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TFS areas and iterations

Setting up areas and iterations in Team Foundation Server is often confusing to many teams, particularly around best practices. Here we have laid out a few best practices and how-to procedures to get you going in TFS 2010 or TFS 2012.

What are areas?

Areas are hierarchical breakdowns of components of the product that allow you to see how much effort, how many tasks, etc. apply to each. A typical representation is <product>\<component>\<module>, but can be any structure you wish. Example areas for a fictitious product:

\Rich Client

\Rich Client\Settings

\Rich Client\Installer


\Tools\Schema Wizard

Some guidelines:

  • Don’t make your areas too granular – the team ultimately won’t use the leaf nodes. Keep your levels to 3 or less.
  • You could separate areas by business functionality, technology, system layer, or geographic location, but most teams are sticking to component/module
  • Please format your areas according to <level1>\<level2>\<level3> (i.e. separate by backslashes)
  • Avoid just listing out acronyms, which are hard to parse. Some teams, for example, are using a format like: “<acronym> – <definition>”
  • Migration: Consider not just copying your areas from existing tools – this is a chance to start over if you have a better scheme in mind!

What are iterations?
Iterations are the version number / code iteration that your fix or feature is targeted to be completed in. They should reflect your upcoming set of releases. These are not old versions where bugs were found but are more forward-looking. Example iterations for a fictitious product:


\6.0.12\Iteration 1 (4-1-2013 to 4-26-2013)


Some guidelines:

  • Iterations should never be more than 30 days in duration
  • Iterations generally follow the \<release>\<iteration> pattern
  • Format your areas according to <level1>\<level2>\<level3> (i.e. separate by backslashes)
  • Iteration dates are not available in TFS 2010 but can be made available on a SharePoint
    • To compensate, we recommend putting the iteration dates in the iteration node name
    • Iteration dates can be set explicitly in the TFS 2012 web client

Who can modify areas and iterations?
Project administrators can make changes to areas and iterations.
How to modify areas and iterations?

  1. First, ensure that you are a project administrator on the project you wish to modify areas and/or iterations.
  2. Launch the areas and iterations editor.

    VS 2010
    From within Visual Studio or Team Explorer by right-clicking on the appropriate project in the Team Explorer window.
    VS 2012
    Area and iteration editing is available directly through the web client. Either go directly to the web client (typically http://<server>:8080/tfs) or connect to your project and follow this method:

  3. Select the appropriate tab for either areas or iterations (in VS for TFS 2010; in your web browser for TFS 2012)
  4. Area: Select the node that is to be the parent of the new node you want to create.

    VS 2010
    Click the “Insert node” button:
    NOTE: A shortcut to insert a new node as a child of the selected node is to hit the “Insert” key.
    VS 2012
    Click the “New Child” link:

  5. Iteration: Same thing applies. This time we will delete an iteration. Select the node to delete and click the red ‘X’ button (VS 2010). You will be prompted to select an iteration that all existing records that are assigned to the iteration being deleted should move into.
    NOTE: Don’t be afraid of deleting areas or iterations. TFS does a nice job of ensuring that all existing records using those field values are assigned a reasonable default, which you select.

    NOTE: With VS/TFS 2012, you can right-click on a node in your web browser to delete it.

Is there a way to bulk update areas and iterations?

We have a command-line tool available to bulk update a larger set of areas and iterations based on a text file. Contact us if you want access to this tool.

Alternately, you can use a freely available one, but you have to go through a UI: