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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

User Display Name Changes and New Attribute for Work Item Type Definitions in TFS 2010

If you’ve had the responsibility of administering a TFS 2005 or TFS 2008 server you may have run in the “Display Name” problem before.  In March 2007, the TFS Work Item Tracking team put a great post together about what’s exactly going on and it’s available here:

Basically, in TFS work item types, you can specify a field to hold the name of a user like in the Assigned To field.  The value that gets stored is basically just a string value of the person’s Display Name in Active Directory.  Not so bad except it’s not a strongly-typed object of a user but is just a string.  The problem comes when the user’s display name gets changed in Active Directory like when an employee gets married and take’s their spouse’s last name.  This causes a problem because all of the work items are still assigned to “Jane Doe” instead of “Jane NewLastName".  Even worse, “Jane Doe” is not even a valid user any longer so the work item becomes in an invalid state.  It’s kind of a maintenance nightmare.

Background:  Every hour an Active Directory synchronization job gets queued up and processes changes to Active Directory like new users, group membership changes, etc.  TFS keeps a cache of AD locally to help with operations across several subsystems.  For users, it caches certain information like the primary e-mail address, display name, domain/user name, SID, distinguished name, etc.

Thankfully there was something that helped us out available in the TFS Power Tools release called “TFS Users.”  You had to know about the display name change so working closely with your IT department was important.  Thankfully, it looks like TFS 2010 has added some abilities to notice those display name changes and proactively help you out within your system.  One of those changes is a new attribute in your work item type definitions that tells TFS which fields to automatically update.  I’ve bolded and underlined all of the changes from the previous default definition of the MSF Agile Bug.

<FIELD name="Assigned To" refname="System.AssignedTo" type="String" syncnamechanges="true" reportable="dimension">
  <HELPTEXT>The person currently working on this bug</HELPTEXT>
<FIELD name="Activated By" refname="Microsoft.VSTS.Common.ActivatedBy" type="String" syncnamechanges="true" reportable="dimension">
  <WHENNOTCHANGED field="System.State">
    <READONLY />
<FIELD name="Changed By" refname="System.ChangedBy" type="String" syncnamechanges="true" reportable="dimension">
<FIELD name="Closed By" refname="Microsoft.VSTS.Common.ClosedBy" type="String" syncnamechanges="true" reportable="dimension">
  <WHENNOTCHANGED field="System.State">
    <READONLY />
<FIELD name="Created By" refname="System.CreatedBy" type="String" syncnamechanges="true" reportable="dimension" />
<FIELD name="Authorized As" refname="System.AuthorizedAs" type="String" syncnamechanges="true" />
<FIELD name="Resolved By" refname="Microsoft.VSTS.Common.ResolvedBy" type="String" syncnamechanges="true" reportable="dimension"> <WHENNOTCHANGED field="System.State"> <ALLOWEXISTINGVALUE /> <READONLY /> </WHENNOTCHANGED> </FIELD>

If you have custom process templates or you have modified the out of the box process templates, you’ll have to do some maintenance to your existing team projects to light up the new TFS 2010 features available including the ability to automatically sync the name changes from Active Directory.  If you are using the MSF Agile template you will want to update the following fields:

  • Assigned To
  • Activated By
  • Changed By
  • Closed By
  • Created By
  • Authorized As
  • Resolved By

For all other process templates, you’ll want to update the work item types that have fields that hold display name values.  There is actually some great information already available about this particular topic available in the MSDN Library:

One of the other things we notice from the changes are the addition of the ALLOWEXISTINGVALUE rule to some of the fields.  This rule allows a previously entered value to still be valid even if that value is no longer a valid value.  In addition, there are also some state/transition rule changes for allowing the existing value.  Be sure to do a diff against your current work item type definition and the new MSF Agile work item type definitions to find all of the new changes.

For more information about managing work item type fields in TFS, see this MSDN Library Article:


Ed Blankenship