Tools

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This is the second article about Ten Must-Have Tools Every TFS User Should Download Now.

Part I discusses:

Part II discusses:

You cannot expect to build a first-class project unless you use the best available tools. Besides well-known tools such as Visual Studio┬« .NET and Team Foundation Server, there are a multitude of small, lesser-known tools available from the .NET community. In this article, I'm going to introduce you to some of the best free tools available today that target project development. I'll walk you through a quick tutorial of how to use each of them, some of which will save you a minute here and there, while others may completely change the way that you work. Because I am squeezing so many different tools into this single article, I will not be able to cover each of them extensively, but you should learn enough about each to decide which tools are useful for your projects.

Workitem Event Subscription
In TFS there are a lot of things which can't be realized with the Team Explorer. These special methods are hidden for default user and can only be called by using the command-line. One of these things is subscribing to events. Lots of people have trouble creating filter expressions for event subscriptions, and managing subscriptions. We do have bissubscribe.exe tool that helps with creating subscriptions. But creating subscription expressions is hard because of its syntax. Also, that tool doesn't give a way to view existing subscriptions to unsubscribe them. This excellent tool will do this for you.

Note: This tool as name says only add WorkItem events to the TFS Server. It would be nice if you could add Filters to other event types as well.

http://blogs.msdn.com/narend/archive/2006/07/26/679440.aspx

TFSAlert
Is a .Net 3.0 smart client which monitors for user selected TFS events and will display a balloon window in the Windows TaskBar Notification Area. It is built on top of WCF where you can subscribe to any TFS event you feel fit. It's initial focus is around Team Build management but will also include features around Work Item tracking. For extra information about WCF, read this excellent blog series of my colleague.

Note: This tool has some commonalities with the email messages of Outlook. Outlook will also show you a balloon and will even store it in your Inbox, so you can easily find again. Only with this tool you'll get a specific balloon based on the event type. Unfortunately this balloons don't contains any hyperlinks for showing detailed information about the Workitem and its way for subscribing to events is to barbarian. You have to edit the app.config to subscribe to several events. It would be nice if they integrated some features of Workitem Event Subscription tool.

http://www.codeplex.com/Wiki/View.aspx?ProjectName=TfsAlert

TFS Bug Snapper
Tool that allows to simplify the process of attaching screen captures and bug descriptions to work items in Team Foundation Server.

Note: The tool works like hell, except it creates a Task WorkItem instead of Bug WorkItem. I don't know why Grant build it this way.

http://www.holliday.com.au/blog/tfs-bug-snapper-v10-released.html

TFS Permission Manager
Working with Team Foundation Server we have to perform various repeating task related to user declaration and permission setting.

Note: I know there is also another TFSAdmin tool, but this tool is a lot more stable than the other one. Besides this if you upgrade your TFS to WSS v3 as I described in my Guide, you won't be able to administrator WSS anymore.

http://blogs.microsoft.co.il/blogs/srlteam/archive/2006/11/27/TFS-Permission-Manager-1.0-is-Finally-out.aspx

Summary
While this article has been dedicated to freely available tools, there are also a host of tools that can be purchased for a reasonable price. I encourage you to check out these other options, as in some cases they can add some tremendous functionality to the TFS. This article has been a quick tour of some of the best freely available tools for TFS. Each of these tools may only do a small thing, but together they help to increase your productivity and enable you to create better projects.

Besides this Microsoft could integrate or add some off the tools from the TFS community to TFS. Microsoft could use a trimmed-UI, so only the users containing the right permissions, could see and use these tools. Maybe we see some of these in 'Orcas' or 'Hawaii'.

 

Before I begun to write this blog I had in mind to name this blog Ten Must-Have Tools Every TFS User Should Download Now. I thought this was a good start because there are so many tools out there. But while testing them I found out, most of them are still in Beta phase and really buggy. Others are not doing what the claim to do or don't work at all. Besides that some tools comes in suites or are from the same author. So it was hard to find ten must-have tools, but while writing this blog two extra tools were released so I still hit the ten.

I have divided the tools by supplier not in any particular order.

Part I discusses:

Part II discusses:

  • Naren Datha (Workitem Event Subscription)
  • Clark Sell (TFSAlert)
  • Grant Holiday (TFS Bug Snapper)
  • Leon Langleyben (TFS Permission Manager)

You cannot expect to build a first-class project unless you use the best available tools. Besides well-known tools such as Visual Studio┬« .NET and Team Foundation Server, there are a multitude of small, lesser-known tools available from the .NET community. In this article, I'm going to introduce you to some of the best free tools available today that target project development. I'll walk you through a quick tutorial of how to use each of them, some of which will save you a minute here and there, while others may completely change the way that you work. Because I am squeezing so many different tools into this single article, I will not be able to cover each of them extensively, but you should learn enough about each to decide which tools are useful for your projects.

Policy Template Editor
To implement methodologies effectively and consistently, it is important to know the processes and artifacts of your methodologies. This article describes the full cycle of defining a new process template, which is a complex task. The Visual Studio Team System Customization Toolkit contains everything you need to graphically manage process templates, work item types and global lists. The latest release, the Process Template Editor, simplifies the customization of VSTS templates with an easy to use GUI. This tool can work directly on live TFS projects, or work disconnected on a downloaded process template.

Note: It would have been nice if you could extend or modify plugins and groups. To arrange a feature like this the tool will have to have its own plugins as well. Maybe in the near future.

http://www.gotdotnet.com/workspaces/workspace.aspx?id=812a68af-5e74-48c6-9623-1a4469142a84

Annotate
Annotate is a version control feature that enables you to quickly and easily determine who last changed a section of code.  It traverses the history of a file and "annotates" each line with the name of the user that last changed it and the change set # of the checkin.

Note: You can access Annotate using the Source Control Explorer or Solution Explorer right click menus or using the File -> Source Control menu when editing a file under version control. Unfortunately you only see al moderators of the code compared to the latest code. For Deletions or previous changes on a line you still have to use the history of a file.

TreeDiff
Annotate is a version control feature that enables you to compare two folder structures, highlight the differences and take action to resolve them.  You can compare your local working folders to the server, two local folders or two server folders (e.g. branches).

Note: You can access TreeDiff using the "Compare..." menu option on the context menu on the folder tree in the Source Control Explorer. It's not possible to see which version number or label you are comparing too.

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?familyid=3F21144A-4E98-4CE0-830F-D1F3E8AC9D67&displaylang=en

Team Foundation Sidekicks
Team Foundation Sidekicks is a suite of tools for Microsoft Team Foundation Server Administrators and advanced users providing Graphic User Interface for administrative and advanced version control tasks in multi-user TFS environments.

History Sidekick - Status Sidekick is a tool for viewing different aspects of item (folder or file) history in Graphic User Interface. The information displayed includes item changeset history, item properties and pending changes, item branches, item merge history (merges from or merges to item), item merge candidates from different branches and item labels. 

Status Sidekick - Status Sidekick is a tool for administrators and advanced users providing Graphic User Interface for viewing pending changes filtered by multiple criteria and for performing version control operations (such as Unlock or Undo) on selected changes. This tool can be compared with the functionality of wildcard search in SourceSafe.

Workspace Sidekick - Workspace Sidekick is a tool for administrators and advanced users providing Graphic User Interface for viewing and performing administrative changes on TFS workspaces. This tool gives some extra information about your workspaces, but compared to workspace info of Visual Studio it is not really as powerful as the other two tools.

Team Foundation Sidekick add-in
If you would like to modify a Build file in TFS, you first have to check it out. While working with Team Explorer, I couldn't believe Microsoft totally forgot to extend their context menu for the the Build files. This add-in extends the functionality available in Team Explorer for Team Build types and provides additional integration features for TFS Source Control Explorer.

The add-in allows version control operations for selected build type to be performed in Team Explorer. It provides the following commands:

  • Check out selected build type .proj file with single click
  • Edit checked out build type either in Visual Studio or in user's editor of choice
  • Check in modified build type files with single click
  • Undo check in on build type files
  • Configure what editor will be used for editing .proj files and additional add-in options

Microsoft Build Sidekick
MSBuild Sidekick is a tool for MSBuild Engine users providing Graphic User Interface front-end for editing MSBuild project files. The build project files may be either created as Microsoft Visual Studio 2005 build projects or as Team Foundation Team Build build types. The application provides concise and efficient GUI for the purpose of creating, modifying or removing any element supported by MSBuild schema, so in-depth knowledge of XSD schema details becomes unnecessary.

http://www.attrice.info/

Note: These guys delivered some terrific tools and if you have any comments or complaints about just let them know

Summary
While this article has been dedicated to freely available tools, there are also a host of tools that can be purchased for a reasonable price. I encourage you to check out these other options, as in some cases they can add some tremendous functionality to the TFS. This article has been a quick tour of some of the best freely available tools for TFS. Each of these tools may only do a small thing, but together they help to increase your productivity and enable you to create better projects. Check out mine second article in few days.