After you install the Team Foundation Power Tools, you get a new node in your team Explorer called Work Item Templates.

It appears that Work items Templates have been around for a while, only almost nobody knew they existed since they were nicely tucked away in the team menu. Since the template option now they became visible in the team explorer, it also caught my attention and I must say I really like it allot.

So what can you do with Work item Templates? Well as the name implies, you can set up a pre-populated version of a work item that serves as a template for work items you want to create. This is very useful when you have a work item form that requires you to populate certain fields the right way to get them into your development process. E.g. we have currently 5 versions of the product we work on. The product is also dissected into different product areas. So when I wan to file a Change request, I at least need to make sure I fill in the right Area and Iteration to have the work item show up in the work item queries the project manager and Configuration Item owners run on a daily basis. If I would forget to set up the appropriate fields this can cause my work item to end up in WIT but nobody would ever notice or take action.

After creating the template you can right click it on the team explorer menu and there you can choose Create Work item. Then you will see a new work item form that has the pre-populated fields.

After working with these templates I actually wanted to share the template definitions with my team mates. But unfortunately the templates are currently not stored at the server, but in a folder in your local profile. (default: <SystemDrive>:\users\<username>\Documents\Work Item Templates)

When you create a template, it will save the file as an .wt file on your local hard drive. But it appeared there is a solution to sharing the templates and that is to set up a shared folder on your network. What you do is create a share that allows all team members to create and update files and folders and set the work item template location to that share. You can change the template location using the Team Foundation Power Tools options menu. There you can enter the UNC path of the share you use.

Today we have set this up for the whole team and we are pretty happy with the way this works. One thing to keep in mind is that everybody has all rights to the templates, including modification and deletion. So your team members must be aware of the templates they should maintain and the once that are from their team members. To ease this issue, we decided we would set up a set of folders that are specific to the developer and one shared folder that contains the templates we all can use, but only few maintain.

I would have liked to see this notion of template sharing in the tool as first class citizen, but I think this will work quite well for us at this moment. Who knows the team might decide to store it in TFS someday.