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Use Labels to Take a Snapshot of Your Files

Labels let you take a snapshot of your files so that at a later date you can refer back to that snapshot. By using your label, you can view, build, or even roll back a large set of files to the state they were in when you applied the label.

Required permissions

To apply a label, you must have the Label permission set to Allow. To find, list, or view labels, you must have the Read permission set to Allow. To modify or delete a label, you must own the label or have the Administer Labels permission set to Allow.

In this article

In many software projects, when the code has reached a reasonable level of quality and stability, the team will build and release a new version of the product. The team needs to mark the current version of each file so that even as the files continue to change, the team can still get and build the new version of every file in their project.

Theoretically, you could record the ID of each changeset for each file manually; but clearly this kind of process is not practical. Team Foundation version control makes the job simple: You apply a label to the folder, branch, or team project that contains the files. You can give the label a name that follows whatever naming convention you prefer. Some examples of label names include: "Sprint 5", "M1", "Beta2", and "Release Candidate 0".

After you have applied the label, you can use it to qualify operations such as building, branching, merging, comparing, and getting specific versions of files and folders.

Sometimes after you apply a label you decide that you need to change it. Team Foundation version control enables you to apply a label to additional files, remove a label from certain files, and even to modify which version of a specific file to which the label applies.

TipTip

Applying a label provides many of the same benefits as creating a branch, but typically with lower cost and complexity.

TipTip

When you use Visual Studio to apply a label that already exists, the operation removes the label from all file versions and then applies the label. From the command prompt, however, the label operation is additive. See Label Command.

Apply a label

  1. In Source Control Explorer, open the shortcut menu for the collection, team project, branch, folder, or file to which you want to apply a label and choose Advanced, Apply Label.

    The New Label dialog box appears.

  2. In the Name box, type a name for the label.

  3. (Optional) Type your comments in the Comment box.

  4. In the Version list, Latest Version is selected by default. This option is the one most typically used, but if you need the label to target a specific version, select:

    • Changeset: Specify the number of the changeset in the Changeset box. Alternatively, choose the ellipses () to open the Find Changesets dialog box. For more information, see Find and View Changesets.

    • Date: Specify a date in the Date box or select a date from the calendar on the drop-down menu.

    • Label: Specify an existing label upon which to base the new label. Either type the label name in the Label box, or choose the ellipses () to open the Find Label dialog box. For more information, see Find, Edit, and Remove Labels.

    • Workspace Version: The label is created for the version in your workspace.

  5. When you are satisfied with your settings, perform one of the following steps:

    • To apply the label, choose Create.

    • To apply the label and then modify it after it has been applied, choose Create and Edit. This applies the label and then displays the Label window. For more information about using the Label window to edit a label, see Use the Label Window to Work with Labels.

NoteNote

When you apply a label using a name that already exists, the system warns you and asks if you want to continue. If you choose OK to continue, any items not contained in the path to which you are applying the label will no longer have that label.

While you cannot modify the name of an existing label, you can easily apply a new label to exactly the same files and same versions to which another label applies.

Apply a label based on an existing label

  1. In Source Control Explorer, open the shortcut menu for the project collection node (the root node), and then choose Advanced, Apply Label.

    The New Label dialog box appears.

  2. In the Name box, type a name for the label.

  3. (Optional) In the Comment box, type a comment.

  4. In Version list, select Label.

    The Label box appears.

  5. Perform one of the following steps:

    • Type the name of the existing label.

    • If you are not sure of the name of the existing label, choose the browse button with the ellipses (…) next to the Label box.

      The Find Label dialog box appears.

      Use the options in the Find Label dialog box to filter the list of labels and find the existing label to which you want to apply the new label. (For more information, see Find, Edit, and Remove Labels.)

  6. Choose Create.

  7. (Optional) After you have created the new label, you can remove the old label. For more information, see Find, Edit, and Remove Labels.

There are two ways to list and find labels: the Find Label dialog box and the Label tab in the History window. After you find the label you are interested in, you can then view it, edit it, remove it, or work with the files to which it applies.

Find and work with labels by using the Find Label dialog box

  1. In Source Control Explorer, on the menu bar choose File, Source Control, Find, Find Label.

    The Find Label dialog box appears.

  2. (Optional) Refine your search by performing one or more of the following steps:

    • In the Name text box, type the name of the label.

    • In the Project list, select the team project that contains the label that you want to find.

    • In the Owner text box, type the name or alias of the owner of the label.

  3. Choose Find.

    The Results list displays labels that match the search criteria that you entered.

  4. (Optional) Perform one of the following steps:

    • To view or edit a label, select it and choose Edit.

      The Label window appears. For more information, see Use the Label Window to Work with Labels.

    • To delete a label, select it and choose Delete.

    • Choose Close.

Sometimes you may not be sure of the name of a label, but you know that the label was applied to a particular item under version control. The following procedure explains how to find and then work with a label in this situation.

List and work with labels that apply to a specific item

  1. In Source Control Explorer, open the shortcut menu for the item to which the label you want to find applies, and then choose View History.

    The History window appears.

  2. Choose the Labels tab to display the list of labels that apply to this item.

  3. (Optional) Perform one of the following steps:

    • To view or edit a label, open its shortcut menu and choose Edit Label.

      The Label window appears. For information about how to use this window, see Use the Label Window to Work with Labels.

    • To delete a label, open its shortcut menu and choose Delete Label.

    • Open the shortcut menu for the label and choose other actions such as Get This Version, and Compare.

For more information about how to use the label tab in the History window, see Get the History of an Item.

Labeling a set of files is like taking a snapshot of how they existed at a certain point in time. Weeks or months after you have taken this snapshot, you may need to view or work with the files as they existed in that snapshot. The following procedure explains how to download the labeled versions of a set of files to your workspace.

Download labeled versions of files to your workspace

  1. In Source Control Explorer, open the shortcut menu for the project collection, team project, branch, or folder that contains the items you want to download and then choose Advanced, Get Specific Version.

    The Get dialog box appears.

  2. From the Type list, select Label, and then either type the label name in the Label box, or choose the ellipses () to open the Find Label dialog box. For more information about how to use this dialog box, see Find, Edit, and Remove Labels.

  3. Review, and if appropriate, select any of the additional options in the Get dialog box.

  4. Choose Get.

After you have opened the Label window by using one of the preceding procedures, you are ready to begin working with the label. At the top of the window is a box that displays the comment, which you can edit if you want.

You can use the Label window to perform the following tasks:

  • Add an item to the label

  • Remove an item from the label

  • Change the version of a file

  • Perform other actions on an item

Add an item to the label

  1. In the Label window, choose Add Item.

    The Choose Item Version dialog box appears.

  2. In the Choose Item Version dialog box, navigate to and then select the item that you want to add.

    TipTip

    You can press and hold the CONTROL or SHIFT keys and then select multiple items.

  3. (Optional) If you need the label to target a specific version, from the Version list, select:

    • Latest Version: The label will be applied to the latest version that is in version control.

    • Changeset: Specify the number of the changeset in the Changeset box. Alternatively, choose the ellipses () to open the Find Changesets dialog box. For more information, see Find and View Changesets.

    • Date: Specify a date in the Date box or select a date from the calendar on the drop-down menu.

    • Label: Specify an existing label upon which to base the new label. Either type the label name in the Label box, or choose the ellipses () to open the Find Label dialog box. For more information, see Find, Edit, and Remove Labels.

    • Workspace Version: The label is created for the version in your workspace.

  4. Choose OK.

  5. Choose File, Save.

Remove an item from the label

  1. In the Label window, locate the collection, team project, branch, folder, or file that you want to remove from this label.

  2. Open the shortcut menu for the item and choose Remove from Label.

    The label is removed from the item. If the item is a project collection, team project, branch, or folder, then the label is also removed from all the items it contains.

  3. Choose File, Save.

Change the version of a file

  1. In the Label window, locate the file that you want to modify.

  2. Open the shortcut menu for the file and choose Change Labeled Version.

  3. The Change Labeled Version dialog box appears.

  4. Select:

    • Latest Version: Apply the label to the latest version that is in version control.

    • Changeset: Specify the number of the changeset in the Changeset box. Alternatively, choose the ellipses () to open the Find Changesets dialog box. For more information, see Find and View Changesets.

    • Date: Specify a date in the Date box or select a date from the calendar on the drop-down menu.

    • Label: Specify an existing label upon which to base the new label. Either type the label name in the Label box, or choose the ellipses () to open the Find Label dialog box. For more information, see Find, Edit, and Remove Labels.

    • Workspace Version: The label is created for the version in your workspace.

  5. Choose File, Save.

When you open the shortcut menu for an item in the Label window, you can also choose one of the following commands:

  • Label Command Apply or remove a label.

    TipTip

    When you use this command to apply a label, you can specify a scope other than the team project.

  • Labels Command List labels.

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