TFS “15” RC1 is available

Today we released Team Foundation Server 15 Release Candidate 1.  This is a “go-live” release, fit for production use and supported by our support team.  You can find all the details on the following links:

It’s called RC1 because, yes, there will be an RC2.  I don’t expect an RC3 but that will depend on the feedback that we get.  This release is “mostly” feature complete.  It includes almost all of the major new features that we have shipped on VS Team Services and makes them available for on-premises TFS users – features like code search and package management.  It has long standing top requests – like build folders.  It also includes major improvements to virtually every aspect of the product – Agile planning. Git, Build, Release management, dashboards, Testing and more.  Check out the release notes for a more complete overview of all the improvements.  We will *not* be publishing a list of all of the bug fixes that are going into TFS “15” – there are just too many.

RC1 is only going to be available in English but we will get other languages out for subsequent releases.  You’ll note we are not shipping an Update to Visual Studio “15” on the same day.  That’s just the result of some internal schedule differences between server and client.  You can use TFS “15” with earlier versions (2015, 2013, …) or with the VS “15” Preview 3 that shipped about a month ago.  An updated VS preview will be available before long.

Just to call out a few of my favorite RC1 features:

  • Follow a work item – makes it super easy to track the progress on work that you care about.
  • Code search – Makes it easy to find code anywhere across your project.
  • Package management – Improves your ability to reuse components across your projects (both OSS and internally produced)
  • Improved branches page – Faster, hierarchy, favorites build status and more.
  • Docker support – in build and release management.
  • Release management – I don’t think any part of our product is advancing as quickly as Release management is.  The number of significant improvements and new capabilities is innumerable.
  • Parity between MTM and web TCM – We almost have parity now where all the things you are used to using MTM for, you can now use the web experience for.

UI changes

You’ll also notice that we’ve been making a lot of changes to the web UI.  We’ve been working to make it much faster, more consistent, modern, more productive and generally more pleasing.  It’s harder to see on the cloud because the changes have been so gradual – almost every sprint has included changes.  I think it’s going to be much more visible when you upgrade your TFS server.  One of the bigger more visible changes we are introducing in RC1 is an updated navigation system.  The goal of the change is to reduce the number of clicks and the amount of time to get from where you are to where you want to be.

The core of the change is that top level hubs now have menus that allow you to navigate directly to sections of the target hub (Pull requests, for instance) rather than first having to navigate to Code, then to Pull requests.  There are other changes but that’s the most important.  We’re still early in the implementation and we’ve already gotten a lot of feedback on things that aren’t quite right yet – just from internal users.  As a result, for now, it is off by default.  A TFS admin can go into the settings and turn the new nav structure on or off to allow people to experiment with it and give feedback.  Our plan, for RC2 is to enable the new nav by default (but probably still have a way to revert to the old nav until we get clear signs that the vast majority of people like the new one better).

I’m super sensitive to the fact that, from a muscle memory perspective this is a big change and we need to keep iterating until we really get it right and we can’t force it on anyone in the meantime.  Because we can iterate much more quickly in the cloud, in about a week, we will enable the new nav in Team Services along with a per user ability to enable/disable it.  We will be measuring how many people choose new over old.  We will be measuring clicks to see if we are actually making nav faster.  We will be surveying people who turn it off to find out why.  We will be watching our Send-a-smile feedback channel to understand what people like and don’t like.  And we will be iterating rapidly.  I’ve asked that we shoot for weekly refinements to the new – deployed to Team Services so that we can respond to feedback and test fixes very quickly.

To enable the new navigation bar, go to your account home page (not a project home page), click the gear icon on the top right, then look for a blue button on the top right of that admin page.

My request from you all is that you try it and give us feedback.  Vote with your feet – choose the nav you like better.  As we refine it, keep trying it and adjusting your vote.  If we don’t get it great for TFS “15” RTM, we won’t eliminate the old nav and will keep iterating into Update 1, 2 and whatever else we have to do.

nav

On a related note, you’ll also find the new work item form that we’ve been evolving on Team Services for that past many months in TFS “15”.  For a new install, the new form will be on by default.  For an upgrade install, the new form will be *off* by default.  The reason is to give project admins who have done significant customizations to their work item forms, an opportunity to tweak them and make sure they look good in the new layout before enabling it for their teams.

What didn’t make it?

Most of the planned TFS 15 functionality is in RC1 but I want to call out a few notable things:

  • Support for paid extensions from the Visual Studio marketplace.
  • A new and improved pull request experience
  • A hand full of smaller improvements like a new work item history control, work item templates, etc.

All of these should be in RC2.

Upgrade complexity

We’ve worked hard to make the upgrade process as easy and painless as possible.  There’s one change that I know of that you will need to look out for.  As usage of our automated testing capabilities have grown, we have realized that the format we were using to store test results was too big and was leading to TFS database bloat.  For some customers it was, by far, the largest component of the size of a TFS database.  In TFS “15”, we have redesigned the test results schema to be dramatically more compact (like 10X).  However, that means, on upgrade, we need to migrate your test results from the old schema to the new.  If you have a large amount (and I’ve seen customers with hundreds of GB), that’s going to take a long time (many hours).  If you have none or a small amount of test results, the time will be negligible.  For many customers, a simple solution is to go and clean up years of old test results that they don’t really need to keep around any longer, reducing the time dramatically.  For customers for whom that is not viable, we will be providing scripts through customer support that enable you to do the schema migration while your TFS server is still online.

Other than that, upgrade should be pretty straight forward.  We didn’t make other “huge” schema changes and we’ve worked very hard on compat.  Hopefully if we missed anything, we’ll find out during the Release Candidate process and can address it before our final release.

I hope you are looking forward to this new release of TFS as much as I am.

Thank you,

Brian