GenerateReleaseNotes Node based Cross Platform Task

Richard Fennell edited this page Apr 27, 2018 · 6 revisions


  • Written in Typescript (Node.JS)
  • Can be used on any type of release agents (Windows, Mac or linux)
  • Can be used in VSTS or TFS 2018 releases (TFS 2018 required as older versions are missing the required API)
  • Uses same logic as VSTS Release UI to work out the work items and commits/changesets associated with the release
  • IMPORTANT - Both V1 and V2 of this task are shipped in the same extension, this is because V2 is a complete rewrite by @gregpakes with minor but breaking changes in the template format and that oAuth needs enabling on the build agent running the tasks


As with my original PowerShell based Release Notes task, this task generates a release notes file based on a template passed into the tool. For this version of the task the data source for the generated Release Notes is the VSTS REST API's comparison calls that are also used by the VSTS UI to show the associated Work items and commit/changesets between two releases. Hence this task should generate the same list of items as the VSTS UI.

Note: That this comparison is only done against the primary build artifact linked to the Release

If the template file is markdown the output report being something like the following:

# Release notes
## Notes for release  New Empty Definition 25-Mar
**Release Number**  : Release-5
**Release completed** : 2017-04-03T19:32:25.76Z
**Compared Release Number**  : Release-4

### Associated work items
* ** Epic 21 ** Assigned by: Richard Fennell (Work MSA) <>  Add items

### Associated commits
* **ID f5f964fe5ab27b1b312f6aa45ea1c5898d74358a ** Updated #21

The Template

The use of a template allows the user to define the format, layout and fields shown in the release notes document. It is basically a file in the format required with tags to denote the fields to be replaced when the tool generates the report file.

  • Most samples are in Markdown, but it is possible to generate any other format such as HTML
  • The @@TAG@@ tags are special loop control flags
  • The ${properties} are the fields to be expanded from properties in the JSON response objects returned from the VSTS REST API
  • This task differed from PowerShell based Release Notes task in that the ${properties} format changes slightly due to the move from PowerShell to Node within the task

The only real change from standard markdown is the use of the @@TAG@@ blocks to denote areas that should be looped over i.e: the points where we get the details of all the work items and commits associated with the build. So for the V1 version of the task a template for GIT repo could be

# Release notes 
## Notes for release  ${}
**Release Number**  : ${} 
**Release completed** : ${releaseDetails.modifiedOn} 
**Compared Release Number**  : ${} 

### Associated work items  
* ** ${widetail.fields['System.WorkItemType']} ${} ** Assigned by: ${widetail.fields['System.AssignedTo']}  ${widetail.fields['System.Title']}  
### Associated commits
* **ID ${csdetail.commitId} ** ${csdetail.comment}    

Whilst a TFVC repo requires a V1 template of the format

### Associated commits
* **ID ${csdetail.changesetId} ** ${csdetail.comment}    

The V2 task allows a common format of

### Associated commits
* **ID ${} ** ${csdetail.message}    

What is done behind the scenes is that each line of the template is evaluated as a line of Node.JS in turn, the in memory versions of the objects are used to provide the runtime values. The available objects to get data from at runtime are

  • releaseDetails – the release details returned by the REST call Get Release Details of the release that the task was triggered for.
  • compareReleaseDetails - the release that the REST call is using to comapre against
  • widetail – the details of a given work item inside the loop returned by the REST call Get Work Item (within the @@WILOOP@@@ block)
  • csdetail – the details of a given Git commit or TFVC changeset inside the loop returned by the REST call to Get Commits(within the @@CSLOOP@@@ block)

There are sample templates that just produce basic releases notes for both Git and TFVC based releases


Once the extension is added to your TFS or VSTS server, the task should be available in the utilities section of 'add tasks'

IMPORTANT - The V2 Tasks requires that oAuth access is enabled on agent running the task

The task takes three parameters

  • The output file name, for builds this will normally be set to $(Build.ArtifactStagingDirectory)\ as the release notes will usually be part of your build artifacts. For release management usage the parameter should be set to something like $(System.DefaultWorkingDirectory)\ Where you choose to send the created files is down to your deployment needs.
  • A picker allows you to set if the template is provided as a file in source control (usually used for builds) or an inline file (usually used for release management). The setting of this picker effects which third parameter is shown
  • Either - The template file name, which should point to a file in source control.
  • Or - The template text.
  • (Advanced) Empty set text - the text to place in the results file if there is no changeset/commit or WI content
  • (Advanced) Name of the release stage to look for the last successful release in, default to empty value so uses the current stage of the release that the task is running in (release mode, when scanning past build only)
  • (Outputs) Optional: Name of the variable that markdown contents will be copied into for use in other tasks

Using the settings for the output file shown above, the release notes will be created in the specified folder, and will probably need be copied by a task such as 'Publish Artifacts' to your final required location.

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