Access all available build variables from your VSTS Build task

04 Apr, 2016
NOTE: This cmdlet works with the Powershell host that shipped with TFS 2015 RTM and which will be replaced with a new task runner. Whether this functionality will remain, is uncertain.

If you want to know which variables are available during your build, or if you want people to create variables with a specific prefix and want to do anything with that, then you need access to the list of all available variables.

Though it’s easy to access a specific variable by name using the Get-Variable cmdlet, it’s not so easy to access all variables. Plus, the Get-Variable command only works when you know the full name beforehand.

Using the below function you receive a dictionary with the name and current value of each variable. You can use it to build tasks that use convention over configuration and retrie a list of all variables that start with a prefix you expect:

$MyVariables = (Get-Variables $distributedTaskcontext).Keys | ?{ $_.StartsWith("MyPrefix.") }

Use te cmdlet below to fetch all variables and do with them what you like:

function Get-Variables{
[switch] $safe = $false
Write-Debug "Entering: Get-Variables"

$type = [Microsoft.TeamFoundation.DistributedTask.Agent.Interfaces.IServiceManager]
$variableService = $type.GetMethod("GetService").MakeGenericMethod([Microsoft.TeamFoundation.DistributedTask.Agent.Interfaces.IVariableService]).Invoke($distributedTaskContext, @())
$dictionary = New-Object "System.Collections.Generic.Dictionary[string,string]" ([System.StringComparer]::OrdinalIgnoreCase)
if ($safe.IsPresent)
Write-Debug "Leaving: Get-Variables"
return $dictionary

I used this little snippet to create a new build task which can expand the value of nested variables. You can find it here:

Jesse is a passionate trainer and coach, helping teams improve their productivity and quality all the while trying to keep work fun. He is a Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) through for the Professional Scrum Foundations (PSF), Professional Scrum Master (PSM) and Developer (PSD .NET) programs. With a strong background in the .NET platform and C#, Jesse is able to translate the needs of development teams when it comes to tools to manage work, build the code and keep quality up. He has contributed to a number of open source products that extend – as well as supported commercial tools like NDepend in their integration into – Team Foundation Server. Jesse regularly blogs and contributes to numerous communities on StackExchange and MSDN networks, he has received the Microsoft Community Contributor Award three years in a row and has been recently been awarded the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award. He’s spoken at conferences and user groups, including the Microsoft TechDays and the Scrum Day Europe. Trainer certifications: Professional Scrum Foundations Professional Scrum Master Professional Scrum Developer (.NET) Scaled Professional Scrum (SPS) Scaled Agile Program Consultant In past years Jesse has delivered ALM, Test Automation and Scrum training all over the world, most recently in Sydney, Milan and Bangalore. He has redelivered materials from industry leading partners as well as developed his own. In addition to the previously mentioned subjects Jesse has taught courses on Visual Studio, Object Oriented Analysis and Design, Design Patterns for C# developers, Unified Modelling languages and Regular Expressions. Jesse is married with Charlotte, recently became father of his first daughter and lives in a house that’s more than a century old in the beautiful city of Utrecht. He loves espresso and dark chocolate, travels a lot and takes photos everywhere he goes.

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