Application Lifecycle Management with Visual Studio Team Foundation Server

Manage your team’s code, build and test your apps, and plan and track your team’s work with Visual Studio and Team Foundation Server on your own server, or Visual Studio Online in the cloud.

Set up TFS Set up: Set up TFS, create a team project, and add team member accounts.

If you don’t want to manage an on-premises server, you can use Visual Studio Online.

To understand all deployment options available, see the TFS install guide.

Version control conceptual image Code: Share and build your code using Team Foundation version control (TFVC) or Git.


Develop your app with TFVC or develop your app in a Git repository.

Conceptual image for working as a team Work: Plan projects, track work, collaborate as a team, and report progress.

Create your backlog, work in sprints, chart progress, and collaborate using team rooms. Storyboard ideas and get feedback on working software.

To access Agile planning tools and many team collaboration tools, you need to work in Team Web Access. Other tools, such as My Work and Build Explorer, you access from Team Explorer. For an overview of all clients that connect to TFS, jump to this section.

Build conceptual image Build: Set up your on-premises build server and define your build processes.


Or, set up continuous integration builds using Visual Studio Online.

Test conceptual image Test: Test your application.

Plan tests and track progress for each milestone. Run manual or automated tests, including performance and stress tests.

Deploy your applications into virtual environments to enable more sophisticated development and testing. Virtual machines can run on any virtualization framework that is managed by System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM).

You can get started with a Visual Studio Online cloud offering or manage an on-premises TFS deployment. Here are the tasks that your team gains access to according to their role and license. With unlimited free Stakeholder access, anyone on your team can track project priorities and provide direction, feature ideas, and business alignment to a team. Also, 5 free Basic licenses are available to both Visual Studio Online and on-premises TFS deployments.

Role Access License
Project supporters Work item tracking, queries, and alerts (WIT) Stakeholder (unlimited)
Project managers WIT + Agile planning backlog and task boards Basic (5 free users)
Developers Code + Build + WIT + Agile planning backlog and task boards Basic (5 free users)
Testers All of the above + Team rooms + Test management Advanced
Portfolio managers All of the above + Cross-team portfolio management Advanced

A Basic license is assigned to all users who have purchased Visual Studio Online Basic, Visual Studio Online Professional and Visual Studio Professional with MSDN. An Advanced license is assigned to all users who have purchased Visual Studio Premium with MSDN, Visual Studio Test Professional with MSDN, Visual Studio Ultimate with MSDN, and MSDN Platforms.

To plan licenses for your team, review Visual Studio Online licenses and their pricing or compare licenses here. You don’t need to buy licenses for users who have eligible MSDN subscriptions because they include Visual Studio Online.

For on-premises TFS deployments, download the Visual Studio 2013 and MSDN Licensing Whitepaper.

Here is a detailed chart of those features each licensed role has access to.

Feature areas Stakeholder Basic Advanced
Work item tracking (Note 1) check mark check mark check mark
Work item tagging Limited access (2) check mark check mark
Alert notifications check mark check mark check mark
Work item queries check mark check mark check mark
Agile planning backlog and task boards Limited access (3) check mark check mark
Portfolio management, backlogs, and boards Limited access (3) Limited access (3) check mark
View/author query-based charts View only View only check mark
View/author custom reports (4) check mark check mark check mark
Request and manage feedback check mark
Access to source and builds check mark check mark
Seamless source and issue integration check mark check mark
Team (chat) rooms check mark
Test management check mark
Integration with flexible REST APIs check mark check mark check mark
Customizable dashboards and wallboards View only check mark check mark
Customizable workflows and work items Use only check mark check mark
Administer accounts, users, and project structure check mark check mark


  1. Work item tracking includes bug, defect, task, and work flow management.
  2. Stakeholders can add existing tags to a work item but not specify new tags.
  3. Users with limited access can’t reorder items or move items on the board. They can add, open, and edit backlog work items, however all entries are added to the bottom of the backlog. Users also have no access to mapping functions. To learn more about portfolio management, see Agile Portfolio Management.
  4. Custom reports are only supported for TFS on-premises deployments that are configured with SQL Server Analysis Services and SQL Server Reporting Services. For users of Visual Studio Online, there is unofficial support for creating reports using Team Foundation Server OData API.
Once you’ve got your project up and running, you can use these additional tools to support the design, code quality, and deployment of your applications.

Architecture, model, design conceptual image Design: Model your application to better understand and meet user requirements.

Design functionality either on top of existing assets or develop a new application. Use architectural diagrams to visualize the code and communicate critical information about your team’s software.

Developer diagnostic tools conceptual image Diagnose: Improve your application using diagnostic tools.

Write, unit test, debug, analyze, and profile your application.

Deploy conceptual image Deploy: Improve the process of managing the release of your app.

Deploy your app to a specific environment for each separate stage. Manage the steps in the process with approvals for each step.

Monitor: Make sure your live app is running OK and find out how it’s being used.

Instrument your live web app to measure its performance and watch for anomalies or exceptions, as well as monitoring its availability from around the globe. Log usage data in your deployed Windows Phone or web app to tune it better to your users’ needs.

Application Insights is in preview.

Expand or change your deployment capabilities Administer: Configure servers, add functionality, manage access and permissions, and maintain server operations.

TFS is designed to scale to support small development groups to large enterprises.

Conceptual image for customization tasks Customize: Customize project tracking data, forms, workflow, and other objects.

To meet your business workflow processes and organizational structure, you can customize many elements within TFS.

Developers, architects, and testers typically connect to TFS through Visual Studio. They can also connect using a web browser to Team Web Access (TWA), Microsoft Test Manager, and Visual Studio Online.

The following table shows which TFS tools are available, based on the Visual Studio edition. For a more detailed comparison of features, go here.

Application lifecycle Visual Studio Professional 2013 Visual Studio Premium 2013 Visual Studio Ultimate 2013 Visual Studio Test Professional 2013
Source code management (TFVC or Git) check mark check mark check mark check mark
Build check mark check mark check mark check mark
Test (see note 1) check mark check mark check mark
Collaborate (work item tracking and Agile planning tools) (2) check mark check mark check mark check mark
Architecture, modeling, and design check mark
Diagnostic tools check mark check mark
Deploy/Lab Management check mark check mark check mark


  1. Microsoft Test Manager, a separate Team Foundation client, lets you manage and execute test cases and create and manage physical or virtual environments. It installs with select Visual Studio editions.
  2. Access to select tools and features, such as Agile portfolio management and test management from TWA requires Advanced access.

  • Visual Studio Professional is a unified development experience that enables developers to create multi-tier applications across the web, cloud, and devices.
  • Visual Studio Premium offers an integrated ALM solution to bring together stakeholders, users, and software development functions to deliver compelling applications as a unified team.
  • Visual Studio Ultimate is the comprehensive ALM offering for organizations that develop and operate highly scalable software applications and services. It provides architecture discovery and validation tools that enable teams to maintain a high degree of architectural integrity and efficiently manage technical debt.
  • Visual Studio Test Professional is ideal for testers, business analysts, product managers, and other stakeholders who need team collaboration tools, but not a full development IDE.

Additional Team Foundation clients support program managers and other stakeholders to connect to TFS. Team Explorer is installed with each version of Visual Studio, or you can install Team Explorer from the Microsoft download center as a standalone client. Team Explorer supports connecting to TFS and access to additional Team Foundation clients. To learn more, see Choose the Team Foundation client to support your tasks

A: Start here to get access to the Visual Studio product guide, cases studies, white papers, forums, and other resources.

A: Yes. Although the following books address Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2012, many of the concepts and methods apply to Visual Studio TFS 2013.

A: You can download the software from here.

A: Yes. You can connect to TFS from Eclipse-based environments and non-Windows platforms using Team Explorer Everywhere (TEE). TEE supports version control, build, and work item tracking.