmond, WA but rarely get the opportunity to talk with the side that’s in Raleigh.  It’s good being close now.

Yesterday, I had the privilege and honor of talking at the TFS Product Team’s All Hands meeting at the Microsoft Office in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Each quarter, the entire team split between Redmond, WA and Raleigh, NC get together to talk about different topics to review the last quarter and looking forward to the future about work they want to do.  It’s very similar to some “All Hands” meetings that each of our companies put together.  They have had a tradition in the past to invite a customer in to talk about how they have used TFS in their daily work and I imagine that gives the entire team some insight into how people outside of Microsoft are actually using the products they spend every day creating.  I was invited to be that customer for this quarter.

They also really like for you to spend some time talking about what your feature requests are for the product.  I had the opportunity to discuss some of my personal areas that I’d like to see some investment made.  Normally when going to events like the Microsoft MVP Summit or providing other private feedback, I take the approach of being objective and provide feedback on behalf of the people I took to and the customers that I help.  I rarely bring up anything that I personally would like to see since some of the things I want are things that most people would never even touch or appreciate.  However, this was my one time that I didn’t feel bad about being totally subjective and asking for my personal feature desires :)

I also had some time to spend talking with the Build team and Version Control team about problems areas that I think people will run into when TFS 2010 launches next month as well as discussing some of those things that some people really hate about TFS version control.  You know who you are on Twitter :)  It was a really great conversation about the problem scenarios really are that people face before arriving to frustration with the product.

I’ve said this before but I really admire and appreciate the team for the amount of effort they put into listening and acting on feedback.  I promise and can tell you that they’re listening.  There are plenty of features and changes even coming out in TFS 2010 that were things that I know that one of the MVPs, customers, or I had originally suggested.  That means they’re not only listening but they are doing something about it.

Anyhow, it was a very productive day and really enjoyed the time.  I’m so glad to be an MVP that is tied to such a great product group.


Ed Blankenship

Posted in Community | Speaking | TFS | VSTS

Branching and Track Changes Visualization in TFS 2010 is Awesome

I’m up early working on a problem that’s been nagging me and just had to stop for a second to show how friggin’ awesome the new Branching & Track Changes visualization tools in TFS 2010 are.  This is on a demo TFS 2010 environment but I wanted to use the APIs to find out information about what changesets were included in a merged changeset.  I needed to find a good candidate that allowed me to follow some changes throughout the branches.  I quickly found changeset 103 in my MAIN branch which included several (but not too many) individual changesets that were included with it.  I went ahead and tracked that changeset and got the following diagram below.

TFS 2010 Branch Visualization Track Changes Hierarchy View

However, I noticed that I ended up having some kind of partial merge as indicated in the Feature A branch with changeset 78 (as indicated by the yellow shading on the track changes visualization.)  That got me curious… What happened there?  It was pretty easy to figure out because all I had to do is change to the “Timeline View” instead of the “Hierarchy View” that I was currently in and I ended up receiving the visualization below which shed some light on things.

TFS 2010 Branch Visualization Track Changes Timeline View

The reason the Feature A branch was indicated as a partial merge was because not all of the changes that are included in changeset 103 (which is the changeset we’re pivoting off of for visualizations) has been merged into that branch.  It only contains changesets 76 & 77 but not 101 & 102.  Pretty handy!


Ed Blankenship

Easily Show and Track Dependencies for Work Items in TFS 2010

Dependency management can be tough.  One way you can help visualize dependencies is by using the new Predecessor & Successor link type in TFS 2010 Work Item Tracking.  The way this particular link type works is that it is of type “Dependency” topology.  Here’s some more information about the Dependency topology:

Link types of this topology are like Directed Network links in that they have directionality, but an additional constraint to prevent circular relationships.


Example XML:

   1: <LinkTypes>
   2:     <LinkType ReferenceName="MyLinks.LinkTypes.MyPred" ForwardName="My Successor" ReverseName="My Predecessor" Topology="Dependency" />
   3: </LinkTypes>

You can list the link types currently on your TFS server by using the following command at a Visual Studio command prompt:

witadmin listlinktypes /collection:http://YourTfsServerName:8080/tfs/YourTeamProjectCollectionName

The details about the dependency link type that we’re interested as listed from witadmin.exe is:

Reference Name: System.LinkTypes.Dependency
Names: Successor, Predecessor
Topology: Dependency
Is Active: True

Gregg Boer has some more great information about customizing link types in TFS 2010 available here:

Adding a Dependencies Tab on the Work Item Form Layout

If you would like to add a tab in the layout for the work item type definition, you can add the following XML segment to the WITD Layout Section:

   1: <Tab Label="Dependencies">
   2:   <Control Type="LinksControl" Label="Dependencies Information for this Bug:" LabelPosition="Top" Name="Dependencies">
   3:     <LinksControlOptions>
   4:       <LinkColumns>
   5:         <LinkColumn RefName="System.Id" />
   6:         <LinkColumn RefName="System.WorkItemType" />
   7:         <LinkColumn RefName="System.Title" />
   8:         <LinkColumn RefName="System.AssignedTo" />
   9:         <LinkColumn RefName="System.State" />
  10:         <LinkColumn RefName="Microsoft.VSTS.Scheduling.OriginalEstimate" />
  11:         <LinkColumn RefName="Microsoft.VSTS.Scheduling.RemainingWork" />
  12:         <LinkColumn RefName="Microsoft.VSTS.Scheduling.CompletedWork" />
  13:         <LinkColumn RefName="Microsoft.VSTS.Scheduling.StartDate" />
  14:         <LinkColumn RefName="Microsoft.VSTS.Scheduling.FinishDate" />
  15:         <LinkColumn LinkAttribute="System.Links.Comment" />
  16:       </LinkColumns>
  17:       <WorkItemLinkFilters FilterType="include">
  18:         <Filter LinkType="System.LinkTypes.Dependency" />
  19:       </WorkItemLinkFilters>
  20:       <ExternalLinkFilters FilterType="excludeAll" />
  21:       <WorkItemTypeFilters FilterType="includeAll" />
  22:     </LinksControlOptions>
  23:   </Control>
  24: </Tab>

It will then show up on your work items something like this:

Dependencies Tab for Work Items in TFS 2010 

New Links Control Options

The LinksControl work item control has always existed but now that we have link types in TFS 2010, you can specify multiple links controls in the layout but have them specify certain filters.  Notice the User Story/Requirement, Test Case, and Bug in the MSF Agile and MSF CMMI process templates all take advantage of specifying multiple links controls.

There is more very early information about the new options of this control here:

Dependencies Integration with Microsoft Office Project

One of the benefits of using the built-in Predecessor/Successor link type is that if you are pulling your work items into Microsoft Office Project, you end up seeing those dependencies in the project plan.  You can even change the dependencies in Project and publish your changes back to the TFS where they’ll show up on the new Dependencies tab you just created.  They are essentially round-tripped between Project and TFS 2010.

Microsoft Office Project Integration with TFS 2010 Tasks and Dependency Links Predecessor Successor

More Resources


Take care,

Ed Blankenship

Where is the Alerts Editor / Explorer in the TFS 2010 Power Tools?

I’ve had a few questions about the missing Alerts Editor node in Team Explorer after installing the TFS 2010 RC Power Tools so I thought I’d share with everyone.  First, Alerts Editor has been renamed to Alerts Explorer in the TFS 2010 Power Tools release.  Next, you’ll notice that in the TFS 2008 Power Tools, that a node existed underneath each Team Project shown below.

Alerts Editor in TFS 2008 Power Tools Visual Studio Team Explorer 

You’ll see that in the TFS 2010 Power Tools, it’s no longer available as a node under each team project but rather available from the context menu of the Team Project Collection node and named “Alerts Explorer.”

Alerts Explorer in TFS 2010 Power Tools Visual Studio Team Explorer

What is the Alerts Explorer?

There is a rich eventing & alerting system in TFS that allows end users to self-subscribe to alerts that meet different criteria.  These alerts can either be e-mail alerts or SOAP-based alerts to a web service URL.  (SOAP subscriptions can only be created by Team Foundation Server Administrators.)  By opening up the Alerts Explorer, you can see any of the subscriptions that you currently have created on the server.

Alerts Explorer in TFS 2010 Power Tools

Also, you can create new alerts based on some out of the box templates like “Work Items Assigned to Me” or “Failed Builds.”  This is a good starting off point for creating alerts and allows you to further customize the filter criteria to your specifications.

Tip:  As shown in the screenshot above, if you don’t want to receive an e-mail alert whenever you actually change something, be sure to include the “Authorized As <> Your Name” clause.

You also get some handy context menus around the Team Explorer UI to help you to easily create subscriptions.  For example, if there is a particular work item (like a bug) that you want to get e-mail alerts anytime someone changes it, just choose “Alert on Change..” from the context menu on that work item.  You’ll find some other context menu items for Alerts in other places so have fun finding them!

Work Item Alert On Change Context Menu TFS 2010 Power Tools

Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | Tools | VSTS

Microsoft MVP of the Year for VSTS & TFS

One of the most exciting parts of last week’s Microsoft MVP Global Summit was the surprise announcement that I was chosen as the MVP of the Year for Visual Studio Team System (Visual Studio ALM now) and TFS.  I can’t tell you how humbled I was to find out!  One of the special parts of this particular award is that each of the Visual Studio ALM MVPs nominated our peers for the award.  We have an exceptionally great group and to have been chosen from this great group is the most humbling part.  Thanks to each and every one of you for this honor!

Martin Woodward was selected as the MVP of the Year last year so I hear we’re going to start the tradition of passing on the “MVP of the Year” belt buckle :)  That should be fun to hold on to for 2010.


(Thanks to Sunder Raman for taking the picture!)

One of the exciting “features” of the award was an invitation to a dinner with Soma Somasegar, Brian Harry, Scott Hanselman, Brad Abrams, Chuck, Sara Ford, and the other top-notch MVPs selected from the other Developer Division MVP groups.  It was truly a great dinner and we had a lot of great conversation.  Ewald Hofman (another VSTS MVP) also joined us for the awesome amount of contributions to the VSTS MSDN Forums.

Ed Blankenship: MVP Of The Year Belt Buckle

Thanks again to everyone for the awesome honor!


Very respectfully,

Ed Blankenship

Posted in Community | TFS | VSTS

News Update on Team Lab Management with TFS 2010

Just got some news about Team Lab Management in TFS 2010 hot off the press:

Q: How will support work for customers who are already using Lab Management with the Go-Live License in Beta 2 or RC?

A: We will continue to support customers that have already gone live with Lab Management 2010 pre-release go-live licenses.


Q: What are the pricing details for Lab Management 2010?

A: Suggested FPP retail price for Visual Studio Lab Management 2010 is US$1599. Of course, the majority of customers are likely to qualify for a lower price point based on volume licensing discounts. Lab Management 2010 will be priced per physical processor (each processor of each lab server must be licensed for Visual Studio Lab Management 2010). Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate or Visual Studio Test Professional 2010 is required to manage lab environments.


Q: Have we changed our shipping plans for the general availability of Lab Management 2010?

A: Quality has always been and remains a top priority for Visual Studio. Being definitive about RTM dates is always very difficult and doubly so for brand new v1 products. For this reason, until we are very close, we generally only forecast release timeframes rather than specific dates. While it’s true, early on, we had hoped to release the new Lab Management product at the same time as the rest of Visual Studio 2010. It became clear through the Beta cycle that it was taking a bit longer to get sufficient, detailed feedback. Excitement has been very high but there’s also a huge amount of new value in the 2010 wave; we made the decision that it was better for Lab Management to ship a little later in the 2010 wave if that means we can incorporate additional feedback to ensure it’s the terrific product everyone wants it to be. 


Remember, customers can deploy it with a supported pre-release go-live license!  If customers have any feedback during the pre-release process, please send that to the product group using Microsoft Connect.


About Visual Studio Lab Management 2010

Visual Studio Lab Management 2010 is a new offering in the Visual Studio 2010 release wave. Lab Management 2010 enables teams to configure and manage a virtual lab environment. Lab Management works with System Center Virtual Machine Manager for enabling teams to create environment templates, provision ring-fenced environments, and checkpoint those environments. Using Lab Management, you can accelerate setup, tear down and restoration of complex virtual environments to a known state for test execution and build automation. It extends build automation by automating virtual machine provisioning, build deployment and build verification in an integrated manner. It also enables testers to file rich bugs with links to environment checkpoints that developers can use to recreate complex environments, effectively reducing wasted time and resources in your development and test life cycle. Those checkpoints can be attached to bugs filed using the Microsoft Test Manager enabling the person fixing the bug to open the environment right to the appropriate point in the application flow.


Related Links

· Visual Studio Lab Management Team Blog

· Visual Studio Team Test Blog

· Microsoft Virtualization VHD Test Drive Program


Ed Blankenship

TFS 2010 and Visual Studio 2010 Release Candidate Available

The Release Candidate for Visual Studio 2010 and Team Foundation Server 2010 was made available a few days to MSDN Subscribers.  It’s now going to be made available to the rest of the world today:

The first impression I have is that Visual Studio has been super super snappy and lot more purple :)  You can really take advantage of all of the performance work that has been performed by the product groups.  What’s funny is that I have was too slow several times to grab the screenshot below! :)


I have also done several TFS 2010 Beta 2 to RC upgrades so far and all of them have gone super well including a super complex setup that we have at Notion Solutions.  If you are planning on upgrading from Beta 2 to RC, be sure to read the Upgrade Guide before you get started.

As with the Beta 2, the RC of TFS, Visual Studio, and .NET Framework 4 can be used in production with a “Go-Live” license.  Be sure to check out Jeff Beehler’s blog post that has more information about the “Go-Live” license including how to register for complimentary support in case you need it.

After you get everything installed and used it for a few days, please be sure to give feedback about whether you think the release is ready to go by taking the RC survey.  There is only a limited time to give any feedback and the bar is high for things that will change before RTM so don’t delay!

Visual Studio Feedback Survey

Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS

Rollback or Undo a Changeset in TFS 2010 Version Control

Updated – 8/19/2011 – New Rollback Features Available in the UI with TFS 2010 Power Tools (See Below for More Details)

One of the new features for TFS 2010 Version Control is the ability to rollback or undo a changeset or check-in inside the product and see it as a new pending change type (and new change type in the history) inside Team Explorer. This feature has been available in TFS 2008 but you had to use the TFS Power Tools. The only gotcha for the TFS 2010 implementation is that you have to use the command-line application tf.exe to actually perform the rollback operation. More information about the tool is available here in the MSDN Library:

The syntax is:

tf rollback /changeset:changesetfrom~changesetto [itemspec] [/recursive]
[/lock:none|checkin|checkout] [/version:versionspec]
[/keepmergehistory] [/noprompt] [/login:username,[password]]

tf rollback /toversion:versionspec itemspec [/recursive]
[/lock:none|checkin|checkout] [/version:versionspec]
[/keepmergehistory] [/noprompt] [/login:username,[password]]

Date/Time D"any .Net Framework-supported format"
or any of the date formats of the local machine
Changeset number Cnnnnnn
Label Llabelname
Latest version T
Workspace Wworkspacename;workspaceowner



Rollback Available in the UI Now

If you have the August 2011 or later version of the TFS 2010 Power Tools installed, you now have the ability to fire off a rollback straight from Team Explorer without having to use the command-line approach.  The main way would be to fire it off from the Source Control Explorer window.


However, you can start the rollback process from the Changeset History window as well.



Ed Blankenship

Slides Available for Lap Around Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate and TFS 2010

As promised, I have published the slides from my PowerPoint Deck for my talk on Saturday at the Columbia Code Camp.

Thanks to everyone I bugged during the week before to grab a hold of these slides! Contact me (using the contact form on the website) if you'd like to get a copy of the PowerPoint deck.


Ed Blankenship

Posted in Community | Speaking | TFS | VSTS

geekSpeak: Migrating from Visual SourceSafe to Team Foundation Server 2010

Tomorrow, I’ll be presenting in this month’s geekSpeak about migrating from Visual SourceSafe to Team Foundation Server 2010.  I’m sure we’ll get through the VSS content pretty quickly so with the time left we’ll talk about new branching & merging features, branch visualization, and gated check-in.

In this geekSpeak, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Ed Blankenship discusses migrating source code from Visual SourceSafe, including the history. There has not been a better time to migrate to the newest Microsoft source control offering, Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Team Foundation Server, because Microsoft Visual SourceSafe support is ending soon and Team Foundation Server will be part of Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscriptions in 2010. Ed discusses specific version-control features to help you become more productive like branching and merging visualization, annotate, shelving, and gated check-in. This geekSpeak is hosted by Glen Gordon and Brian Hitney.

Registration for the event available here:

BTW – The end-of-life support date for Visual SourceSafe is mid-year 2011.  Don’t get stuck on an unsupported product :) especially one that’s holding your source code!


Update:  The recording of this presentation is now available on Channel 9 here: .  Sorry about the dropped call in the middle of the presentation.  Also, here’s some links that I mentioned during the talk:


Ed Blankenship

Speaking at Columbia Code Camp about Visual Studio Ultimate and TFS 2010

I’m going to be doing a session at the Columbia Code Camp about Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate and Team Foundation Server 2010 and really looking forward to it!  Looks like Cameron Skinner already beat me by speaking out in Charlotte earlier this week but hopefully I’ll still have some people who haven’t seen the new features just yet!

Check out the other 32 sessions in the Agenda and be sure to Register.  Already looks like a big crowd so I’m hoping it ends up being successful.  There’s a lot to get through for a one-hour overview session but I plan on sticking around to chat if anyone ends up having any questions that we can’t get answered during the presentation.

Columbia Code Camp 2010

Session:  Lap Around TFS and Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate

Time:  11:15 AM – 12:15 PM  (Right before lunch!)

Track:  Framework

Room:  Amoco Hall (1C01)

Location:  University of South Carolina, Swearingen Building, 301 Main St., Columbia, SC 29201

Cost:  Free!


Update: Slides are now available below.


Ed Blankenship

Posted in Community | Speaking | TFS | VSTS

Pricing Announced for TFS and Visual Studio 2010

I'm pleased to announce that we now have pricing information that is publicly available for the Visual Studio 2010 and Team Foundation Server 2010 products!  Remember, these are Retail prices and if you are in a company you should never be paying retail :)  Always talk to your Microsoft Sales team and ask for volume licensing deals.

Also, if you didn’t hear, a production license for TFS 2010 and a TFS 2010 CAL is included with every MSDN subscription!


Suggested Retail Pricing (USD) for Visual Studio 2010

With 1-Year MSDN Subscription*






Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate





Visual Studio 2010 Premium





Visual Studio 2010 Professional





Visual Studio Test Professional 2010





Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010





Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010 CAL





Visual Studio Load Test Virtual User Pack 2010 (1000 Virtual Users)





* Subscription contents vary by purchased product.


Ed Blankenship

TFS 2010 Branching Guidance

Thanks to the Visual Studio ALM Rangers, we have a new release of the TFS Branching Guidance!  Think of it like TFS Branching Guidance 3.0… it was developed specifically for TFS 2010 including tidbits on best practices using all of the new branching & merging hierarchy and visualizing change features.

I often talk about branching & merging strategies with my clients and it’s always great to have some diagrams and content to go back to and leave with them so that they can delve into Configuration Management a little more.

TFS 2010 Branch Hierarchy Visualization TFS 2010 Tracking Changes Merge Visualization

Head on over to their CodePlex site:

Project Description
The purpose of this project is to build some insightful and practical guidance around branching and merging with Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2010. The new release focuses on Hands on Labs and includes lots of lessons learnt from the community Q&A.
Visual Studio Team Foundation Server Branching Guide 2010
Branching and merging of software is a very large topic. It is an area where there is a lot of maturity in the software industry. This Ranger solution focuses on applied and practical examples of branching that you can use right now. The 2010 release includes discussions around branching concepts and strategies but also focuses on practical hands-on labs.
Visual Studio ALM Rangers
This guidance is created by the Rangers who have the mission to provide out of band solutions for missing features or guidance. This content was created with support from Microsoft Product Group, Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVPs) and technical specialists from technology communities around the globe, giving you a real-world view from the field, where the technology has been tested and used.
What is in the package?
The content is packaged in 8 separate zip files to give you the choice of selective downloads but the default download is the TFS_Branching_Guide_2010_Complete_Package_v1 if you are interested in all parts.

  • --> Start here
  • TFS_Branching_Guide_Q&
  • TFS_Branching_Guide_2010_Complete_Package_v1
Bill Heys, James Pickell, Willy-Peter Schaub, Bijan Javidi, Oliver Hilgers, Bob Jacobs, Sin Min Lee, Neno Loje, Mathias Olausson, Matt Velloso
How to submit new ideas?
The recommended method is to simply post ideas to the community or to contact the Rangers at

Ed Blankenship

geekSpeak: Migrating from Visual SourceSafe to Team Foundation Server 2010

Tomorrow, I’ll be presenting in this month’s geekSpeak about migrating from Visual SourceSafe to Team Foundation Server 2010.  I’m sure we’ll get through the VSS content pretty quickly so with the time left we’ll talk about new branching & merging features, branch visualization, and gated check-in.

In this geekSpeak, Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Ed Blankenship discusses migrating source code from Visual SourceSafe, including the history. There has not been a better time to migrate to the newest Microsoft source control offering, Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 Team Foundation Server, because Microsoft Visual SourceSafe support is ending soon and Team Foundation Server will be part of Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) subscriptions in 2010. Ed discusses specific version-control features to help you become more productive like branching and merging visualization, annotate, shelving, and gated check-in. This geekSpeak is hosted by Glen Gordon and Brian Hitney.

Registration for the event available here:

BTW – The end-of-life support date for Visual SourceSafe is mid-year 2011.  Don’t get stuck on an unsupported product :) especially one that’s holding your source code!


Ed Blankenship

How to Point to Report Builder 2.0 in SQL 2008 Reporting Services

Report Builder is an awesome tool in lieu of using Microsoft Office Excel or Business Intelligence Studio to create custom reports with SQL Server 2008 Reporting Services.  The version of Report Builder that shipped with SQL Server 2008 is Report Builder 1.0.  Report Builder 2.0 was later released with plenty of new features and a better report writing experience.

The only issue though is that the most discoverable way to install Report Builder using Click-Once is through Report Manager but it points to Report Builder 1.0 even after you install Service Pack 1 for SQL Server 2008.

SQL 2008 Reporting Services Report Manager Report Builder Link

If you installed Service Pack 1 for your Reporting Services instance, there is actually a way to change the behavior though to point it to the Report Builder 2.0 Click-Once install.  Click “Site Settings” in the upper-right hand corner and then fill out the Custom Report Builder Launch URL to “/ReportBuilder/ReportBuilder_2_0_0_0.application” if your server is setup in Native mode (which it should be if it is the RS instance for TFS) or “/_vti_bin/ReportBuilder/ReportBuilder_2_0_0_0.application” if it is in SharePoint Mode.

Custom Report Builder Launch URL


Alternately, if you want to download the full MSI installer you can over at Microsoft Downloads:  Thanks to the Reporting Services Team Blog for the handy information.


Ed Blankenship

Posted in Reporting | SQL | TFS

TFS 2010 and Visual Studio 2010 Launch Date

Visual Studio 2010 LogoIt wasn’t long ago that an original launch date (March 22, 2009) was announced for Team Foundation Server 2010, Visual Studio 2010, and the .NET Framework 4.0.  It then got postponed after the product teams realized that they weren’t going to meet that date and have a solid product up high release standards.  A new launch date has been announced to be April 12, 2010.

Now remember that launch date doesn’t mean release date!  I had a little discussion about it on a previous blog post but hopefully everything will get wrapped up, RTM, and will be available to MSDN Subscriber Downloads before the launch date.  Fingers crossed!

[Updated] Also, a Release Candidate will be available for all of these products in February and will include a public  “Go-Live” license just like Beta 2.  Be sure to upgrade to the RC as soon as possible and report any issues that you may be experiencing quickly since the time between RC and RTM will be very short.  I’m sure the product group’s largest goal is to make sure there are no show-stoppers being discovered in the RC.


Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | VSTS

Test Scribe: Test Plan Documentation for TFS

Surprisingly, I’ve heard from several people that they still want a hard-copy document form of artifacts that are getting stored in TFS like Test Plan documents or Requirements documents.  I can understand some situations like if you need to follow certain regulatory requirements as so forth but don’t really see the need beyond that why you would ever want a hard-copy :)  Help me understand more if you happen to be in that boat!

Anyhow, if you need a hard-copy test plan document then you are in luck!  Test Scribe has just been released which will take your test plan information, artifacts, and progress from TFS and generate a nice Word document.  Quite handy!  If only we can get the Requirements document power tool now then we’ll satisfy that other group of people!

I'd like to announce the beta availability of Team Test's first Power Tool release for Visual Studio 2010: Test Scribe.  This tool allows users of Visual Studio 2010 Ultimate Beta 2 to generate a Word 2007-compatible Test Plan Document from their plan, suites, test cases, and other artifacts.  Using the tool is a fairly straightforward process, including:

   1. Launch the Test Scribe tool.
   2. Enter your server/collection URL (e.g. http://myserver:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection)
   3. Select a Project.
   4. Select a Test Plan (previously created in MTM).
   5. Click the Generate button.

The resulting document will contain (among other things) a list suites with test cases and steps detail and pie charts detailing the overall progress of your Test Plan.  You can see a screenshot below showing several sections of a generated document.  Feedback is welcome and appreciated, and you can find the tool download at


Many thanks and appreciation to everyone who helped get this tool out the door.

More information available here:


Ed Blankenship

Posted in TFS | Tools | VSTS | VSTS Testing

Custom Workflow Activities for TFS Build 2010

Not sure if you have seen this but some of the product managers on the TFS Build team at Microsoft have been putting together some great blog posts for how to create custom build activities and get a little background about Windows Workflow 4.0 and how it relates to TFS Build 2010.

CP_banner_111x111_gen.jpgAlso, we’ve been trying to put together a CodePlex project that’s designed to be a central location for contributions of Team Build 2010 customizations like custom activities, build process template customizations, build tools, etc.  You can take a look here:  I’d encourage you to think about contributing any of your customizations to this project.  I know I’m personally hoping that it will be the “go-to” place for some of the common build activities that people need.  If you happen to have any feature requests for build activities, feel free to request one in the discussions and we’ll add it to the backlog:



Ed Blankenship

TFS - Shared Resource Scope Activity in Team Build 2010

In Team Foundation Server 2010, you know have the ability to (easily) have multiple build agents on the same build server.  You were able to do this in TFS 2008 but it really wasn’t supported.  However, this raises an interesting challenge:  some processes and executables aren’t designed to handle being run simultaneously in multiple contexts on the same build machine.  Some applications can’t or have a difficult time handling concurrent access from multiple build servers at the same time as well.

I’ve listed a few of the scenarios that I can I remember off the top of my head:

  • Automated UI Testing – running automated UI tests from two different builds on the same build machine can lead into utter confusion!  :)  Mouse clicks going everywhere!  Let’s just stick to one set of automated UI tests running on an individual machine at the same time.
  • Running Automated Tests that Collect Code Coverage Information -  This was an interesting limitation that I found in the 2008 release.  It seems that the code coverage data collector did not support collecting from more than one automated testing run happening concurrently on the same machine.  (This might actually have been addressed in the 2010 release but I’m not quite sure.)
  • Dotfuscator – As far as I remember, this was another tool I remember having concurrency issues on the same build machine.
  • Symbol Server Store Access – This is something new to me and I’m not intimately familiar with all of the details behind this limitation.  It looks like you can not use the symbol server publishing tools against the same symbol server storage location at the same time even on multiple machines.  (See example below.)
  • Other Tools – I’m sure there are other build processes and tools we use that have limitations.  I’m sure many will be found out now that concurrent usage is more easily possible now.  Leave a comment below if you find any other examples and I’ll add them to this list.

Thankfully, the Team Build folks have provided us the ability to handle those specific scenarios where concurrent access isn’t supported as part of the build process.  That’s through the use of the Shared Resource Scope activity.  (Microsoft.TeamFoundation.Build.Workflow.Activities.SharedResourceScope)

Basically what it does is define a region of the build process that will only be allowed to be entered by one build across the entire Team Project Collection (even multiple build machines/agents) that share a matching resource name string.  It’s very similar to how we use the lock statement in C# or creating mutex objects.  (You might have to dust off those old computer science books from sc