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Plan and track your project with work items

Last Updated: 6/21/2016

Team Services | Previous versions

Feature availability: The new work item experience is currently only available from VS Team Services. This topic describes how to track work using the new form. If you connect to an on-premises Team Foundation Server (TFS), see Add work items to plan and track your project (TFS).

You add work items to plan and manage your project. You use different types of work items to track different types of work - such as tasks, features or user stories, test cases and bugs, risks or issues, and more. You can describe the work to be done, assign work, track status, and coordinate efforts within your team.

Different types of work items are used to track features, user experiences, code defects, tasks, and issues. You can link work items to one another, as well as to changesets and source code files. As the following image shows, each work item form comes with a number of controls, fields, and tabs.

Work item form to track features or user stories

Note: Depending on the process you chose when creating your team project--Scrum, Agile, or CMMI--the types of work items you can create will differ. For example, backlog items may be called product backlog items (PBIs), user stories, or requirements. All three are similar: they describe the customer value to deliver and the work to be performed.

For an overview of all three processes, see Choose a process.

Define new work

You can start adding work items once you connect to a team project. If you don't have a team project yet, create one in Visual Studio Team Services or set one up in an on-premises TFS.

Here we show how to add work items from the web portal. Go here to learn about other supported clients.

  1. From a web browser, connect to the team project that you want to work in. For example, the Fabrikam, Inc. team navigates to http://fabrikamprime:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection/Fabrikam%20Fiber%20Website/.
    If you haven’t been added as a team member, get added now.

    From the New work item widget added to a team dashboard, you can choose the type of work item you want to create.

    Add work item from a New work item widget

    Work items you add are automatically scoped to your team's area and iteration paths. Go here to change the team context.

  2. Enter a title and then save the work item. Before you can change the State from its initial default, you must save it.

    User story work item form

    You can add tags to any work item to filter backlogs and queries.

Update work status

As work progresses, team members can update the state and reassign it as needed.

Product backlog item workflow, Scrum process

While the workflow states differ for different work item types, they usually follow a progression from New or Active to Closed or Done. The following image shows the work flow states for the Agile process user story. If you want to discard a work item, change the state to Removed.

Typical workflow progression:

  • Create a user story in the default state, New.
  • Change the state from New to Active.
  • Change the state from Active to Resolved.
  • Change the state from Resolved to Closed.

Atypical transitions:

  • Change the state from New to Removed.
  • Change the state from Removed to New.
  • Change the state from Active to Removed.
  • Change the state from Resolved to Active.
  • Change the state from Closed to Resolved.
Product backlog item workflow, Scrum process

Removed work items remain in the data store and can be reactivated by changing the State. If you want to permanently remove a work item, you can delete it.

With each update, the Reason field also updates and changes are recorded in the History field which you can view through the History tab.

View change history

To find work items based on their history, see History & auditing.

By linking work items using Related or Dependent link types, you can track work that is dependent on other work. Each work item contains one or more tabs with link controls. These controls support linking the work item to one or more objects.

Link controls provided in a work item form

Linked objects are grouped under the link type, such as Parent, Child, Related, and so on. To learn more about each link type, see Manage dependencies, link work items to support traceability.

Team Foundation version control (TFVC) lets you link work items to version control changesets or versioned source code files by using the Changeset and Versioned Item link types. When you check in pending changes or use My Work to check in changes, work items are automatically linked to your changes.

Git lets you link work items to commits by using the Commit link type. To learn how, see Manage and commit your changes.

Add to the discussion

Add and review comments made about the work being performed by going to the discussion section.

Click the Discussions icon discussion icon, which indicates how many comments have been added, to move your focus to the discussion section. Click the full screen icon full screen icon to expand the display of the discussion section within the form.

Discussion section

Within the discussion section, you can use the @mention control to notify another team member about the discussion. Simply type @ and their name.

To reference a work item, use the #ID control. Type # and a list of work items that you've recently referenced will appear from which you can select.

Copy the URL

From the web portal, simply copy the URL from the web browser address or hover over the title and then click the Copy to clipboard icon copy-to-clipboard icon.

Copy hyperlink for a work item from web portal

In Visual Studio, right-click the work item tab to copy the URL. The URL opens the work item in the web portal.

Copy full path hyperlink for a work item from Visual Studio

Keep in mind that the work item tracking experience and forms that appear in Visual Studio won't show several of the features that the web portal makes available.

Once you've added several work items, you can use additional features to get notified of changes, create queries, define status and trend charts, plus more.

Work item form controls

Copy to clipboard iconCopy URL of work item to clipboard (appears on hover over work item title)
Discussions iconGo to Discussions section
Save iconSave work item and keep open
Save and close iconSave and close work item
Refresh iconRefresh work item with latest changes
Undo iconUndo changes to work item
History tab iconOpen History tab
Links tab iconOpen Links tab
Attachment tab iconOpen Attachments tab
full screen icon / exit full screen iconEnter or exit full display mode of a section within the form
Collapse section icon/Expand section iconCollapse or expand a section within the form
Actions iconOpen Actions menu for additional work item tasks
New linked work icon iconAdd new work item and link to existing work item (May appear under Actions icon Actions menu)
Change team project iconMove work item to a different team project (May appear under Actions icon Actions menu)
Clone iconCopy work item and optionally change work item type (May appear under Actions icon Actions menu)
Email iconEmail work item (May appear under Actions icon Actions menu)
Storyboard iconStoryboard with PowerPoint (May appear under Actions icon Actions menu)
Delete iconRecycle work item (May appear under Actions icon Actions menu)
New branch iconAdd new Git repository branch (May appear under Actions icon Actions menu)

See also Keyboard shortcuts.

Plan your project

The quickest way to plan your project is to create your backlog. If you have a number of product backlog items, user stories, requirements, or tasks that you want to bulk add, you can use Excel or Project.

If you are planning a product suite and managing a portfolio of projects across several teams, you’ll want to read (New) Manage work across the enterprise.

Start storyboarding

Feature availability: The Start storyboarding menu option is only available from VS Team Services. However, from TFS, you can click the Start Storyboarding link from the Storyboard tabs from a backlog item, or simply open PowerPoint. See Storyboard your ideas using PowerPoint for requirements and usage.

You can storyboard your ideas using PowerPoint to bring your ideas to life with storyboard shapes, text, animation, and all the other features that PowerPoint Storyboarding provides. From any work item, you can open PowerPoint by choosing the Start storyboarding menu option.

Work item form, Start storyboarding menu option

Development section

Feature availability: The Development section is only available for team projects configured with Git for source control. Go here to learn how to drive your Git development process starting by adding a branch for your work items.

Customize your form

You can add custom fields and change the layout of the work item form. To start, open a work item of the type you want to customize and then click the customize option from the Actions icon Actions menu.

User story, Actions menu, Customize

The Process>Work Item Types page will open for the work item type you selected. Follow the instructions provided in Customize a process.

If the menu option isn't active, you don't have permissions to modify the process. Ask your project collection admin to grant you permissions.

Find or list work items

Type an ID in the Search work items box and then choose the search icon.

Search work items text box

Use the context menu icon context menu to add a filter based on assignment, status, a keyword, or a work item type.

Or, using the context menu icon context menu, add filters to find items based on assignment, status, a keyword, or a work item type. For example, enter A=@Me T=Task to list all tasks assigned to you. Use the =, :, and operators to specify the operations: Equals, Contains, and Not, respectively.

Once you have a results list, you can modify the filter criteria to refine your search results.

Clients that support tracking work items

You can add work items from various clients, such as:

See Choose the client to support your tasks for an overview of all clients that connect to your team project.

Team context and new work items

The system automatically assigns new work items the default area and iteration paths based on the team context. Work items you add from the team dashboard (new work item widget) and queries page are assigned the team default iteration. Work items you add from a team backlog or board, are assigned the team default backlog iteration.

To learn more or to change team defaults, see Set team defaults.

You navigate to your team context from the top navigation bar.

Choose another team from the team project menu

Choose Browse All if the name you want doesn't appear in the list.

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