Sunday, November 2, 2014

Tfs Branch Tool for Visual Studio 2013

This week I published a beta 1 of the TFS Branch tool for VS 2013. The reason for shipping a Beta 1 is mainly to get a version supporting VS 2013 out there, as more and more request and ask for it comes in. The reason ¬for calling it Beta 1 is that it contains a couple of new features, witch I want feedback on, and they haven’t had time to go through the amount of testing I want before releasing it as a final version

What’s new
Apart from supporting VS 2013, the following news is introduced.
  • Improved distribution / support for customizations
    The tool now automatically load branch plans from source control.
  • Dynamic menus – Go direct to the operation you want
    You can now select the desired operation directly in the menu instead of selecting the form
  • New action for Copy File or FileStructure
    You can now modify the branch plan to add files or a part of a file structure to source control.
I’ll go through the different news in more details below. But first I want to share my thoughts on the why some of this features is introduced and the direction for the tool I have in mind.
The future branch tool
My goal with the branch tool is that it should add value to team by helping them automate some of the manual processes we have with branch and merge to day. The first step is enable team to easily customize the branch plans.
Once that is done, we need to provide a way to let the tool understand and adopt to the teams context. If the tool could know witch branch is the current dev and main branches, the tool could present Operations like Forward and Reverse integration and prepopulate the needed parameters accordingly.

Another direction is to be able to automate the whole flow. Then a team decide to release a build, it could simply select a New Release operation, Select witch of the main branch builds to release., provide some parameters and let the tool Find the build, lock it, branch the main code for that build to a release branch, set security on it and generate the release notes from the previous release.

In short there is a lot that could be accomplished, it’s just the small issue of taking it from a vision or idea into a working solution. Meanwhile you can read below on that’s been delivered in this release.

Improved distribution / support for customizations
Although the capability to modify or customize the branching strategies was a key architectural concern, one of the epics that didn’t make it into the ALM ranger project and first version of the Community Tool was the capability to easily distribute the customizations made. This made it hard to actually do a customization in the real world. This problem is hopefully now solved!

The new version of the tool automatically check in source control for any customizations made and loads them with higher priority than the default templates. To add and distribute your own branch plans , just checkin the .branchplan file to a folder BranchToolSettings in the root folder of your teamproject.
Dynamic menus – Go direct to the operation you want
In the new version, the Branch Tool Menu is now automatically populated with the different branchplans or operations, so you can select directly in the menu what you want to do.

New Add File or File structure actions
A common ask has been to be able to include a predefined set of files or a file structure then performing the operations. Now you can both add files and file structures, both from the local filesystem/unc path or from a source control path.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Extending Manul Notifications to the web

In the last post I wrote about Manual Notifications and the Visual Studio extension for Manual Notification which I created. In this post I’ll show a solution to bring Manual Notifications to all clients and users of your project.

VS Extension a first step. When I started developing the TFS Notify VS extension I knew from the start that it would only server as a first quick fix, as it only is available inside Visual Studio. For the many users who interacts with TFS through the Web interface, we need to provide something different. Unfortunately Microsoft hasn’t released a supported way to extend the web interface, so we’re need to find another way to bring the notification feature to the web.

Customizing the Web through work item definition customizations
One of the things we can customize which affects the web interface is work item type definitions. Instead of developing a custom work item control with the wanted features, we can simply create and deploy a simple webpage and “plug” it into the work item form using the standard WebPage control, passing the needed data as parameters.

Tfs Notify Web project
As I had a decent layered WPF client, creating a web solution what does the same thing as the wpf client was most about adding a web project and providing a html view on the model, keeping the existing code shared and unchanged between the Web project and the WS extension.  The trickiest thing is probably to deploy the web solution to a server.

Tfs Notify work item customizations
Once we got a webpage, we need to add a Web Page control to the Work Item type(s) you want to enable manual notifications on. To connect it and send the parameters, just select the Control Settings property and click the button. This will bring up a form that lets you specify the URL and parameters to the webpage. You can use $(FieldName) to pass field as parameter.

The result
I choose to add the Manual Notify page in the history tab. This is the result...

Friday, April 4, 2014

TFS Notify – Manual Notifications for TFS

Ever wanted the possibility to pick a work item, email it to someone with a comment, change the state and have the comment added to the discussion of the work item? Many ticketing system have this capability, mostly called Manual notify, but as a TFS user, there hasn’t been a good solution, until now.

Manual notification
Moving a lot of teams and organizations to tfs, I sometimes come across the need for manual notifications, and this week I did again, then I occasional talked to a colleague over coffee and he complained about him being forced to do double entry of work item data, due to the lack of manual notifications in TFS.

Can’t be done
In the discussion one thing triggered me, apart from being a known feature gap, and that was the fact that my colleague had been told it couldn’t be fixed with TFS. After looking at the current solution he had in the other ticketing system, and matching it to what I have come across earlier, I had a clear picture of the need, and how to solve it.

A flu and a couple of evenings = Minimal Viable product
having a need and an idea how to solve it, the only thing lacking was time. (Un)fortunately, I had managed to catch a slight flu, which prevented me from normal, sensible,  activities during the evenings of the week. With the time at hand, and a little (but very important) help from Neno, I created the first minimal viable product to at least solve the problem for some people.

TFS Notify – a Visual Studio Extension available at Visual Studio Gallery
I choose to implement the solution as a Visual Studio extension at first hand, mainly because it is a solution that has the lowest distribution and adoption barriers and the best user experience. For me it’s also very easy to get started and productive. The extension is available for download at Visual Studio Galley

The future of TFS Notify
My immediate plans for TFS Notify is to develop a solution/extension that works with the TFS web access. Apart from that I got some ideas on the backlog for the Visual Studio extension, but as time is time is scarce and I have many ideas, the future of the TFS Notify extension is dependent on the on the traction and feedback it gets.

Alert me & Alert people for specific work items
An easy way to create alerts for me and for other people on a specific work item with one or two click, is also a fairly common ask from teams adopting TFS. The TFS Notify extension provides a platform for adding that capability fairly easy, but as usually, time is a scarce commodity 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Renewed !!!

I started the year 2014 sick in bed, and for one reason I actually think it might have been a good thing.  On the first day of the New Year, many MVP hopes to receive a renewal email, and so would I have done, if I wasn’t in bed with high fever and completely occupied with getting better.

The good thing is that if I hadn’t been occupied I would probably have become a bit nervous waiting for a renewal emails that never came. The experience of going through the mailbox a couple of days later, looking for the renewal email was enough, as there wasn’t any. Luckily I checked the Quarantined Email Summary email sent two days after, and there it was - Congratulations 2014 Microsoft MVP!  

Im both honored and proud for the recognition, but mostly Im looking forward towards another year with the warm and friendly ALM community.