Managing Build Templates with Community TFS Build Manager

A year ago I blogged about how to manage your build process templates using the TFS API. The main reason for doing this is that you can (and should!) store your “golden” build process templates in a common location in your TFS project collection, and then add them to each team project that requires those templates. This way, you can fix a bug or add a new feature in one place and have the change affect all build definitions.

However, by having the build process templates in a single location, the users must know where the build process templates are located and browse to that path and add it to the team project, before it will show up in the list of build process templates:


Unfortunately, you can’t manage the build process templates this way using Team Explorer, you have to resort to the TFS API to do these things.

Until now! Ler In the latest release of the Community TFS Build Manager I have added support for managing build process templates.

The templates are accessible by selecting “Build Process Templates” in the “Show” dropdown:


This will show all registered build process templates, either in the selected team project or in all team projects, depending on your current filter:


All build process templates in the XDemo team project. The grid is of course sortable as the rest of the application. This lets you easily see where the template is registered.

Note that several of the build process templates in the list above is stored in the Inmeta team project, which is our team project for storing all artifacts related to our software factory, including the build process templates and custom activities.

Now, we can right click on a build process template and perform any of the following actions:



  • Set As Default
    This will set the selected build process template as the default build process template in the corresponding team project. There can only be one default build process template per team project, so the tool will automatically scan for any other default build process templates and set them back to “Custom”. 
  • Add to Team Project(s)
    This will let you select one or more team projects where you want to add this build process template to:


    In the list you can select one or more team projects. You can also specify that the template(s) should be set as default by using the checkbox “Set as Default”.

  • Remove from Team Project(s)
    This does the opposite from the previous operation, it removes the selected build process template(s) from one or more team project. After this operation, the template will not be visible in the “Build Process file” dropdown when editing a build process template.

    Note: When removing a build process template, there might be build definitions using this template. If this is the case, the build manager will prompt you with a dialog before you proceed with the remove:


Hope that you find the new functionality useful. Please report bugs and feature requests to the Community TFS Build Extensions CodePlex site

Handling Warnings and Errors with InvokeProcess in TFS 2010 Build

The InvokeProcess activity is very useful when it comes to running shell commands and external command line tools during a build process. When it comes to integrating with TFS source control during a build, the TF.exe command line tool can be your friend, as it lets you do most of the usual stuff such as check-in, checkout, add, modify workspaces etc.

However, it can be a bit tricky to handle the output from tf.exe, since it often produces warnings that is not necessarily a problem for your build. This is not a problem related only to tf.exe, but to all applications that produces errors and warnings on the canonical error format.

The normal way to use the InvokeProcess activity is to setup the necessary parameters to call the tool with the correct path, working directory and command line switches. Then you add a WriteBuildMessage activity to the Handle Standard Output action handler and a WriteBuildError to the Handle Error Output action handler. In addition, you store the Result output property from the InvokeProcess activity in a workflow variable that you can evaluate after the InvokeProcess activity has finished.



This will output all standard output from the application to the build log, and all errors will be written as errors to the build log and will partially fail the build.
If you try this with TF.exe you will probably notice a problem with warnings from the tool being reported as errors in the build, causing it to partially fail the build, even though the ReturnCode was zero.

To solve this problem you need to collect the information that is passed to the Error Output action handler. Note that this handler is called several times so you need to handle formatting of the output in some way. Then, you check the ReturnCode from the InvokeProcess activity and in case this is <> 0, you write the collection information as an error to the build log (using WriteBuildError) and then throw an exception. Otherwise, just write the information to the build log using WriteBuildMessage, so you get all information out there.

The finished sample looks like this:


In the “Check out files” sequence I have defined a workflow variable called ErrorOutputFromTF of type string. In the “Handle Error Output” handler, I append the error to this variable, using the Assign activity:


I just append a newline character at the end to have all the errors on separate rows in the build log later. After the InvokeProcess activity I check the TFExitCode variable,  that was assigned the ResultCode value from the InvokeProcess activity previously, if it is <> 0 I write the ErrorOutputFromTF to the build error log and then I throw an exception.

Here is a sample build log output:


Note that tf.exe in this case outputs information about check-in policies that have been overridden. This is an example of information that would cause the build to partially fail, but is now logged as information.