Require branches to be created in folders

VSTS | TFS 2018

When you have many people collaborating in a repository, the number and names of branches can quickly get out of control. Hierarchical branch folders is an effective way to tame the chaos. VSTS, TFS, and Visual Studio treat / as a folder separator and will automatically collapse folders by default. This way, you don't have to wade through every single branch to find the one you're looking for. You don't have to rely on everyone to get it right, either. VSTS and TFS can enforce the correct use of branch folders.


Decide on the folder structure you want to allow. As an example, we'll set our repository to enforce the following rules:

  • Only master can exist at the repository root.
  • All users will be allowed to create branches under the features/ and users/ folders.
  • Administrators will be able to create branches under the releases/ folder.


For more examples and information about branch naming strategies, see Adopt a Git branching strategy.


  • You will need the Team Foundation version control command (tf.exe) on your computer. Run a Visual Studio Developer Command Prompt (in Windows, choose Start, choose Visual Studio, then choose the the Developer Command Prompt).
  • You will need the URL of your account or collection, the name of the project, and the name of the repository. For this example, we'll use, FabrikamProject, and FabrikamRepo.

Enforce permissions

Run the following commands in the Developer Command Prompt. Each command is preceded with an explanation of what it's doing. If you don't have a personal access token cached (for example by signing in to the VSTS web portal) you'll be prompted to login.

First, block the Create Branch permission at the repository root for the project's contributors.

tf git permission /deny:CreateBranch /group:[FabrikamProject]\Contributors /collection: /teamproject:FabrikamProject /repository:FabrikamRepo

Then, allow contributors to create branches under features and users.

tf git permission /allow:CreateBranch /group:[FabrikamProject]\Contributors /collection: /teamproject:FabrikamProject /repository:FabrikamRepo /branch:features

tf git permission /allow:CreateBranch /group:[FabrikamProject]\Contributors /collection: /teamproject:FabrikamProject /repository:FabrikamRepo /branch:users

Allow administrators to create branches under releases.

tf git permission /allow:CreateBranch /group:"[FabrikamProject]\Project Administrators" /collection: /teamproject:FabrikamProject /repository:FabrikamRepo /branch:releases

Finally, allow administrators to create a branch called master (in case it ever gets deleted accidentally.

tf git permission /allow:CreateBranch /group:"[FabrikamProject]\Project Administrators" /collection: /teamproject:FabrikamProject /repository:FabrikamRepo /branch:master


For more information, see tf git permission. You can also access help for these commands from the command line by running tf git /? and tf git permission /?.

Rename old branches

  1. Navigate to the Branches page.
  2. Locate your existing branch. If you don't see it, you may need to look on the All tab.
  3. Choose its context menu (the ... button) and choose New branch.

    Create branch menu

  4. Type the new name of the branch, for example users/frank/readme-fix. Choose Create branch.

    Create new branch

  5. Choose the red trashcan icon next to the old branch name to delete it.

    Delete old branch


Any custom permissions or branch policies you had set up will not be migrated.