Brandon's Notepad

September 14, 2017

TFS / VSTS Customization


I started working heavily with Microsoft Team Foundation Server (TFS) in the summer of 2016 and may be migrating to Visual Studio Team Servcies (VSTS) in the not-so-distant future. The need to customize TFS operations was almost immediately obvious, and the complexity of the customization only increases in proportion with the use of the tool. This page is a (growing) list of links that I’ve found useful.

Runtime Environment Variables

Environment variables are available for use during both build and release operations. These are my go-to references when I need to figure out how to get to runtime data.

Marketplace Extensions

The Visual Studio Marketplace offers many useful extensions for TFS & VSTS. Some implement or extend features such as dashboards, but the ones I’m most interested in (at least for now) are the build and release tasks. Like apps on a smart phone, these little gems eliminate the need for writing extensive scripts to compile code and deploy products. I’ve found it important to check the Marketplace often for new items as well as for updates to extensions already in use.




  • Hopefully, I won’t have to add any extensions in this section.

Custom Scripts & Extensions

If you can’t find what you need in the Marketplace, you can always write your own deployment scripts and extensions. These can be published or retained for internal use only, your choice. Here is a list of useful resources for beginners.




More to come…

July 30, 2010

Programmatically Creating Windows Shortcuts

Filed under: Computer Software,How-To,Windows — Brandon @ 7:50 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Home > My Lists > Technical Notes > Programmatically Creating Windows Shortcuts


Windows shortcut files can be created using a script. This is useful in circumstances when you need to distribute shortcuts across multiple computers, possible as part of a software installation procedure. The shortcuts themselves seem to be fairly portable, but this is a more pure way of controlling their content.


My Shell Example

I do a lot of work from the command line, so I take advantage of tried-and-true DOSKEY macros and other useful tools. I like to have these loaded for me whenever I open a new command prompt, so I maintain a shortcut that runs a batch file similar to the .login or .cshrc files used on Unix platforms prior to displaying the prompt. This is the pruned version of the script I use to maintain this shortcut definition:

Shell = new ActiveXObject(“WScript.Shell”);
link = Shell.CreateShortcut(“MyShell.lnk”);
link.TargetPath =”%SystemRoot%\\system32\\cmd.exe”;
link.Arguments = “/K %HOMEDRIVE%\dosrc.bat”;
link.WorkingDirectory = “%HOMEDRIVE%” + “%HOMEPATH%”;
link.IconLocation = “%SystemRoot%\\system32\\progman.exe,6”;
link.Description = “MyShell shortcut by B Brinkley”;

This is based on the example provided in the MSDN article linked above. The arguments are specific to cmd.exe, I rely heavily on environment variables for path info, and the icon is the long-standing MS-DOS logo with the interlocking letters.

November 19, 2009

Windows Keyboard Shortcuts

Filed under: Windows — Brandon @ 10:24 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Here are a few Windows keyboard shortcuts (also called “hotkeys”) that I find very useful. The well-known editing shortcuts have been omitted (e.g. CTRL+X to cut, etc.).

Windows Tools
WINDOWS+D: Show Desktop
WINDOWS+L: Lock workstation
WINDOWS+E: Open Windows Explorer (My Computer)
CTRL+SHIFT+ESC: Task Manager
CTRL+ALT+DEL: Security Manager

Opening Menus
CTRL+ESC: Start menu (same as WINDOWS key)
ALT+ENTER: Open properties menu
ALT+SPACE: Open system menu
SHIFT+F10: Open context menu (same as App key)

Switching Applications
ALT+TAB: Switch apps using “CoolSwitch” dialogue box
ALT+ESC: Switch apps in order opened
WINDOWS+TAB: Navigate apps on taskbar
[Add SHIFT to any of these to reverse direction]

CTRL-F6: Switch docs (e.g. Excel books)
F6: Cycles screen elements
F10: Activates menu bar
[F6, F10 & ALT expose shortcuts in Office 2007]

Moving a Window Using the Keyboard
On various occasions, I’ve had to retrieve a window that was outside of the visible boundries of the desktop. This happened most recently at work, when I logged into a computer with only one monitor attached. At my desktop, the app usually opens by default on the second monitor. To solve this:

  1. ALT+TAB until the app is in focus.
  2. ALT+SPACE to activate the system menu.
  3. Type the ‘M’ botton for ‘Move’.
  4. Use the arrow keys to move the window around.


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