Testing Azure DevOps Pipelines Locally

I have tried and tried before, plus also read a lot of other people asking for the ability to test Azure YAML Pipelines locally. Now although it is not perfect and some room for improvement, Microsoft has create a way to test your pipeline with some local testing and remote testing without having to check in your YAML.

The issue to solve is, you making a change to a Azure DevOps Pipelines YAML, then to test this you need to check it in just to find out something small like, the value you passed is not correct, or the linked repository isn’t spelt correctly. This can then get very annoying as you need to keep doing this back and forward until it is finally able to run.

A quick tool you can use, which is completely local, is the Visual Studio Code (VS Code) extension ‘Azure Pipelines‘. This will validate your YAMLs formatting and in the Output window to the left it can show you the hierarchy flow of the YAML, which is the first step to validate.

Another handy tool is ‘Azure DevOps Snippets‘, which is an auto-complete library of the Azure DevOps Tasks. This can help in getting the correct names of parameters and tasks, instead of having to need a solid memory.

However, these tools will only help with formatting the local YAML and without the parameters you have set in the Azure DevOps Library. What we need is to test this remotely against the information in Azure DevOps and for that Microsoft have provided an API.

This API can be used to run a pipeline remotely that is stored in Azure DevOps, so you can automate via the API to trigger builds. It also has two handy parameters. One being ‘previewRun’, a boolean to determine if this should run the pipeline for real or validate the run. This will use all the information you have set in Azure DevOps and the pipeline, but it will not create a new build and run code. What it will do is use the correct parameters, link to the other real repositories and check all the data will work. It is also the setting use when you edit the pipeline in Azure DevOps and select ‘Validate’ from the options menu in the top right.

This is really good, but would still require you to check in the YAML that you have edited, which is why there is the parameter ‘yamlOverride’ in the API. In this parameter you can add you newly edited YAML content and this will replace what is store in Azure DevOps without overwriting it.

Here is an example POST Body:



To make life a little easier, if you are using PowerShell there is a VSTeam Module you can install to run this command through PowerShell. It takes the ID of the pipeline you want to run against, which you can get from the pipeline URL in Azure DevOps. It then take the file path to the local YAML file and the project name from Azure DevOps.

Test-VSTeamYamlPipeline -PipelineId 12 -FilePath .\azure-pipelines.yml -ProjectName ProjectName

These are great tools and solve a lot of the issue, but they do not solve all of them. You would still need internet connection to run these, as they run on the remote DevOps instance. Also, I have a repository purely containing groups of YAML tasks for better reusability, which you cannot run tests on these as they are not complete pipelines only templats, so I would still need to do the check in and run process. Finally, it does not merge local YAML files. If you have a main file and then templates locally linked it will not merge them, you need to create a single YAML to run this.

However, I don’t think you can solve all of these as it would require you to run Azure DevOps locally in an exact copy of the live instance you have. If you was using Azure DevOps Server then you might be able to take copies of these and run them in a container on your local, but it could be a longer process compare to the current one.

If you have any other methods to make developing Azure DevOps YAML Pipelines easier then please share.

Published by Chris Pateman - PR Coder

A Digital Technical Lead, constantly learning and sharing the knowledge journey.

3 thoughts on “Testing Azure DevOps Pipelines Locally

  1. A great overview! Thank you very much for it. We are considering switch to azure pipelines from Jenkins pipelines. It suffers from the same problems nevertheless. Our requirement is also to have all the build scripts to be runnable locally so our devs can verify what they commit. We ended up using pipelines as merely an environment for calling and processing results of our build scripts and have minimum of build logic in them.


  2. Thank you. The built in tasks are great and there are so many of them that makes working with the platform easy but as you say you can’t work with them that well locally so manually scripting them can be beneficial.


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