Using HTML fields in your TFS 2010 Work Item definitions gives you great flexibility for user input or storage of presentable information from external sources (System Info from Test Manager, for instance). This is great if you need to input a lot of information with formatted text, hyperlinks, or even links out to external resources. This is leaps and bounds over the text fields in previous versions. One area where this falls short as in the TFS 2010 rules that are attached to the fields. Don’t get me wrong, these work consistently and make life so much easier, but there is a huge missed opportunity here.
Using default values for these fields, it is possible to create blank tables and formatted headers to prompt the end users of the work items for well-formed input. This makes the user experience so much better and gives you a much better chance of getting the information you want on the form. The downside comes in the formatting of the rules. While the HTML and PlainText data types are stored as blobs in the database, the rules are still stored as 255 character strings. This is a little bit inconvenient. The only good part here is that the HTML rendering in VisualStudio isn’t that particular and allows you to make shortcuts in your markup to make the message as short as possible. After pulling the whitespace out you can usually come up with something that is at least usable, though you’ll have to sacrifice all of the fun styling and formatting you might otherwise have put in there.
Maybe that’ll be a feature for the next release?