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Getting Started with Visual Studio Application Lifecycle Management

This topic contains an updated excerpt from an October 2009 post on Jason Zander's blog that offers a compelling value proposition for Visual Studio Team Foundation Server and practical guidance for getting started. If you are already familiar with Team Foundation Server and want to get started, this topic also contains links to appropriate topics based on your role on the software development team.

Zander is the corporate vice president of Visual Studio. The screenshots in this topic have been updated to reflect the final version of the product.

In this topic

The new Basic configuration for Team Foundation Server gives you an easy to set up version of Team Foundation Server that supports source control, work items, and builds. It is a great place to migrate your Visual SourceSafe assets and pick up new features in the process. I wanted to do a walk through on how to get started using the system. 

This post will be most helpful for those of you who have not installed or used Team Foundation Server before. Team Foundation Server can support sophisticated environments that include reporting, integration with SharePoint Products, support across multiple domains, distributed databases, etc. I’m not going to cover any of that here. Instead my goal is to help you understand "why Team Foundation Server" and how you can get started using the system. 

First let’s talk about "why Team Foundation Server?" The goal of Team Foundation Server is to create a central repository with a set of tools that make it really easy to collaborate between roles. You could try to stitch together multiple disparate systems as follows:

Why Team Foundation Server

In this case each system has its own storage, own set of identity for assets, own commands and tools. Getting this going is like trying to hook up a set of custom stereo components: you can pull it off but it’s going to be a lot of work and you are missing out on some stuff.

What I’d rather have is a system which can integrate these items together and then enable my default work flow through the system:

Better integration

This integration enables some very common scenarios. In a typical day I’m going to edit source code, build the product, test it, file bugs, fix them, lather/rinse/repeat. When the entire work flow is supported with one integrated repository then all items can be related to each other. As an example when I check in bug fixes I’d really like to see those defects resolved with the change set recorded (see sample below).

The Basic configuration of Team Foundation Server allows you to do precisely this which is a big improvement over just having source control. The full version of Team Foundation Server then adds new features including automated testing, virtual lab deployment, and architectural validation (to name a few). This expands your work flow as follows:

Expanded work flow

You can decide which of these new components you add when you use Visual Studio.

There are many ways to access Team Foundation Server. As an engineer your most typical access point will be a version of Visual Studio. But if you are a tester you can use the new Test Manager product (no Visual Studio install necessary). If you are a project manager, you can also use the Web interface, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Project, or (new for Visual Studio 2010) Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 support for dashboards. More on this later. (For more information, see Role-Based Tasks for Team Foundation Server 2010 - editor's note).

In the rest of this post I will give you some step by step instructions on how to get going with Team Foundation Server using the basic configuration for your first project.

Getting Started

Now that you have the conceptual level it’s time to hook things up. You should start by doing the steps listed in Brian Harry’s Team Foundation Server post here. This will get all the required software on your machine with a default collection, creatively enough called DefaultCollection.

At this point we can connect to the Team Foundation Server collection from Visual Studio. The easiest way to accomplish this is to use the Team Menu (you can also use the link from the home page):

Connect to Team Foundation Server

You will be asked to find the Server where Team Foundation Server lives. In this case my Windows 7 machine is called JLZW7. Add the server to the list using the Add button, then click Close:

Add the server

At this point you can select the server from the combo box and then the DefaultCollection, then click Connect:

Click connect

The Team Explorer tab will now have your server connection and DefaultCollection, but we don’t yet have a Team Foundation Server Project to store anything in yet:

Team Explorer

For this tutorial I have created a new Windows Form project to act as our sample solution (File, New Project, Windows Forms). If you try to add this new code project to source control, you will get an error. For example:

Add new Windows Form project

After you select the "Add Solution to Source Control" menu item you get the error "No team project source control folders are available.":

No team project source control folders error

The error isn’t that intuitive (especially given the word project is used for both Team Foundation Server and inside your Visual Studio code solution but are different things). The error means you must create an actual Team Foundation Server project to contain all of the assets for your work. In Team Explorer, right-click your collection and choose New Team Project:

Create team project

In this case I’m going to create a Team Foundation Server project for an Accounts Payable system. This project will contain all of the solutions, data, etc required for the overall system. After entering the data, click Next:

Name the team project

The Agile template is the default but you can also select CMMI. You can find more details on MSDN about the project template types. If you are using any agile methodologies (like TDD) this is a fine choice. After making a choice, just click Finish:

Select a process template

You will get various status updates as the project is being created:

Stauts update on team project creation

After success, click the Close button:

Success creating team project

Team Explorer will now have the project ready to hold Work Items, Builds, and Source Control:

New project appears in Team Explorer

At this point you can update the project collection. Let’s add the new solution to Team Foundation Server again. Right-click the project in the Solution Explorer and select Add Solution to Source Control:

Add solution to source control

At this point you could create a new folder in Team Foundation Server for the solution or just take the default. When you are happy, click the OK button:

Store solution on Team Foundation Server

Upon success the Solution Explorer will now show the files are under source control (see the ‘+’ symbol in front of the files):

Solution explorer with newly added solution

You will also see the list source control actions taken to publish the solution. Add a comment and then click Check-In:

Check in solution to source control

Confirm the check-in by clicking Yes.

Confirm check in

At this point your new solution is in Team Foundation Server and ready for Work Items.

Work Items

You can create work items directly inside Visual Studio using the Team Explorer, through the web front end, and the Test Manager tool. To look at your work items, open the Team Explorer and expand Work Items, Team Queries, Iteration 1. You can then double-click any query (such as Active Bugs) to see any items available to you:

Create work items

Our Team Foundation Server project is empty so there are no active bugs in the list:

Team project with no active bugs

Let’s create a new item just to get us in business. Select the Team, New Work Item menu. Here you can create several types of work items to track features, defects, etc. We’ll select Bug to get going:

New work item menu

Enter any data you want for the new bug and click Save Work Item to commit it to the database:

Create a bug work item

If you now refresh your active bug query list, you will see the new bug:

Refresh query to see new bug

Let’s add a real bug to fix our project. In my example I just created a default Windows Forms application. We’ll want to update the title:

Second bug in new project

Now we need to fix the bug. Navigate back to the Solution Explorer, select Form1.cs then choose Check Out for Edit:

Check out file from source control

Click the Check Out button to confirm:

Confirm check out

The file will now have a check mark next to it so you know it is open for edit:

File checked out of source control

As you update the Text property of the main window, Visual Studio will automatically check out any dependent files for you:

Visual Studio checks out additional files

This is a Windows Forms application but it works on all solution/project types. Now that we are happy with the code change, select the Pending Changes tab in the bottom of Visual Studio:

Select pending changes

In this case we are fixing a bug, so click the Work Items icon button:

Select the work item button

Select bug #2 which tracks our title error. We are going to resolve it with this check-in:

Associate bug with check in

Add any comments you want and click Check-In, then Yes to confirm:

Add comments to check in

Confirm check in

If you refresh bug #2, you will now see the status changed to Resolved and the history is updated:

Associated bug automatically resolved

Notice the change set (the set of source control changes) have been automatically included in the history.

Change set added to history

At this point you could continue to create and fix bugs as required to ship your solution.

Other Ways to Explore Team Foundation Server

I mentioned that you don’t have to use Visual Studio itself to access the Team Foundation Server repository. We’ve done a lot of deep integration with other clients like the Web and Microsoft Office. As an example, I can simply pull up my web browser and go right to my server by using the server name (where 8080 is the default port): http:// jlzw7:8080/tfs/

Browse to Team Web Access

At this point I can explore my collections and projects. If you select the new AccountsPayable project we just created then the Continue button, you get more details. In this case by navigating to the Work Items tab I can find the bugs in the system including our newly resolved bug:

Team project in Team Web Access

This is a really easy way to explore your project from any machine with no setup required. There is similar support for using Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Project, etc. This kind of access makes it easy for all people working on your project (engineers and project managers) to work together.

At this point you have a very useful set of assets you can use to get your job done. For those of you using Visual SourceSafe today, you might be very happy with just this level of support. You can put down this tutorial now and come back later if you want to try some advanced features, for example the testing scenario I showed using beta 1 in this tutorial.

Build Support

The next typical part of your work flow will be to automate your builds for the product. Assuming you followed Brian’s installation instructions, you now have local build support on your machine with Team Foundation Server. The first step is to navigate to the Team Explorer, right-click Build Definitions, and select New Build Definition:

Create new build definition

This will give us a set of definitions to fill out, just like a code project property page:

Build definition page

The Trigger page allows us to decide when builds are kicked off. You have many options to pick from:

  • Manual is the default and the option we will use. We will have to kick off our own builds with this option.

  • Continuous Integration is very helpful when you want to have a new build after every check-in. This allows you to validate new changes right away rather than waiting later when many check-ins get mixed together.

  • Rolling builds give you a way to batch changes together which is very handy when builds are starting to take a while and you can’t afford to do every one.

  • Gated Check-ins allow you to ensure all check-ins build before they are committed to Team Foundation Server. This makes sure you never expose a build break to other members of your team.

  • Scheduled builds are useful for getting a daily build out for the entire team to try out.

You can create and use many different build definitions which allow you to employ different build types for different purposes.

You can explore all the tabs at your leisure (each is fully documented with the product). But we need to resolve the yellow warning sign on Build Defaults by giving the build a place to store our new build, in this case a public UNC I created on my machine:

Add UNC path to buld defaults

Now you can save the build definition to Team Foundation Server. If we go back to the Team Explorer we can queue a build of the project:

Queue new build

We’ll get a confirmation dialog where we can just select the Queue button:

Queue build prompt

This will then queue off a build on my machine as shown by the status page:

Build added to queue

If you double-click the queued build you will get the detailed status of the build:

Detailed status of queued build

From here you can see warnings and errors, view the log file, navigate to the drop, etc. As an example if you select the "View Log File" link you can see the executed build script (subset):

Build script from log file

If you select the Open Drop Folder link you will be taken to our drop location:

Build drop location

Now anyone can pick up the build and do their daily testing, release to a customer, etc.

At this point you really have everything you need to make full use of the basic features of Team Foundation Server. 

When a team gets started with Visual Studio Application Lifecycle Management (ALM), the administrator sets up the server, the project manager creates a team project, and the other team members set up their working environments. The links in the rest of this topic guide you through the tasks of getting started with Team Foundation Server based on the following software development roles:

Tasks for the Administrator of Team Foundation

  1. If you followed the tutorial earlier in this topic, you installed Team Foundation Server by using the basic configuration. However, you may need to perform different installation tasks, including upgrading a previous installation of Team Foundation Server or performing a custom installation of Team Foundation Server or one of its prerequisites.

    For more information, see this topic on the Microsoft Web site: Installation Guide for Team Foundation.

  2. If you followed the tutorial earlier in this topic, you were automatically granted all the required permissions for project creation during installation of Team Foundation Server. You may want to grant additional users the permissions that they need to act as administrators, project administrators, and other roles. 

    For more information, see Configuring Users, Groups, and Permissions.

  3. Create a maintenance plan that will help ensure that your data is backed up in case of a hardware failure or other event. For more information, see Backing up and Restoring Your Deployment.

  4. If any of your teams will use Visual Studio Lab Management, install Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manager, configure Lab Management, and create your virtual environments.

    For more information, see Configuring Lab Management for the First Time.

  5. If any of your teams will deploy builds and run tests remotely, install test controllers and test agents on physical or virtual machines.

    For more information, see Setting Up Test Machines to Run Tests or Collect Data.

  6. If you followed the tutorial earlier in this topic, you installed Team Foundation Build by using the basic configuration. However, you may need to perform certain management tasks to get the build environment that you require.

    For more information, see Administering Team Foundation Build.

  7. Review the options for changing or modifying your deployment as your operational needs change. For more information, see Managing the Server Configuration.

Tasks for the Project Manager

  1. Install the client or clients of Team Foundation that you will use.

    For more information, see Installing Visual Studio.

  2. Determine your project resource requirements and the project collection in which you will create a team project.

    For more information, see Quick Start Guide to Launching a Team Project.

  3. Choose a process template.

    For more information, see Choose a Process Template.

  4. In Team Explorer, create a team project.

    For more information, see Create a Team Project.

  5. (Optional) Define the product areas and milestones for your team project.

    For more information, see Create and Modify Areas and Iterations.

  6. Grant team members the permissions that they need to work in the team project.

    For more information, see Add Users to Team Projects.

  7. (Optional) Grant additional permissions to specific team members.

    You or another administrator may need to provide additional permissions to team members who will be responsible for managing the source code under Team Foundation version control, managing builds, managing tests and the lab environment for testing, and other project-level activities. Specific permissions can be assigned to individual team members or groups.

    For more information, see the following sections in Team Foundation Server Permissions:

    • Build-level permissions

    • Project-level permissions

    • Area and iteration-level permissions for work item tracking

    • Version control permissions

    • Lab management permissions

  8. (Optional) Grant report authors additional permissions.

    To create or modify reports that access data that is stored in the data warehouse, team members must have read access to the databases that make up the data warehouse. For more information, see Grant Access to the Databases of the Data Warehouse for Visual Studio ALM

  9. Notify team members of team project resources and enrollment activities.

    For more information, see Notify Team Members of Team Project Resources.

  10. Plan your product.

    If your team project is based on the process template for MSF for Agile Software Development v5.0, you can create your product backlog by using the Product Planning workbook. You can use the Product Planning workbook to manage the backlog of user stories and balance the workload across several iterations, also known as sprints. For more information, see Product Planning Workbook.

    If your team project is based on the process template for MSF for CMMI Process Improvement v5.0, you can use the Product Requirements team query to start to plan your product. You can open this query in Office Excel, add requirements, and then publish them to Team Foundation. You can also use Office Project to plan and schedule your project. For more information, see the following topics:

Tasks for the Version Control and Build Managers

  1. Configure version control.

    For more information, see Administering Team Foundation Version Control.

  2. If you are using Team Foundation Build, create build definitions for each of your team projects.

    For more information, see Building the Application.

Tasks for Individual Team Members

  1. Install the client or clients of Team Foundation that you will use.

    For more information, see Installing Visual Studio.

  2. Set up your workspace for version control.

    For more information, see Create a Workspace to Work with your Team Project and Placing Files under Version Control.

  3. Familiarize yourself with creating, modifying, and finding tasks and other work items.

    For more information, see Getting Started Tracking Work.

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