Default and custom release variables and debugging

Azure Pipelines | TFS 2018 | TFS 2017 | TFS 2015

Note

In Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) 2018 and previous versions, build and release pipelines are called definitions, service connections are called service endpoints, stages are called environments, and jobs are called phases.

As you compose the tasks for deploying your application into each stage in your DevOps CI/CD processes, variables will help you to:

  • Define a more generic deployment pipeline once, and then customize it easily for each stage. For example, a variable can be used to represent the connection string for web deployment, and the value of this variable can be changed from one stage to another. These are custom variables.

  • Use information about the context of the particular release, stage, artifacts, or agent in which the deployment pipeline is being run. For example, your script may need access to the location of the build to download it, or to the working directory on the agent to create temporary files. These are default variables.

You can view the current values of all variables for a release, and use a default variable to run a release in debug mode.

Custom variables

Custom variables can be defined at various scopes.

  • Share values across all of the definitions in a project by using variable groups. Choose a variable group when you need to use the same values across all the definitions, stages, and tasks in a project, and you want to be able to change the values in a single place. You define and manage variable groups in the Library tab.

  • Share values across all of the stages by using release pipeline variables. Choose a release pipeline variable when you need to use the same value across all the stages and tasks in the release pipeline, and you want to be able to change the value in a single place. You define and manage these variables in the Variables tab in a release pipeline. In the Pipeline Variables page, open the Scope drop-down list and select "Release". By default, when you add a variable, it is set to Release scope.

  • Share values across all of the tasks within one specific stage by using stage variables. Use a stage-level variable for values that vary from stage to stage (and are the same for all the tasks in an stage). You define and manage these variables in the Variables tab of a release pipeline. In the Pipeline Variables page, open the Scope drop-down list and select the required stage. When you add a variable, set the Scope to the appropriate environment.

Using custom variables at project, release pipeline, and stage scope helps you to:

  • Avoid duplication of values, making it easier to update all occurrences as one operation.

  • Store sensitive values in a way that they cannot be seen or changed by users of the release pipelines. Designate a configuration property to be a secure (secret) variable by selecting the padlock (padlock) icon next to the variable.

    The values of hidden (secret) variables are stored securely on the server and cannot be viewed by users after they are saved. During a deployment, the Azure Pipelines release service decrypts these values when referenced by the tasks and passes them to the agent over a secure HTTPS channel.

Using custom variables

To use custom variables in your build and release tasks, simply enclose the variable name in parentheses and precede it with a $ character. For example, if you have a variable named adminUserName, you can insert the current value of that variable into a parameter of a task as $(adminUserName).

Note: At present, variables in different groups that are linked to a pipeline in the same scope (such as a release or stage scope) will collide and the result may be unpredictable. Ensure that you use different names for variables across all your variable groups.

You can use custom variables to prompt for values during the execution of a release. For more details, see Approvals.

Define and modify your variables in a script

To define or modify a variable from a script, use the task.setvariable logging command. Note that the updated variable value is scoped to the job being executed, and does not flow across jobs or stages. Variable names are transformed to uppercase, and the characters "." and " " are replaced by "_".

For example, Agent.WorkFolder becomes AGENT_WORKFOLDER. On Windows, you access this as %AGENT_WORKFOLDER or $env:AGENT_WORKFOLDER. On Linux and macOS, you use $AGENT_WORKFOLDER.

Tip

You can run a script on a:

Batch script

icon Set the sauce and secret.Sauce variables

@echo ##vso[task.setvariable variable=sauce]crushed tomatoes
@echo ##vso[task.setvariable variable=secret.Sauce;issecret=true]crushed tomatoes with garlic

icon Read the variables

Arguments

"$(sauce)" "$(secret.Sauce)"

Script

@echo off
set sauceArgument=%~1
set secretSauceArgument=%~2
@echo No problem reading %sauceArgument% or %SAUCE%
@echo But I cannot read %SECRET_SAUCE%
@echo But I can read %secretSauceArgument% (but the log is redacted so I do not spoil
     the secret)

Console output from reading the variables:

No problem reading crushed tomatoes or crushed tomatoes
But I cannot read 
But I can read ******** (but the log is redacted so I do not spoil the secret)

Default variables

Information about the execution context is made available to running tasks through default variables. Your tasks and scripts can use these variables to find information about the system, release, stage, or agent they are running in. With the exception of System.Debug, these variables are read-only and their values are automatically set by the system. Some of the most significant variables are described in the following tables. To view the full list, see View the current values of all variables.

System variables

Variable name Description Example Not available in
System.TeamFoundationServerUri The URL of the service connection in TFS or Azure Pipelines. Use this from your scripts or tasks to call Azure Pipelines REST APIs. https://fabrikam.vsrm.visualstudio.com/
System.TeamFoundationCollectionUri The URL of the Team Foundation collection or Azure Pipelines. Use this from your scripts or tasks to call REST APIs on other services such as Build and Version control. https://dev.azure.com/fabrikam/
System.CollectionId The ID of the collection to which this build or release belongs. 6c6f3423-1c84-4625-995a-f7f143a1e43d TFS 2015
System.TeamProject The name of the project to which this build or release belongs. Fabrikam
System.TeamProjectId The ID of the project to which this build or release belongs. 79f5c12e-3337-4151-be41-a268d2c73344 TFS 2015
System.ArtifactsDirectory The directory to which artifacts are downloaded during deployment of a release. The directory is cleared before every deployment if it requires artifacts to be downloaded to the agent. Same as Agent.ReleaseDirectory and System.DefaultWorkingDirectory. C:\agent_work\r1\a
System.DefaultWorkingDirectory The directory to which artifacts are downloaded during deployment of a release. The directory is cleared before every deployment if it requires artifacts to be downloaded to the agent. Same as Agent.ReleaseDirectory and System.ArtifactsDirectory. C:\agent_work\r1\a
System.WorkFolder The working directory for this agent, where subfolders are created for every build or release. Same as Agent.RootDirectory and Agent.WorkFolder. C:\agent_work
System.Debug This is the only system variable that can be set by the users. Set this to true to run the release in debug mode to assist in fault-finding. true  

Release variables

Variable name Description Example Not available in
Release.DefinitionName The name of the release pipeline to which the current release belongs. fabrikam-cd
Release.DefinitionId The ID of the release pipeline to which the current release belongs. 1 TFS 2015
Release.ReleaseName The name of the current release. Release-47
Release.ReleaseId The identifier of the current release record. 118
Release.ReleaseUri The URI of current release. vstfs:///ReleaseManagement/Release/118
Release.ReleaseDescription The text description provided at the time of the release. Critical security patch
Release.RequestedFor The display name of identity that triggered the release. Mateo Escobedo
Release.RequestedForEmail The email address of identity that triggered the release. mateo@fabrikam.com
Release.RequestedForId The ID of identity that triggered the release. 2f435d07-769f-4e46-849d-10d1ab9ba6ab
Release.EnvironmentName The name of stage to which deployment is currently in progress. Dev
Release.EnvironmentId The ID of the stage instance in a release to which the deployment is currently in progress. 276
Release.EnvironmentUri The URI of the stage instance in a release to which deployment is currently in progress. vstfs:///ReleaseManagement/Environment/276
Release.DefinitionEnvironmentId The ID of the stage in the corresponding release pipeline. 1 TFS 2015
Release.AttemptNumber The number of times this release is deployed in this stage. 1 TFS 2015
Release.Deployment.RequestedFor The display name of the identity that triggered (started) the deployment currently in progress. Mateo Escobedo TFS 2015
Release.Deployment.RequestedForId The ID of the identity that triggered (started) the deployment currently in progress. 2f435d07-769f-4e46-849d-10d1ab9ba6ab TFS 2015
Release.DeploymentID The ID of the deployment. Unique per job. 254
Release.DeployPhaseID The ID of the phase where deployment is running. 127
Release.Environments.{stage-name}.status The deployment status of the stage. InProgress
Release.ReleaseWebURL The URL for this release. https://dev.azure.com/fabrikam/f3325c6c/_release?releaseId=392&_a=release-summary
Release.SkipArtifactDownload Boolean value that specifies whether or not to skip downloading of artifacts to the agent. FALSE
Release.TriggeringArtifact.Alias The alias of the artifact which triggered the release. This is empty when the release was scheduled or triggered manually. fabrikam_app

Release stage variables

Variable name Description Example Not available in
Release.Environments.{stage name}.Status The status of deployment of this release within a specified stage. NotStarted TFS 2015

Agent variables

Variable name Description Example Not available in
Agent.Name The name of the agent as registered with the agent pool. This is likely to be different from the computer name. fabrikam-agent
Agent.MachineName The name of the computer on which the agent is configured. fabrikam-agent
Agent.Version The version of the agent software. 2.109.1
Agent.JobName The name of the job that is running, such as Release or Build. Release
Agent.HomeDirectory The folder where the agent is installed. This folder contains the code and resources for the agent. C:\agent
Agent.ReleaseDirectory The directory to which artifacts are downloaded during deployment of a release. The directory is cleared before every deployment if it requires artifacts to be downloaded to the agent. Same as System.ArtifactsDirectory and System.DefaultWorkingDirectory. C:\agent_work\r1\a
Agent.RootDirectory The working directory for this agent, where subfolders are created for every build or release. Same as Agent.WorkFolder and System.WorkFolder. C:\agent_work
Agent.WorkFolder The working directory for this agent, where subfolders are created for every build or release. Same as Agent.RootDirectory and System.WorkFolder. C:\agent_work
Agent.DeploymentGroupId The ID of the deployment group the agent is registered with. This is available only in deployment group jobs. 1 TFS 2018 U1

General artifact variables

For each artifact that is referenced in a release, you can use the following artifact variables. Not all variables are meaningful for each artifact type. The table below lists the default artifact variables and provides examples of the values that they have depending on the artifact type. If an example is empty, it implies that the variable is not populated for that artifact type.

Replace {alias} with the value you specified for the artifact alias, or with the default value generated for the release pipeline.

Variable name Description Azure Pipelines example Jenkins/ TeamCity example TFVC/Git example GitHub example
Release.Artifacts.{alias}.DefinitionId The identifier of the build pipeline or repository. 1 fabrikam/asp
Release.Artifacts.{alias}.DefinitionName The name of the build pipeline or repository. fabrikam-ci TFVC: $/fabrikam, Git: fabrikam fabrikam/asp (master)
Release.Artifacts.{alias}.BuildNumber The build number or the commit identifier. 20170112.1 20170112.1 TFVC: Changeset 3, Git: 38629c964 38629c964
Release.Artifacts.{alias}.BuildId The build identifier. 130 130 38629c964d21fe405ef830b7d0220966b82c9e11
Release.Artifacts.{alias}.BuildURI The URL for the build. vstfs:///build-release /Build/130
Release.Artifacts.{alias}.SourceBranch The full path and name of the branch from which the source was built. refs/heads/master
Release.Artifacts.{alias}.SourceBranchName The name only of the branch from which the source was built. master
Release.Artifacts.{alias}.SourceVersion The commit that was built. bc0044458ba1d9298 cdc649cb5dcf013180706f7
Release.Artifacts.{alias}.Repository.Provider The type of repository from which the source was built Git
Release.Artifacts.{alias}.RequestedForID The identifier of the account that triggered the build. 2f435d07-769f-4e46 -849d-10d1ab9ba6ab
Release.Artifacts.{alias}.RequestedFor The name of the account that requested the build. Mateo Escobedo
Release.Artifacts.{alias}.Type The type of artifact source, such as Build. Build Jenkins: Jenkins, TeamCity:TeamCity TFVC: TFVC, Git: Git GitHub

See also Artifact source alias

Primary artifact variables

You designate one of the artifacts as a primary artifact in a release pipeline. For the designated primary artifact, Azure Pipelines populates the following variables.

Variable name Same as
Build.DefinitionId Release.Artifacts.{Primary artifact alias}.DefinitionId
Build.DefinitionName Release.Artifacts.{Primary artifact alias}.DefinitionName
Build.BuildNumber Release.Artifacts.{Primary artifact alias}.BuildNumber
Build.BuildId Release.Artifacts.{Primary artifact alias}.BuildId
Build.BuildURI Release.Artifacts.{Primary artifact alias}.BuildURI
Build.SourceBranch Release.Artifacts.{Primary artifact alias}.SourceBranch
Build.SourceBranchName Release.Artifacts.{Primary artifact alias}.SourceBranchName
Build.SourceVersion Release.Artifacts.{Primary artifact alias}.SourceVersion
Build.Repository.Provider Release.Artifacts.{Primary artifact alias}.Repository.Provider
Build.RequestedForID Release.Artifacts.{Primary artifact alias}.RequestedForID
Build.RequestedFor Release.Artifacts.{Primary artifact alias}.RequestedFor
Build.Type Release.Artifacts.{Primary artifact alias}.Type

Using default variables

You can use the default variables in two ways - as parameters to tasks in a release pipeline or in your scripts.

You can directly use a default variable as an input to a task. For example, to pass Release.Artifacts.{Artifact alias}.DefinitionName for the artifact source whose alias is ASPNET4.CI to a task, you would use $(Release.Artifacts.ASPNET4.CI.DefinitionName).

Using artifact variables in arguments to a PowerShell Script task

To use a default variable in your script, you must first replace the . in the default variable names with _. For example, to print the value of artifact variable Release.Artifacts.{Artifact alias}.DefinitionName for the artifact source whose alias is ASPNET4.CI in a Powershell script, you would use $env:RELEASE_ARTIFACTS_ASPNET4_CI_DEFINITIONNAME.

Using artifact variables in an inline PowerShell script

Note that the original name of the artifact source alias, ASPNET4.CI, is replaced by ASPNET4_CI.

View the current values of all variables

  1. Open the pipelines view of thr summary for the release, and choose the stage you are interested in. In the list of steps, choose Initialize job.

    Opening the log for a release

  2. This opens the log for this step. Scroll down to see the values used by the agent for this job.

    Viewing the values of the variables in a release

Run a release in debug mode

Show additional information as a release executes and in the log files by running the entire release, or just the tasks in an individual release stage, in debug mode. This can help you resolve issues and failures.

  • To initiate debug mode for an entire release, add a variable named System.Debug with the value true to the Variables tab of a release pipeline.

  • To initiate debug mode for a single stage, open the Configure stage dialog from the shortcut menu of the stage and add a variable named System.Debug with the value true to the Variables tab.

  • Alternatively, create a variable group containing a variable named System.Debug with the value true and link this variable group to a release pipeline.

If you get an error related to an Azure RM service connection, see How to: Troubleshoot Azure Resource Manager service connections.

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