In order to provide non-Visual Studio users (like business folks and clients) access to the Matrix, there are a few options available from Microsoft and third-parties.

The two I’ve tried and will talk a bit about are Team Foundation Client and TeamPlain. There are other tools out there too, but I haven’t looked at them and don’t plan to. (Sorry!)

The out-of-the-box option offered by Team System is the Team Foundation Client, which is essentially the TF Explorer plug-in. But this requires an install on the user’s machine which is always an overhead, since it involves IT folks and help-desk, etc.

To address that issue (I guess), Microsoft recently acquired a company called devBiz which has a product called TeamPlain to provide web access to TF. It is a pretty slick-looking website product that hooks into TF at the back-end.

The TFC install did not work for me “as-is” from the MSDN DVD because the paths expected by the setup program are different from the actual paths on disc. Doh! The workaround for this is to copy the install folder on a drive and copy/move required folders as you come across the “not found” error messages. I came across 3 errors. Does this mean better QA is required?

The TeamPlain install went pretty well but fyi, it does need an install of TFC on the web-server hosting TeamPlain. (I’m guessing TeamPlain is exploiting some APIs provided by some component in TFC.). I installed TeamPlain on the TF server itself and some companies might have a problem with that configuration because it might pose a security risk, and for that it is possible to configure a separate web-server to host TeamPlain.

The UI of TeamPlain is pretty slick but I think it is too cluttered and could be dumbed-down for business users or maybe specialized for different users. I also got some crazy errors at times while accessing Source Control (SOAP exceptions for Network Service while authenticating) but these could be due to our network glitches too.
One thing that bugged me, but I understand that it’s a transition period, was the web pages that opened up when I clicked the “Buy License”, etc. links. They just take you to a page announcing the buy-out. How about letting me know in a nutshell about licenses (if I need them anymore or whatever) first?

I am playing with it at the moment and will write about any issues I come across later.