VSTS Update – Aug 28

This week we began rolling out our sprint 122 update for Visual Studio Team Services.  Check out the release notes for details.

There are a couple of things I want to call out.

Work item rules – Work Item rules are the “headliner” for this sprint.  For years and years, the way to create work item rules was by editing an XML file or using the Power Tool that was a pretty direct projection of the XML.  This represents the beginning of the end of that.  Now we have a new, first class rules authoring experience in the VSTS web UI.  The rules are simple yet powerful.  The new rules system will only be available for project with the “new” process model – sometimes called the inherited process model.  You can tell by going into the “Process” hub under your account.  Processes with “</>” next to them are the “old” process model and all the others are the new.  The only way to get the “old” process model would have been to import a project from TFS or to hand edit XML and upload it to VSTS.  All new projects created in VSTS only get the new process model.  We are working on support to convert and old process template to a “new” one.  That should be available within the next few months.  A lot of people have been asking for a better rules experience and I really hope you like it.

Forking – This sprint we introduced the first step towards supporting Git Forks.  It’s just a first step but it’s enough for you to try it out and give feedback.  For now, forks all have to be in the same account, significantly limiting the value.  You can do much of what forks can do with branch permissions but not quite everything.  The next “big” step will be adding support for cross account forks in a few months.  That will really unleash the power of forks and enable you to completely decouple the work of the author from the work of the project owner.

Alert filters on any field – From the beginning of time, work item alerts filters have only been supported for a small handful of “core” fields plus the set of fields that were modified in a work item revision.  This sprint we have revamped our work item alert filtering system and now you can create filters on any field you choose.  It may sound like a small thing but when you are trying to cut the noise out of your inbox, it can be crucial.  Over the years, I’m sure I’ve had more than 100 customers complain to me about this limitation.  I’m sooooo glad to see it lifted.

Work items hub – We’re trying to create a new “center of gravity” for the Work hub group in VSTS.  The backlog and boards are nice and queries are powerful but, we feel we need a better homey feeling middle ground.  The new Work items hub will be that.  What we released this sprint is very optimized for “my stuff in this project” – assigned to me, following, mentioned, my activity.  It also include “recently created” – which is all work items recently created by anyone.  The experience will feel even more complete with they yet to be released “all work items” hub that will just be a simple list of all the work items in the project in some kind of time sequence.  I’m very interested in any feedback you have on this new experience.

Profile card – I can’t express how excited I am about the new profile cards.  I’ve found that, in any large org, you just don’t know everyone.  So you stumble across some change or work item that someone did and you don’t know who they are or where they fit organizationally.  I use contact cards in Outlook all the time to look people up and figure out where they are in the org.  I’ve wanted a similar ability in VSTS for years.  The new contact cards now provide that.  They allow you to start with a person and navigate up and down the organizational hierarchy.  We still have to surface the cards in more places but you can find them in a reasonable number of places now.  I know it will make me more productive – no more alt-tab over to Outlook to look someone up and see what they do 🙂

Overall, it’s a pretty big sprint release and I hope you like it.

Brian