TFS2010: Shelving

Edit (8/31/2010): The content of this post has been incorporated into my more comprehensive Everyday TFS post.  If you’re looking for a general guide to being more productive with TFS on a day-to-day basis you may consider starting there instead.

A nice feature of TFS is that it allows developers to put aside, or shelve, a set of changes without actually committing them. This can be useful when you need to revert some changes so they don’t conflict with another change or when you need to transfer some code to another developer or workstation.  Like so many things in TFS the shelve feature can be useful but is hindered by poor tool support.  Hopefully the tips presented here can reduce some of the headaches associated with the feature and help you use it to its full potential.

Microsoft made it really easy to create a shelveset.  The Shelve dialog is virtually identical to the Check-in dialog so I won’t go into detail about its operation.  Shelvesets can be created through any of the following methods:

  • File -> Source Control -> Shelve Pending Changes…
  • From the Pending Changes window (View -> Other Windows -> Pending Changes) switch to the Source Files panel and click the Shelve button.
  • Right click on a file or folder in Solution Explorer and select Shelve Pending Changes…
  • Right click on a file or folder in Source Control Explorer select Shelve Pending Changes…

Although Microsoft made it easy to create shelvesets they really fell short on retrieving them.  Unless you’ve been observant when using TFS you’ll probably begin by hunting for the elusive unshelve button.  Unlike when creating a shelveset where there are access points in places we use regularly, there are only two places to go (that I know of) for retrieving one and they’re both kind of buried.

  • File -> Source Control -> Unshelve Pending Changes…
  • From the Pending Changes window (View -> Other Windows -> Pending Changes) switch to the Source Files panel and click the Unshelve button.

The unshelve dialog lists all of the shelvesets created by the user listed in the Owner name field.  By default the owner name is set to the current user but replacing the name with another user name will allow finding the shelvesets created by that user.  Unfortunately there is no way to search for user names so you’ll have to know the name before opening the dialog.

After locating the desired shelveset you can examine its contents through the details button, delete it, or unshelve it.  The unshelve command doesn’t really play nice with files that have local changes.  In fact, if you try to unshelve a file that has changed locally you’ll probably get an error dialog talking about a file having an incompatible local change.  Luckily there’s a work-around that, like so many other things in TFS,  involves TFS Power Tools.

  1. Open a Visual Studio command-line
  2. Navigate to the appropriate workspace
  3. Enter the command tfpt unshelve
  4. Locate the shelveset to unshelve
  5. Select the unshelve option – a second dialog box will open listing any conflicts needing resolution


  1. Thanks for this post. Helped me a lot.
    Really weird that there are only 2 locations (and not very intuitive) for the unshelve button.
    Also weird that you cannot browse for users or type in the name partially. Doesn’t look like a lot of attentation was paid on this part of the functionality.

  2. 1. Add the “Source Control – Team Foundation” toolset to your tool bar.
    2. Click the little down-arrow > Add/Remove Buttons > Customize.
    3. Click “Add Command…” button.
    4. Find in the “File” category the “TfsShelvePendingChanges”.
    5. Click “OK”

    Repeat for “TfsUnhelvePendingChanges”

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