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"I really like the way you can access your work items from within Outlook. I like the way you can bring up the full work item forms, make edits, and save immediately to TFS. It was great to create new meeting requests or mail messages from the work items."

Lori Lamkin
Product Unit Manager for Team Foundation Server at Microsoft

"These types of products are important to the industry."

Joel Semeniuk
CEO and co-founder of ImagiNET Resources Corp.

"I know of a good number of companies that will love having something like this - getting their timesheet management into TFS (so it can be reported on, especially) will make life a lot easier for them."

James Manning
Software Design Engineer for Visual Studio project at Microsoft

"I like the idea of being able to link work items to e-mails and meetings. I also like that it provides non-technical information workers the option of working with TFS in a more familiar environment. Congratulations to TeamExpand on the release!"

Jason Barile
Principal Test Manager for Visual Studio Team Foundation Server at Microsoft

"TX Chrono, by TeamExpand, allows users to easily track how they are spending their time, store that information in TFS, and make it available for reporting in the warehouse."

Brian Harry
Product Unit Manager for Team Foundation Server at Microsoft

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TFS Timesheet


TFS Customization with Community Build Extensions

August 19th, 2011

If you are looking into TFS customizations of builds using workflow activities, then the first thing you should pay attention to is the latest stable release of Community TFS Build Extensions.

This is a collection of about 100 activities that delivers many commonly requested functions, such as

    • running CodeMetrics and NUnit tests
    • creating a Zip archive
    • wrapping RoboCopy for deployment
    • updating AssemblyInfo files
    • running StyleCop
    • merging assemblies with ILMerge
    • and many others

There are all sorts of custom build activities and there are many more included on the backlog. The best part of this TFS customization project is that the source code is fully available for your use internally.

There are also examples that show you how to build your own custom activities as needed for TFS customization. The Community TFS Build Extensions Web site provides a place for build engineers and TFS developers to share workflow activities, build process template files, and tools for TFS customization of builds. You are welcome to provide feedback on the latest TFS customization package via Discussion and Issue Tracker tabs on the Web site.

Posted in TFS Customization | No Comments »

TFS Management with New TFS Add-ins

August 9th, 2011

The TFS team is in the process of final testing for the August release of the TFS Power Tools. These TFS add-ins allow boosting efficiency and productivity when working with Team Foundation Server. Here are the main improvements and new features of the upcoming release requested by TFS users and implemented by the TFS development team.

Windows shell extension updates

The login support was added to enable users enter their credentials when they use anything other than a domain account. This change in the Windows shell extension TFS add-in also enables you to work with hosted TFS deployments as soon as this feature is made available.

Work Item Search

A new search box on the work item tracking tool bar was added to enable to search work items within Team Explorer. This TFS add-in improvement allows doing a full text search of work items and display the results like in any other query.

Other TFS add-in improvements include:

    • Rollback to TFS was added to the UI. Now you can do rollbacks not only from the command line, but also from the Source Control Explorer
    • Build automaton utilities: a set of new features for handling build process templates was added.
    • Maven 3 support was added to the list of supported build systems for TFS build add ins. TFS now supports Ant, Maven 2 and Maven 3.
    • Setup improvements: you no longer have to uninstall the old Power Tools, you can just install the new ones and this TFS add-in will upgrade them.
    • Test Attachments clean-up: a tool that can be used to clear out old and unused test data that has been accumulated in TFS.
    • Best Practices Analyzer updates with the latest diagnostic strategy that TFS support team uses.

The download link for the new TFS add-ins will be available in a couple of weeks.

Posted in TFS Management, Visual Studio Add-ins | No Comments »

Outlook Timesheet: Top Time Tracking Features

July 1st, 2011

Efficient project time tracking requires both development and management teams to be involved in the process. At the same time, not every manager is willing to use the same time tracking tools that your development team does.

The Outlook timesheet software is the tool that your project manager s will have fun working with, as it offers many useful features in the environment familiar to them. MS Outlook supports integration with third-party add-ins, and many companies develop Outlook timesheets for ALM software, e.g. Team Foundation Server plug-ins for Outlook.

When entering time in Outlook timesheet, users only see the work items they are assigned to. This makes their pick lists as short as possible and specific to them, which simplifies reporting and enhances its accuracy and consistency. Outlook timesheet lets users report time from any location via the Web and sometimes even through their Outlook mobile clients, which is great when your project manager goes on a business trip or has a meeting outside of the office.

Here are some other features to look for in the Outlook timesheet software:

    • Automated email reminders for late timesheets, with links that put employees one-click away from their responsibility
    • Multiple timesheet formats, including daily, weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, etc.
    • Timesheet templates that ensure that time is being filled in correctly, including rules for minimum/maximum hours, national holidays, days off, sickness days, etc.
    • Setting the terminology (tasks, work items, projects, etc.) to match your organization’s terms, so when project managers first see the timesheet, they deal with familiar terms

Outlook timesheet is a powerful productivity tool that allows for accurate time tracking and improves the overall workflow in the company. With the widespread adaptation of MS technology, Outlook timesheets are now more user-friendly and intuitive than ever before.

Posted in Project Timesheet Software, Project Time Tracking | No Comments »

TFS Customization Guidance

June 16th, 2011

TFS customization helps you meet the specific needs of your organization and adjust Team foundation server to your business processes. Visual Studio ALM Rangers have recently released the Visual Studio Build Customization Guidance, which provides hands-on lab guidance for the customization and deployment of TFS build activities, such as versioning, code signing, and branching.

The TFS customization guidance package includes

    1. Scenario-based practical guidance in PDF format that contains frequently asked questions and quick reference posters.
    2. Hands-on-Labs documents providing walkthroughs of the technology and a package allowing you to setup the TFS training environment.
    3. Samples that include build process templates and videos that showcase the guidance.

The release also includes

    • tips to simplify the customization of builds
    • practical guidance to use process templates to automate build and non-build scenarios
    • tips to enable simple and flexible deployment of applications and their data stores

Hopefully, this TFS customization documentation and samples will help you better adopt Visual Studio in your organization.

Posted in TFS Training, TFS Customization | No Comments »

Project Time Tracking Best Practices

June 9th, 2011

Project time tracking initiatives help software organizations stay within budget and measure employees’ productivity. There are a number of techniques to ensure that project time tracking software implementation is beneficial to your company. I’ve tried to list the most important ones below.

Define the scope of work: Make sure the time is reported according to your business processes. Each process should be split into a number of tasks, with custom reporting requirements considered.

Set priorities
for project’s activities and make sure you note, which ones must be completed first and which ones are flexible enough to be rescheduled. This project time tracking technique can help you manage the resources appropriately.

Performance comparison: You should regularly compare the current project status with deadlines. If something happens too late or too early, you have to find out why. Carefully consider if this alteration reveals potential problems, or if you simply have under/over estimated the time it takes to complete the activity.

Deadlines and Milestones. You need to have the best estimate about how long your project will take. If your organization used a project time tracking tool before, you can do a research and compare your plan with similar projects completed.

Project time tracking is one of the important metrics that you should have as a resource manager or a team leader. However, if your organization has never had time tracking in the past, you may have some resistance from the team when you implement project time tracking software. You have to talk to the team to ensure they understand exactly why you are implementing project time tracking and what its objectives are. Good luck!

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Team Foundation Server Training: TFS on Azure

June 1st, 2011

Today, most software development companies employ some sort of source control and version management system. Still, there are those who rely on outdated processes. TFS running on Windows Azure can help such companies evaluate the benefits that quality ALM software provides and get sufficient Team Foundation Server training.

TFS on Azure is not yet officially released, most of its users are TFS development team members, but technically speaking, it is up and running now.

I see it as a great future opportunity for smaller software companies, who want to implement TFS as a try before you buy and Team Foundation server training option. TFS on Azure will help reduce implementation risks by providing an evaluation and Team Foundation Server training environment. Companies can use it to assess the capabilities that TFS has to offer and identify the best ways to solve their development challenges. TFS in the cloud will accelerate the adoption of Agile practices, improve the productivity of software development, and emphasize collaboration.

There is still work to be done to enable TFS on Azure have the same functionality and stability as the on-premise product offers, but once it’s completed, TFS in the cloud will bring not only Team Foundation Server training options, but also cost savings, and new application management practices.

Posted in Best practices, TFS Training | No Comments »

TFS Development: More ALM Capabilities in vNext

May 24th, 2011

Microsoft introduced the enhanced ALM features of the next Visual Studio release (vNext) at its Tech-Ed conference. The strategy of the ALM offering focuses on helping TFS developers, testers, and project managers collaborate in very tightly integrated ways. TFS development emphasizes the actionable feedback, diverse work styles, and transparent agile process to cover the entire cycle of creating apps.

Cameron Skinner, general manager of Visual Studio Ultimate, provided an overview of vNext ALM features that will include the following:

    • PowerPoint Storyboard Assistant tool that addresses issues of miscommunications between stakeholders and TFS development teams. It lets teams use the familiar presentation tool to imitate a user interface and allows customers to visually participate in setting user requirements.
    • Dealing with Agile components via the TFS Web portal. The TFS Web portal gives a rich view into the current backlogs and their priorities. You can manipulate TFS work items in real time just by dragging and dropping the priorities.
    • A new unit testing framework is aimed at making it as easy as possible to use different testing frameworks in one workflow.
    • Context management, such as saving and retrieving the “state” of a VS project, so it can be captured with the click of a Suspend button and then brought back up with the same files, breakpoints, window positions, and so on.
    • A new Taskboard feature added to the TFS dashboard. It gives an integrated view into work and time estimates, assignments, approvals, completed projects, and more.
    • Code clone analysis allows searching for similar code in projects. Users can select different levels of matching, such as exact, strong, medium, and weak.

Visual Studio vNext is another major step in TFS development to cover the lifecycle. These features are aimed at bringing the team together by creating trustworthy bridges that improve the flow of information across the entire team, eliminating the most common risks.

Posted in Best practices, TFS Development | No Comments »

TFS Development: Now in Java

May 16th, 2011

Team Foundation Server extendibility is a core design feature that provides great capabilities for TFS development. Up until recently Microsoft provided a .NET library only for interacting with TFS. From now on you can also use Java for TFS development, as Team Foundation Server SDK for Java was made available for download.

This is going to enable teams using Team Explorer Everywhere to fully customize their development environment, in or outside Eclipse. ISVs can enhance their TFS add in offerings with this new Java SDK for TFS development. The SDK includes the following features:

    • A redistributable JAR file containing the TFS API. It provides access to version control, work item tracking, and other TFS functionality from the Java-based application.
    • The native code libraries used by the TFS API.
    • Full API documentation in Javadoc format.
    • Code samples: custom check-in policy; custom work item controls; a set of console applications utilizing build and version control capabilities; a series of simple snippets demonstrating aspects of the API; instructions to get TFS developers started with this SDK.

This TFS development SDK for Java is a next step in making TFS an open platform that anyone can use with their favorite development tools. This is yet another proof of TFS being a profound ALM solution for heterogeneous teams.

Posted in TFS Development | No Comments »

TFS Development: Building Mobile Apps for TFS

April 28th, 2011

Microsoft has made access to the TFS object model available via the open source OData protocol, which is a great break through for the TFS development. This initiative is aimed at making it easier to build applications for multitude of devices (such as smartphones and tablets) that use data stored in Team Foundation Server.

OData exposes a way to work with data over the Web. It uses interfaces similar to REST which allows manipulating data from any device or application stack that HTTP requests.

The sampler was also provided, so that developers can already start playing with this new TFS development feature. OData Service is hosted on Windows Azure (WAZ) for the Codeplex TFS projects. This endpoint acts as an intermediary for your clients, such as a browser or a Windows Phone Device. The various clients can reach TFS using OData protocol without having to worry about either the TFS Web services or the TFS object model.

There is also a sample Windows Phone 7 application included and WebMatrix Helpers, which show developers how to get started building applications which consume OData service. This TFS development solution extends TFS in new and interesting ways and also serves as a showcase for the TFS developer community.

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TFS Training: Project Server Integration on the Virtual Machine

April 19th, 2011

I already told you about the TFS and Project Server Integration Feature Pack released last moth. It enables managers to track the progress and see the resource availability across all development projects. With this release, the TFS team also published an updated virtual machine that can be used for TFS training on this feature pack.

The virtual machine is pre-configured with the Project Server Integration Feature Pack along with sample data and walkthroughs. This TFS training tool will help both developers and managers to evaluate and demonstrate the capabilities of TFS integration with Project Server. TFS training on the virtual machine may be used as hands-on-labs for self-education, or as demo scripts to present these capabilities to the audience.

TFS training provides the guided walkthroughs that will help you learn more about the scenarios enabled by this integration. It is recommended that you complete these hands-on-labs in the order they are numbered (1-4). After 180 days from the time you first boot the virtual machine, it will expire, but hopefully you will have plenty of time for TFS training before that.

Posted in TFS Training | No Comments »

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