One of my favorite integration points for TFS is Office. Seriously! I find excel the most intuitive and natural way to work with my iteration plans, bug lists and perform general task management. Having talked to a few people about this recently it seems that a lot of the TFS and Office integration is going unused, so I decided to start a living post to catalog some of the Q & A I come across to hopefully increase the use of some of my favorite features….
1. Excel as a task entry system
Excel works really well as a list management tool. What people don’t realise is that it can also be used to create lists for publishing to TFS, and it’s really quite simple.
a. Connect to your team project in Excel and get a list of work items from a query (n.b. you can also pick the ‘Input List’ option here which will open an empty list for entry).
b. Note the empty line at the end of the list marked with a *
c. Start entering your data into the empty line, and be sure to fill out all mandatory fields (you’ll get a prompt later if you don’t, so it’s not a show stopper)
d. Once you’re done entering your new tasks, hit publish to push these back to TFS.
e. If you get a prompt regarding required fields, update your data and try publishing again.
That’s it! You’ve just added a list of work items to your Team Project!
2. Excel, TFS and Concurrency
I was doing a pre-presentation review last week, and a discussion started about the Excel and TFS concurrency model. During the discussion I was asked if 2010 addresses the issue of ‘last-in-wins’ concurrency that exists in 2008. This seemed a little strange to me as I wasn’t aware of the issue but I answered that it did – as I had seen the resolution dialogue in 2010.
Having answered the immediate question, I decided that I’d find out exactly what the case was in 2008 as looking at the work item tracking tables I didn’t see a reason that work item version changes couldn’t be identified between fetch and publish in Excel. It turns out that the concurrency model for 2008 behaves the same (on the surface at least) as that in 2010.
The behavior is that when you publish back to TFS a conflict check occurs. If a non-blocking conflict – users have edited different fields in the same work item, is detected an auto-resolution will occur and the publish will complete. If a blocking conflict – users have edited the same fields in a work item, is detected then a conflict resolution dialog will be shown. This dialog allows you to select the change you want to keep, and then to continue with the publish operation.
So, there’s a couple of features around Excel and TFS integration that I’ve been asked about recently. If you have any other questions on any version of the integration (including any for any of the other Office integration points) leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to get an answer!