Action required for a VSTS Extension

It could happen that you received an Email from VSTS telling you that one of the extension needs some action.


Figure 1: An email telling you that an extension needs action to be updated.

If you go to your account and check the extension page, you find a situation like this one.


Figure 2: Extension is listed in the “action required” section

You could be puzzled, because there is warning icon, but no indication on what you need to do to solve the situation, nor what the problem is. In this situation, the email states that the extension needs to be upgraded, but whatever problem you have, you need to check the menu related to the extension.


Figure 3: The extensions that needs action have an additional menù called Review

From Figure 3 you can see that the extension has a new menu entry called “Review”, that open the dialog shown in Figure 4.


Figure 4: Review dialog that explain what happened

Thanks to this dialog we can finally understand why the extension needs action, there is a new version, but the permissions required by this new version are different from the original one, so it needs an explicit intervention of an administrator to update. After all we do not want auto update of an extension being automatically able to give more permission to the extension.

Gian Maria.

Enable new Work Item Form in TFS “15”

If you installed TFS 15 Preview, one of the news you expected to see is the new Work Item Layout (already available in VSTS). You could get disappointed that actually your existing Work Items still are shown with the old interface, as you can see in Figure 1


Figure 1: After upgrade TFS still shows the old Work Item Form

The new Work Item Form is installed with an opt-in method so it is disabled by default. To enable it you should navigate to the Project Collection administration page. From here you should see that this feature is actually disabled (Figure 2), but you have the link to Enable it.


Figure 2: New Work Item form is disabled by default after upgrade

If you click the “Enable the new work item form” link, you are informed that this operation will create a new layout for the Work Item, but you can choose, after the creation of the new layout, if you want to use the new model, and the opt-in model, as you can see in Figure 3.


Figure 3: Enabling the new Work Item layout starts with the creation of the new Layout.

Thanks to the opt-in method, you are not forced to use the new layout, but you can activate it only if you want to use it

After the creation of the Layout you should configure the Opt-in model, or you can disable entirely the new Work Item Form.


Figure 4: Options to enable the new Work Item form with the opt-in model

The opt-in model basically allows you to decide who can view the new Work Item form layout. You have three options, as shown in Figure 5, you can give the ability to use the new layout only to administrators, to all user, or you can force everyone to use the new Layout, disabling the old layout entirely.


Figure 5: Opt-in model options to enable the new Layout form

Opt-in model for the new Layout Form is really flexible because you can leave the decision up to each single user.

The central option is usually the less impacting, because each member of the team can choose to evaluate the new layout or stick with the old one. A new link appears on the head of the Work Item Form, in the far right part, as you can see in Figure 6.


Figure 6: Opt in model allows each user to choose to evaluate the new form.

If the user choose to preview the new form, the page refresh and the Work Item is rendered with the new layout. The user has the option to return to the old form if he do not like the new form, giving the whole team the time to evaluate the feature and decide if using it or not.


Figure 8: New form is active and the user can back to old form if the do not like it.

This settings is “per collection” so you can decide different opt-in model for each collection of your TFS.

Gian Maria.

Re-indexing source in TFS “15” preview

If you installed TFS “15” preview you should give a try to code search, because it is surely one of the coolest feature introduced in this new release.

If for some reason the indexing went wrong, or code is not indexed, you can try reindexing using some powershell scripts that are described in this post.

Happy TFS.

Use different Excel TFS / VSTS Addin at the same time

If you are a consultant, it is quite common that you work with various version of TFS Server at the same time. I have my personal account on VSTS, always updated to the latest version, but I have also customer that still uses TFS 2012 or TFS 2010.

Microsoft test newer version of TFS against lots of applications to be sure that newer versions of TFS do not break usage of existing tools. This means that usually you can upgrade your TFS without worrying that your VS 2010 or Visual Basic 6 stops working. You need to be aware that the opposite is not true. This imply that newer version of Visual Studio could not work well with older version of TFS. This decision is done because Microsoft is encouraging people to keep their TFS installation up to date, and it would be a nightmare to always guarantee that newer tools would be able to communicate with the older service API.

To minimize compatibility problems, you should keep your TFS on-premise updated to the latest version.

Tool as Visual Studio are usually not a problem, you can keep as many VS version you want side by side, so if you still use TFS2012 you can still use VS 2012 without any problem. But you can have problems with other tools.

Office TFS addin is installed automatically with Visual Studio Team Explorer or with any version of Visual Studio. This means that whenever you update your VS or you installa new VS version the Office addin is also updated.

Starting from Visual Studio 2015 there is no Team Explorer anymore, if you want to install only the Office addin you can use the standalone installer following links on this post from Brian Harry.

In Italian Visual Studio forum there is a question where a user experienced problem in exporting Work Item Query result to Excel after upgrading to Visual Studio 2015 Update 3. He is able to connect Excel to VSTS, but the addin does not work anymore with on-premise TFS 2012. This situation prove that the addin is working correctly with latest TFS version, but it does not support anymore older TFS version.

The solution to this problem is simple, because you can choose in Excel the addin version you want to use. You just need to go to Excel Settings, then choose Add-ins (1) then manage Com Add-ins (2) and finally press the Go button.

Figure 1: Managing Excel addins from settings pane.

If you scroll down the addin list, you should see several version of the addin for TFS, one for each version of Visual Studio you have installed. In my machine I have VS2012, VS2013 and VS2015 so I have three distinct version of the addin.

Figure 2: Multiple TFS Addin installed if you have multiple version of Team Explorer.

You can understand the version of the addin simply looking at the location, but the cool part is that you can enable more than one addin at the very same time. As a result you have multiple Team ribbon tab in your Excel as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Multiple TFS Addin enabled at the very same time

I need to admit that this is not really a nice situation to have, because you are confused and there is no clear clue to which version of the add-in each tab is referring to, but at least you can use both of them at the very same time. If you prefer you can simply enable an old version (say 2012 version) to make sure that it works with your main TFS instance. Usually if you enable an older version it should be capable of working with newer instance of TFS.

I’ve not tested this technique thoroughly but it should work without problem.

Gian Maria.

Impressions on installing TFS “15” Preview

Microsoft released a preview of the new version of Team Foundation Server, codename TFS “15” and as usual I immediately downloaded and installed on some of my test server. I’m not going to show you full steps of installation or upgrade, because installing TFS is now a Next/Next/Next experience, but I want to highlight a couple of really interesting aspect of the new installer.

Support to Pre-Production environment

When it is time to upgrade your TFS production server, it is always a good practice to perform the upgrade in a pre-production environment, to avoid having surprises upgrading production instance. Traditionally this is a not so immediate task, because you need to backup and restore database to a test server, then run some command line instructions to change the id of the server in db and then perform the upgrade.

I’ve done a post in the past on how to create a safe clone of your TFS Environment and I suggest you to have a read of that post, but with the new version of TFS installer, when you choose the upgrade path, you have this new screen


Figure 1: You can choose to create a pre-production test directly from Wizard

This is a really big improvement, because now you can simply backup and restore your databases on a new server, run the wizard, choose to do a pre-production Upgrade Testing and you have a clone of you server upgraded to the new version where you can do all of your tests to verify the upgrade process.

Thanks to Pre-Production Upgrade Testing option, creating a test clone of your server where to perform the upgrade is a breeze

This option is not only useful for upgrades, but allows you to quickly create a clone of your TFS to do whatever experiment you want to do with real Production data, without harming your production server.

Great work Microsoft!!

Code search and ElasticSearch

Another interesting wizard screen is the one dedicated to installing code Search capabilities.


Figure 2: Code search installing screen

Code search was introduced in VSTS lots of time ago, but now is available even on TFS installation. It uses ElasticSearch under the hood, but the installer takes care of everything for you. From Figure 2 you can see that you only need to specify a folder where to store the index, and choose if you want to enable code search for every project collection and the game is done.

Sadly enough, you are not allowed to use an exising installation of ElasticSearch, here is the error you got if you already have ES installed on the machine.


Figure 3: You cannot re-use an existing ES installation

You should uninstall every installation of ES you have if your machine before installing code search capabilities. Since ES depends on Java, if you do not have Java JRE or JDK installed on the machine the wizard gives you an error during the verification process.


Figure 4: An error is present if your machine has no Java installed

You can check the box where you accept the Oracle Binary Code License Agreement and the installer will download and install Java for you, or you can simply download and install Java manually, then re-run the Readiness Checks. If you are going to do a manual install of Java or if you have a pre-existing Java installation please check in ES site if your version is compatibile or have some problem.

Usually you have no Java in your TFS Box, so it is safe to check the checkbox and have the installer do everything for your automatically.

SSH Support

To support SSH Protocol for Git, you should tell the installer that you want to enable the SSH Service and choose the port (22 by default)


Figure 5: SSH Support in TFS for Git

As TFS Evolves the Configure / Upgrade Wizard is more and more complete, and allows you to istall TFS without leaving the Wizard, and configuring / installing all dependent services for you.

Gian Maria.