Visual Studio Team Services Updates

Matthew Guay
Reviewed by Matthew Guay
Last updated December 5, 2016

The company that defines Redmond, Washington may be best known for Office, Windows, and Surface tablets, but Microsoft got its start by building Basic interpreters and other development tools. That focus on developers is one of the many things that led to Microsoft's dominance of desktop computing, with the developers Steve Balmer loved so much building the software that kept users on Windows.

Today, software development has in many ways shifted to the cloud, as code is built in hosted Git environments, deployed to cloud hosting, and run as web apps (or native software fueled by a web backend). And Microsoft's developer tools have shifted right alongside. Their key developer suite, Visual Studio, first shipped in 1997, as an IDE to simplify building software for Windows. You can still use Visual Studio's IDE—or Microsoft's new lite and free code editor, Visual Studio Code—to develop your apps. But for everything in your development workflow outside of writing lines of code, Visual Studio Team Services is the tool that can keep your development projects focused—and ensure they actually ship.

Visual Studio Team Services is one of Microsoft's newer tools to help your team plan development projects, track changes in your code, and ship your finished work. It's organized around four core tools: Code, Work, Build & Release, and Test.

Code's the tool that will keep track of your team's work. Using Git versioning, you'll still code in your favorite apps on your computer—but instead of storing the files on your computer or a local server, you'll push them to Visual Studio Team Services as will the rest of your team. Want to change something? You'll open a pull request, complete with mentions of coworkers to get their feedback on the changes and make sure everything works perfect before integrating it with your core codebase. And you can do that from your IDE, or from Visual Studio's web app—you can now add changes to your codebase from any browser, anywhere. You can also add as many Git repositories as you'd like, to keep all of your projects in the same place.

You'll plan what to work on and which bugs to squash in the Work section of Visual Studio Team Services. That's the new development-focused project management you'll use to organize your work in a Kanban board or lean workflow. From your dashboard or the work tab—or from any other app with Visual Studio integrations—you can add user stories, bugs, features, and anything else you'd like to add and want to track. Each item can include notes, tags, due dates, and more, and you can organize the tasks into a workflow stage in the kanban board or into a sprint on your lean workflow. Then, back in your code workflow, you can attach new pull requests or changes, to keep the real work tied to your project management.

Ready to finish out your project? That's where the Build & Release and Test tabs come in. Test gives you a full suite of tools to test web app, deploying them on a test server, seeing how they render in a browser, and mocking up the tests to add more bugs to your backlist that need resolved. And the Build tab lets you deploy more traditional software, setting automated or manual workflows to create new builds of your desktop, JAVA, or mobile app using the build settings you want.

There's more, too. You can search through your entire codebase and project notes right from one app, and pull out detailed data about your development process using the built-in reports or with Microsoft's PowerBI for more data mining. Visual Studio Team Services is a full-featured way to modernize your development process, giving you an online IDE of sorts of modern apps that let you collaborate on code, test, and deploy it together—all with a project management tool that helps your team manage who's working on what, and which tasks need done first.

Visual Studio Team Services Review:

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Visual Studio Team Services is where teams manage, develop, and deliver software in the cloud. Visual Studio Team Services provides free, private Git project hosting for up to 5 users, project and test management tools, build and CI, and team collaboration. Connect using the development tools of your choice, including Visual Studio, Eclipse, Xcode, and more.