A Ton of Changes in TFS 2017 Update 2 RC1
That's not to say that the second release candidate for the most recent Team Foundation Services 2017 Update 2 weighs a ton, but the changes across the feature set have some weight to them: the introduction of delivery plans, and a bevy of work item tracking, pull request, build and release, and version control improvements.
- By Michael Domingo
There's a ton of changes to the most recent release candidate for Team Foundation Services 2017 Update 2. This one introduces changes to just about every nook and cranny of the product -- administration features, work item tracking, pull requests, version control -- and introduces a new feature: delivery plans.
Even though it's a release candidate, this version is a "go live" version, meaning it can be used in production. "We've already installed it on 2 of our ~50 production TFS servers and it's looking solid," writes Microsoft's Brian Harry, in a blog about the release.
Delivery plans aren't exactly new, but they are new in that it's been available as an extension in the Visual Studio Marketplace earlier this month. It's yet another way for teams to be able to track how work is being done on projects, using a calendar-based view. Delivery plans can be overlaid on a calendar, showing when sprints for projects should be delivered. Pieces of the view can be moved, and with each movement, teams can get a better view of how some moves might affect other parts of the project and other team members.
The plans can be tagged to filter what's being viewed by using what is called a Field Criteria, and highlighted by color via the Configure plan markers, to emphasize specific dates that need to be tracked.
Delivery plans are part of a number of work item tracking improvements. One of among a slew of work item tracking improvements has to do with color-blind developers. While many of the changes have to do with color to emphasize changes to work items, changes are lost to color-blind developers. Thus, an incremental change in which colors are paired with icons for various work item types, which provide color-blind developers with a more useful visual clue for tracking changes.
Other work item improvements include automatic linking from work items to builds and more flexible work item searching capabilities.
Branch policy configuration comes with new features, and is one aspect of the version control improvements in the RC. Policies can be configured on branch folders now, and is enabled through a context menu. Likewise, multiple builds under a single branch can be configured and set up to be triggered automatically or manually. There's also a new Comments policy that, when enabled, will force any comments on a PR to be resolved before completion.
Related to branch policies, improvements to pull requests include an improved experience for call to actions for PR authors and reviewers. One such improvement is the addition of an Auto-Complete option to the Complete button, which provides authors a way to allow progress on a PR to proceed to completion once blocking policies are approved earlier in the process. There's also an Approve option, which reviewers can set as a call to action that goes hand in hand with the Complete/Auto-Complete option.
Comments for PRs have also seen lots of changes: a count of all comments related to a PR are in the header; those comments can be resolved with one click, or replied to and resolved in a single gesture; comment overviews provide for quick views of the state of all comments.
Other changes to pull requests: PRs are searchable by author or reviewer, and can be shared with teams; a Reason field has been added to clarify why a PR was bypassed, in the Complete pull request dialog; the Updated tab under the Pull Request details view now shows "when a force push has occurred and if the base commit has changed," which can be useful information to clue in reviewers to what's happened.
Like Harry said, "a *TON* of new stuff"; he wasn't kidding. To see the whole list of changes and details to each section, see the release notes here. Harry said that the next iteration, RC 2, should be available within the next few weeks.
Michael Domingo is a long-time software publishing veteran, having started up and managed several developer publications for the Clipper compiler, Microsoft Access, and Visual Basic. He's also managed IT pubs for 1105 Media, including Microsoft Certified Professional Magazine and Virtualization Review before landing his current gig as Visual Studio Magazine Editor in Chief. Besides his publishing life, he's a professional photographer, whose work can be found by Googling domingophoto.