Visual Studio Team Services Sprint 120 Goes with the Flow

A new Release Definition Editor is in preview in this sprint, as well as a number of pull requests, including a good handful of Task group feature improvements.

The summer doldrums are upon us, but not for the team working on Visual Studio Team Services, which is deploying Sprint 120 this week with a pretty hearty list of updates. Highlighted in a blog by Microsoft's Brian Harry, in particular in this sprint is a preview of a Release Definition Editor.

"The big news of this sprint is the new visual release definition editor that allows you to see the flow of your release through environments," he wrote. "In the coming sprints we'll be adding views that visualize in-progress releases in a similar way."

The Release Definition Editor preview is described by Microsoft Program Manager Jamie Cool in a blog post as "based off the new CI editor we released not long ago, and it's a good example of the overall direction that we are going." He adds: "It's not just a cleaner experience, it is structurally different in that it lets you visualize your release process. It lets you work with Release in the way you think about your system."

A preview of the Release Definition Editor shows a pipeline view of a deployment using a visual representation of the elements, much like a flow chart. Each part of a deployment is represented by an artifact that is clickable, and at the same time configurable from the view. So, rather than having to surface each step of a deployment to view it from one of the menu tabs, one can view every element from the Release Definition Editor, and step into the environment and do a number of things like configure and set triggers, set up approvals, set up environment and deployment settings. The editor also provides a prepopulated list of deployment templates, and also is able to search, add, reorder and clone tasks from it.

Outside of the Release Definition Editor preview, there are a number of Task Group improvements worth noting. One change is the addition of References tab, which shows build and release definitions by task group. Task group versioning is also a new capability, which allows a developer to create a previewable draft of a change, to see how a change might affect the group before deploying it; once the changes are tested, the change can be deployed over the stable version.

Task groups import/export is another new feature, enabled via distribution of a JSON file; task groups can also be nested.

Cool's blog has details on other features (there's lots of little PRs here and there), including multi-configuration support for agentless tasks, code information in Release with Jenkins CI artifacts, ability to migrate team projects between two inherited processes with the same parent under Work Items, more.

Harry notes in his blog that lots of what's being updated in this sprint will make it into Team Foundation Services v.Next as well.

About the Author

Michael Domingo is a long-time software publishing veteran, having started up and managed developer publications for the Clipper compiler, Microsoft Access, and Visual Basic. For 1105 Media, he managed, Virtualization Review, and was Editor in Chief of Visual Studio Magazine and host of The .NET Insight Podcast until 2017. Contact him via his photography Web site at

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