How to: View and manage releases

VSTS | TFS 2017 | TFS 2015

Release Management shows comprehensive information about the releases you have initiated, and the results of deployments. This includes a list and an overview of all releases, a summary of the details for each release, test results, and release logs.

From the Release Management UI you can also restore deleted releases, respond to approval requests, redeploy a release, get release notifications, send email notifications, and view release history. You might also want to add a releases widget to your team dashboard.

List of releases

The default Releases page shows a list of releases. As well as the current status, title, release definition name, and other details, the list contains information about the source of the release, when the release was started the user who initiated it, the description, and more (not all columns are visible in this screenshot).

Select a release definition in the left column to filter the list to just that release definition. Sort the list in ascending or descending order based on the values in each column by clicking the column headings (the sort by column values icon shows the current sorting column). Use the links in the rows to open the release definition in edit mode, or to see the build results linked to that release.

List of releases showing status and other details

The first column in the list indicates if the release is locked, and the second column shows the reason for each release. The Continuous integration icon icon indicates that this release was automatically initiated when a new build of the source artifacts was completed - based on the continuous deployment setting in the release definition.

In this view, each environment is shown as a horizontal bar - red for failed, green for succeeded, orange for partially succeeded, blue for in progress, and gray for paused or not deployed. Notice the Waiting for you to approve icon icon in the first release in the list. This indicates that you were specified as an approver and the release is paused waiting for you to approve it. When a release is paused waiting for a different user to grant approval, the list displays the Waiting for other approver icon icon. See Approvals and Approve a release for more information.

Use the commands on the toolbar of the Releases pane to:

Use the commands on the shortcut menu for a release to:

  • Open the details view of a release in the same or in a new browser tab
  • Start a canceled or a failed release
  • Retain the details and history of a release indefinitely (see Retention policies)
  • Abandon a canceled or a failed release
  • Delete the details of a release

Canceling, restarting, deleting, or abandoning a release

Depending on the current state of a release, not all of the commands will be available.

Find release definitions and releases

Search for a release definition in the left column of the Releases pane.

Searching for a release definition

Use the State drop-down list at the top right of the Releases pane to filter the list of releases by their current state.

Filtering release definitions by state

Or use the Branch drop-down list to filter the list of releases by the branch from which the artifacts were generated.

Filtering release definitions by branch

Overview of releases

The Overview page also shows a list of release definitions, but as a series of environments with the name of the release and the date or time it was started. The color of the heading and the icon in each environment indicate the current status of the release (using the same color scheme as the Releases page). Select a release definition in the left column to filter the list to just releases for that definition.

The Overview page showing release definitions and environments

In the Overview page, you can:

  • Choose the name of the release definition (above the environments) to open that definition in edit mode

  • Choose the name of the release displayed within any of the environments to open the Summary page for the most recent release for this definition.

  • Choose the ellipses (...) next to the release definition name to open a shortcut menu where you can create a new release or a draft release for that release definition, edit or delete the release definition, add a widget for this release to a dashboard on your Home page, or manage the security settings for the release definition.

    Shortcut commands for a release definition in the Overview page

Restore deleted releases

When you delete a release, or it is automatically deleted by a retention policy, the release is removed from the overview and details lists. However, it is retained with the release definition for a period (typically 14 days) before it is permanently deleted. During this period, it is shown in the Deleted tab of the overview and details lists. You can restore any of these releases by opening the shortcut menu and choosing Undelete.

Restoring a deleted release in the Deleted page

Add release information to the dashboard

To make it easy to monitor the releases and deployments for a release definition, add widgets to a dashboard or the overview page of your project. The Release Definition Overview widget shows a summary of the releases for a selected release definition. Links in the widget let you quickly go directly to the list of releases for this release definition, or open the details view of a specific release.

The release definition widget on the Home page dashboard

The Deployment Status widget shows a summary of releases from a selected build to all of the environments in which it has been deployed. It displays the status of each deployment, with an overlay that shows additional information such as the test pass rate. You can specify a range of options for the widget such as the size of the cells, the data source for the overlay, the release definition, the environments to include, as well as the build and branch from with the data is taken. Links in the widget let you open a deployment summary for the environment, and the build definition. Hover over a cell to see a pop-up containing a more detailed summary.

The deployment status widget on the Home page dashboard

Add widgets to a dashboard as shown in Add widgets and charts to a dashboard. You can also add the Release Definition Overview directly from the list of release definitions in the Release hub. On the left of the Overview or Releases page, or in the details page for a release, open the shortcut menu for any release definition and choose Add to Dashboard.

Adding a release definition to the Home page dashboard

Summary view of a release

As a release progresses, you can view the status. You can also view comprehensive details of all previous releases for all release definitions. In the Releases list, open the shortcut menu for a release and choose Open or Open in new tab.

Opening the summary view for a release

Alternatively, when using a mouse, double-click the release in the list to open it. The commands shown on the shortcut menu will vary depending on the current state of the release.

If you have a release in progress, or recently started, a message bar at the top of the page contains a link that opens the Summary page for that release.

The message bar for a release in progress

The default Summary tab shows details of the release as it is in progress. The page shows all of the environments for the release, and the current progress and status for each one. It also contains information about the release definition and the release itself. This includes details of the artifacts to deploy, any test results, and the work items related to this release (if any).

Viewing the release summary page for an in-progress release

Hover your mouse pointer over any "not deployed" status items to see a pop-up tip that indicates the reason, and suggests how or when the deployment will start.

After a release has finished, the page shows full details of the status. For example, deployments to each environment are shown as as partially or fully successful, pending, failed, or not deployed. The summary of test pass rates are also shown for each environment. Choose one of these links to open details of the tests (also see how to view test results).

Release summary page after a release

To select the columns you want to see in the list of results for each environment, use the column selector icon to open the column selector.

Selecting the columns to display for the environment results

To cancel a pending or in-progress release, use the ellipses (...) for the environment to open the shortcut menu and choose Cancel.

Cancelling a release in the Summary page

To deploy a release that has not yet been deployed, such as releases where the environment deployment options only permit a manual release, use the ellipses (...) for the environment to open the shortcut menu and choose Deploy.

Deploy a release in the Summary page

For more details about environment deployment options, see Triggers and Queuing policies. For more details about starting deployment of a release, see How to: Create and deploy a release from a release definition.

Choose the Logs tab at the top of the page to view the log files and the current deployment status. For more details, see How To: Monitor releases and debug deployment issues.

Use the other tab links to see more information about an in-progress or a completed release.

Links for more information about an in-progress release

  • Use the Environments tab to see details of the release definition used to create this release. The view is read-only, but is useful to examine the configuration and parameters used for this release. For more details, see Environments.

  • Use the Artifacts tab to see a list of the artifacts deployed as part of this release. You can also open the Artifacts page using the Show all artifacts link in the Summary page. For more details, see Artifacts.

  • Use the Variables tab to see a list of the configuration variables used for this release. For more details, see Variables and Variable groups.

  • Use the General tab to see the option settings for this release definition, such as the format for release names and the retention period for release information. For more details, see Release names and Retention policies.

  • Use the Commits tab to see a list of all the source code repository commits associated with this release.

  • Use the Work Items tab to see a list of all the source code repository work items associated with this release.

  • Use the Tests tab to see a summary of the test results for this release. For more details, see View test results.

  • Use the History tab to see details of the changes to and deployments from the release definitions associated with this release. For more details, see Release definition history.

Test results

Choose the Tests tab to see the results of tests that ran as part of the build and release process.

Viewing test results from a build and release

For more details about the Tests page, see Review continuous test results after a build

Approve a release

During a release, the deployment pipeline will stop at any stage that requires approval, and will display an alert or indicator to the user. In the Releases, Summary, and Logs pages and lists, it displays the Waiting for approver icon icon when the release is waiting for approval by the current user, or the Waiting for different user icon when the release is waiting for approval by a different user.

A release in the Releases page paused waiting for approval

Release Management may also send an email message to the approver(s) defined for this approval step (this is configurable, see Approvals). The link in the email message sent to approvers opens the Summary page for the release. The page has a reminder containing an Approve or Reject link. This link displays the approval dialog.

Approving a task step for a release in the Summary page

If there is more than one approval waiting for the same user, the reminder will contain two links, All and Selected environments. This saves the user from needing to interact with each approval request individually.

Use the approvers pop-up dialog to:

  • Enter a comment
  • Approve or reject the release
  • Reassign the approval to somebody else
  • Defer the deployment to a specified date and time

Defering a deployment to a specified date and time

An administrator can approve a deployment step even if the approval was originally defined for a different user. In this case, the approvers pop-up dialog contains an Override link that enables the administrator, after choosing this link, to enter comments, approve, reject, reassign, or defer the deployment.

Over-riding an approval as an administrator

For details of how to set up approvals and specify the approval policy, see Approvals.

You can also approve and reject pending releases by accessing the Release Management REST API.

Redeploy a release

If a release fails or is canceled, you can redeploy it. Or if you discover issues after deployment that require a previous release to be reinstated, you can redeploy a previously successful release. Typical scenarios are:

  • An approver canceled the release because an environment was temporary offline, and you now want to redeploy that release because the environment is available again.

  • A deployment failed for a release, perhaps there was a connectivity failure or a server was temporary offline, and you have now fixed the problem that caused the failure.

  • The release was successfully deployed, but is not working correctly and you are unable to quickly locate the problem so you want to redeploy a previous release that was successful.

To redeploy a failed release, open the Summary page, use the ellipses (...) to open the shortcut menu for the environment you want to redeploy to, and choose Redeploy.

Redeploy an app from the Summary page

You can also use the Deploy list in the Summary page to start a new deployment for a release...

Deploying an app from the Summary page

...or the Deploy list in the Logs page.

Deploying an app from the Logs page

If you instead choose to deploy a previous (older) successful release, simply open that release from the list of releases ...

Opening an older release

... and follow the same procedure as above to start the deployment.

However, it's likely that the source for the app has changed since the older release was created, and so redeploying this older release will incur some rollback of commits and work items.

When you start the deployment of a previous release, the Deploy dialog warns you that you are rolling back changes. It shows any work items and commits that are affected.

Re-deploying an older release

Note: You must ensure that the tasks and automation scripts used for the deployment can correctly manage the rollback process. Release Management does not handle this.

If you need to change the release definition before you redeploy, you must create a new release from the updated release definition.

Release notifications

Release Management automatically defines a set of built-in notifications that are integrated with the VSTS and TFS notifications system. You can view, opt out, disable, and manage these notifications in the Notifications tab of the Services hub.

Managing release notificatoins

For more information about notifications, see Manage notifications for a team.

Send email notifications

Release Management can send a range of notifications by email to users and administrators. In addition, it can send detailed emails that show the status of a release. During a release or after a release has finished (irrespective of whether it was successful), choose the Send Email link on the toolbar of the Logs page

Sending an email in the Logs page

In the Send release summary mail dialog:

  • Select the recipients for the email.
  • Edit the default subject if required, and add any notes.
  • Review the list of summary sections that you want to include in the email. All the sections are included by default. Clear the checkboxes for the section you don't want to include.
  • Choose Send.

Entering details for an email in the Logs page

The email contains links that enable the recipients to go directly to the release definition and the list of releases.

The email sent from the Logs page

Release history

Choose History on the main toolbar when a release is selected to show the list of actions taken on this specific release; such as when it was created, deployed, and any approvals or rejections. The list shows the name of the user who initiated the action, the date and time, the type of action, and the details. There is also a Comments column, not visible in this screenshot, which shows information such as the comments from approvers.

Opening the History page

Notice that some changes may be shown as initiated by a security group, such as Project Collection Administrators. This occurs when, for example, an administrator over-rides an action such as a pending approval.

By default, the list of actions is sorted in descending date and time order (the down-arrow icon indicates the current sort order). Choose any of the column headings to sort the list in the order of that column's values, and choose the same heading again to reverse the sort order.

Sorting the History page

You can easily copy the history information to another application:

  • Select some or all of the rows in the history list. Do this using your mouse by clicking while holding the Shift or Ctrl key, or press Ctrl-A when the list has the focus.
  • Press Ctrl-C to copy the rows to the clipboard.
  • Switch to the target application and press Ctrl-V, or choose Paste from the shortcut menu.

The information is tab delimited, and so it is automatically imported into separate columns when you paste into a spreadsheet or a similar type of app.

Copied rows from the History page

If there are actions that updated the snapshot of the release definition used to create this release, the Change Type column in the History list contains a View details link where you can compare the original and the updated snapshot versions.

Opening the comparison of historical actions

The comparison page highlights the changes with a red and green background in the usual way. Here, you can see that the change was the removal of Christie Church as an approver.

Comparison of historical actions

See also


Where can I learn step-by-step how to build and release my app?


How do I programmatically create a release definition?

Release Management REST API

Do I need an agent?

You need at least one agent to run your build or release. Get an agent.

I can't select a default agent queue and I can't queue my build or release. How do I fix this?

See queues.

I use Team Foundation Server on-premises and I don't see some of these features. Why not?

Some of these features are available only on VSTS and not yet available on-premises. Some features are available on-premises if you have upgraded to the latest version of TFS.

Help and support