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Use templates to add and update work items

Last Updated: 8/18/2016

Team Services | TFS 2015 | Visual Studio 2015 | Previous versions

With work item templates you can quickly create work items which have pre-populated values for your team's commonly used fields. For example, you can create a task template that will set the area path, iteration path, and discipline or activity whenever you use it to create a task.

Based on the platform you use, you can perform the following tasks:

Task Team Services
(web portal)
TFS 2015
(web portal)
Visual Studio 2015 with power tools 1
Capture a work item as a templatecheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmark
Add a work item using a templatecheckmarkcheckmarkcheckmark
Apply templates to work itemscheckmarkcheckmark
Manage work item templatescheckmarkcheckmark
  1. If you want to manage work item templates in Visual Studio, you can by downloading TFS Power Tools for free. With the Work Item Templates power tool add-in, you can:

    • Create and edit work item templates
    • Create and update work items using a template
    • Create a template from an existing work item
    • Bulk-edit work items by applying a template
    • Use templates created in Visual Studio to create work items through the Visual Studio client.

      Feature availability: Visual Studio 2015 is the last version in which you can install TFS power tools. You can use the Work Item Templates tool whenever you connect to Team Services or an on-premises TFS that is at TFS 2015 version or earlier. Templates you define through the power tool are separate from those defined through Team Services.

Template guidance and usage

Prior to creating templates, consider how you and your team(s) will use the templates. If you'll be using several templates, determine a naming convention that will help users easily select the right template for their use.

If you want to use custom fields in your templates, define those fields prior to creating your templates. See Customize a field for a process for Team Services, and Add or modify a field for on-premises TFS.

You can specify any number of fields you want, including ones that the user will change—such as Title or Description. If you want the work item assigned to a specific team, define the team Area Path as part of the template.

Once you have a template defined, you can share it via email or a dashboard. Copy the link to the template and paste it within a markdown widget or through the Welcome page. See Markdown guidance.

Capture a work item as a template

The steps to capture a work item differ based on the platform, version, and client you use.

  1. Open a work item with the fields defined that you want to capture, and click the Actions icon actions icon to open the menu. Choose Templates and then Capture.


    Capture work item field definitions as a template
  2. Name the template and optionally add and remove fields. Save the template when finished.

    Capture template dialog
  3. Once you've saved the template, click Copy link to capture the URL for the template that you can use to add work items using the template.

    The URL identifies the team and template ID, for example:

    http://fabrikamfiber:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection/Fabrikam%20Fiber/Web/_workItems?_a=new&witd=Bug&templateId=15ffa521-7a1d-486e-9f71-a58c0b338d87
    
  4. Use the URL whenever you want to add a work item of the type you've defined with its predefined values.

    You can save the URL as a text file or add the URL to a dashboard or web page as a hyperlink.

If you connect to an on-premises TFS and primarily create work items working in the web portal, you can create a hyperlink that captures the default values you specify for a template. Click the hyperlink, and it opens the template in the web portal.

  1. From the web portal Queries page, open a new work item.

    Open a new work item from the web portal Work page
  2. Fill in the default values you want the template to specify. You can leave required fields empty, or place some text in them.

    Here, we fill in several values, including tags, but leave the Title blank. When your done, copy the URL for the template.

    Define fields and choose Copy the URL
  3. The URL defines each predefined field, for example (line breaks added for clarity):

    http://fabrikamprime:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection/Fabrikam%20Fiber/_workItems/create/Task?%5B
       System.AssignedTo%5D=Jamal+Hartnett&%5B
       System.Description%5D=%3Cp%3EAlways+include+Remaining+Work+and+links+to+any+related+bugs+or+user+stories.%3C%2Fp%3E&%5B
       System.Tags%5D=Web%3B+Phone%3B+Service&%5B
       Microsoft.VSTS.Common.Activity%5D=Development&%5B
       System.IterationPath%5D=Fabrikam+Fiber%5CIteration+1  
    
    Tip: The URL won't contain defaults defined for the work item type. To specify a default field value, see Add or modify a field. Also, there's a 2000 character limit recognized by browsers. There's no work around to that limit.
  4. Use the URL whenever you want to add a work item of the type you've defined with its predefined values.

    You can save the URL as a text file or add the URL to a dashboard or web page as a hyperlink.

If you primarily work in Visual Studio or Team Explorer, and want to create work items from templates that you can access from the Work Items page, you can create work item template files (extension .wt).

You create these files using Work Item Templates, a power tool for Visual Studio, which you can download from TFS Power Tools.

  1. Open or run a query that lists the work item whose fields you want to capture.

  2. Right-click the work item of the type and whose fields you want to capture, and select Capture Template from the context menu.

    Capture work item field definitions as a template from Visual Studio with Power Tools installed

  3. In the dialog, use the checkboxes to select all the fields you want to save in the template, and add a name and (optionally) description to the template.

    Capture template dialog from Visual Studio with Power Tools installed
  4. Save the template and it will appear in the root of the Team Explorer pane under the Templates section.


Add a work item using a template

The main method for adding a work item using a template is to open the template link within a browser window. You can then share these links through email, a network share, team portal, or a team dashboard or Welcome page.

Copy the link to a template

You can add links to a markdown widget that appear on your team dashboard in the web portal. These links open a work item with the template defined fields predefined.

For example, the following widget contains links to three templates.

Markdown widget with links to templates

To learn more about the markdown widget see Markdown guidance

Apply a template to existing work item(s)

You can apply a template to a single work item or perform a bulk update of several work items.

Apply a template within a work item form

  1. Open the work item that you want to update using the fields defined within a template, and click the sctions icon actions icon to access your menu. Click Templates and then click the name of a pre-defined template.


    Apply a template to an existing work item within the form
    Tip: Refresh your browser to discover the latest templates that have been added. If you don't see any templates, it may be that there are none defined for the work item type. Click Manage… to open the team settings Templates admin page for your team to review or add templates.
  2. Save the work item for the changes to be applied. The fields changed are noted in the History field.

Apply a template to several work items (bulk update)

  1. To bulk update several work items, first select them from the backlog or a query results list, and then open the actions menu for one of them. All work items you select must be of the same work item type. For example, all user stories or all bugs.

  2. Choose the template to apply.

    Bulk update several work items (Team Services)
  3. Field changes are automatically applied and work items saved. Go here to learn more about bulk updates.

Apply a template to one or more work items

  1. Open or run a query that lists the work item(s) whose fields you want to capture.

  2. Right-click the work items—which must be of the same type— and click Apply Template from the context menu.

    Apply template to selected work item from Visual Studio with Power Tools installed
  3. Select the template to use and click OK.

    Apply template dialog from Visual Studio with Power Tools installed
  4. Save the work item.

    Save changes from Visual Studio with Power Tools installed

Manage work item templates

In Team Services, you can view the list of templates defined for each work item type, and also add, edit, copy, delete, and copy the link of a template. All templates are defined and managed for a team.

If Visual Studio with power tools installed, you can view the list of templates defined for each work item type, and also add, edit, copy, delete, and copy the link of a template.

You manage templates from the team admin context. All templates are defined for a team.

Open the admin context for your team

  1. From a web browser, open the web portal administrative context for your team. Here we open the admin page for the Web team.

    Open team admin context

    If you’re not a team administrator, get added as one. Only team or project administrators can change team templates.

  2. Click Templates under the Work hub.

    Open Work - Templates page for team

    From here, you can click on any work item type to view or add templates for that type.

Manage templates for a work item type

Click the work item type to view the templates defined for each type.

For example, click User Story to view templates defined to capture user stories.

Manage user story templates

Define a template from scratch

  1. From the work item type page, click green plus icon New template to create a template from scratch.

    Add a user story template
  2. Name the template and optionally add and remove fields. Save the template when finished.

    Once you've saved the template, click Copy link to capture the URL for the template that you can use to add work items using the template.

Edit, delete, or copy link to a template

From the work item type page, click actions icon the actions icon for an existing template to access the menu options to Edit, Delete, or Copy link.

Open template action menu

Copy or duplicate a template

  1. To duplicate an existing template, click actions icon the actions icon for an existing template and click Create copy.

    Copy an existing template
  2. Name the template and optionally add and remove fields. Save the template when finished.

You manage templates from the Team Explorer pane.


Templates, Team Explorer with power tools installed

The root Templates node represents the parent of all of your templates. You may create a directory structure underneath it by adding folders – right-click on the Templates node or a folder and select New Folder from the context menu.

You can cut, copy, paste, rename, and delete templates and folders using the context menu. You may also drag and drop templates into folders. To edit multiple templates, use shift-click to select a range or ctrl-click to add individual templates to your selection, then right-click.

Define a template from scratch

  1. From the Templates section, right-click Templates and choosee to create a template from scratch. Add a new template, Visual Studio
  2. Save the template, provide a Name in the dialog provided.
    Add a new template, Visual Studio

    Once you've saved the template, click Copy link to capture the URL for the template that you can use to add work items using the template.

Edit, use, copy, or delete a template

To edit, delete, or perform another action on a template, open its context menu (right-click) and choose the option you want.
Open template action menu
To make frequently-used templates more accessible, you can set a default template for each work item type. To do so, right-click on a template in Team Explorer and click Set As Default. A checkmark will appear on the icon to indicate that it is now the default.

Set your template directory

To change the directory where templates are stored, click the Configure link, or navigate to it via Tools>Options>Microsoft Team Foundation Server>Work Item Templates. Use this dialog to set your template store path. Place your templates in a network location to share them with your team.

Using work item templates can help your team be more productive by predefining fields in advanced. Remember that Team Services templates are associated with a team. Only those templates defined for a team are accessible when working in a team context, either through a work item form or bulk update context menu.

For more information, see these additional resources:

Add or remove tags from templates

You can add tags to a template and they'll be applied to the work item when you use the template.

With Team Services, you can specify tags to be specifically added or removed.

Edit bug template, add or remove tags

If you don't specify tags to remove, then all tags present in a work item will remain defined even when you apply a work item template to an existing work item.

You can't create templates that contain default links to work items.

However, you can quickly copy tasks, test cases, bugs, and other items using Excel to apply parent-child links in a tree list. To learn more, see:

Another option is to use Excel to apply parent-child links in a tree list.

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