Use templates to add and update work items

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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.

Note

Work item templates are distinct from process templates. For information on process templates, see Choose a process template or these specific topics for the default process templates: Agile, Scrum, or CMMI.

Note that within the browser context or web portal, work item 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.

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 you're 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.

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.

  1. Click the Actions icon actions icon and choose Copy link.

    Copy link of a template

  2. Copy the link to a shared network or send to your team via email. Also, consider adding a link the team dashboard.

    The link is a URL to the web portal, for example:

    http://fabrikamfiber:8080/tfs/DefaultCollection/Fabrikam%20Fiber/Web/_workItems?_a=new&witd=Bug&templateId=15ffa521-7a1d-486e-9f71-a58c0b338d87
    
  3. 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 web page as a hyperlink.

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.

Note

Multiple team dashboards and the Markdown widget are available for VSTS and TFS 2015.2 and later versions.

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

Markdown widget with links to templates

To learn more about the markdown widget see Add Markdown to a dashboard, Markdown widgets.

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 actions 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

  3. Field changes are automatically applied and work items saved. To learn more about bulk updates, see Bulk modify work items.

Manage work item templates

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.

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 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.

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.

Managing work item templates from the web portal is only supported from TFS 2017 and later versions. For TFS 2013 and TFS 2015, you can manage work item templates in Visual Studio 2013 or Visual Studio 2015 by downloading TFS Power Tools. 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.

Note

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 TFS 2015 version or an earlier version. Templates you define through the power tool are separate from those defined through the web portal for TFS.

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.

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 use the Marketplace extension, Work item form one click actions, to create rules that support adding linked work items with a single click.

Otherwise, 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.

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.