Dealing with conflicts in TFS work items using the Excel integration

A question that pops up reasonably regularly when showing the Excel integration into TFS is how it deals with conflicts, e.g. a work item is updated by someone else not using Excel, and then you try and update (publish) the same work item from Excel. I thought it was worth a quick post to show what happens.

There are many possible scenarios but I’ll take a simple one:

  • A developer, using Visual Studio, is editing a work item via the Team Explorer
  • Another team member is editing the same work item using Excel

The developer is, say, using the Iteration Backlog query (I’ve renamed it in this project to Sprint Backlog), and working on task 430, Implement Business Rules:


At the same time, another team member opens up the same (or another) query in Excel:


The developer now updates the name of task 430, now becoming Implement the happy path business rules:


Meanwhile, the other team member has updated the name of task 430 to Implement the main flow for the business rules:


There is no issue in Excel at this stage because this has not been published back to TFS; it’s effectively off-line at the moment. Now the Excel user publishes changes to TFS and sees a dialog warning of publishing errors:


This shows that (in this simple case) there is one work item, with one conflicting field. I can now decide which version I am going to accept  - either my local version or the already saved server version, but I don’t end up over-writing someone else’s update by accident.


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