AWS Developer Tools Blog

Using AWS CodeCommit with Visual Studio Team Explorer

We recently announced support for new features in the AWS Toolkit for Visual Studio that make working with AWS CodeCommit repositories easy and convenient from within Visual Studio Team Explorer. In this post, we take a look at getting started with setting up credentials, and then how to create and clone repositories from within Team Explorer.

Credential types for AWS CodeCommit

If you’re an existing user of the AWS Toolkit for Visual Studio, you’re aware of setting up AWS credential profiles that contain your access and secret keys. These credential profiles are used in the Toolkit for Visual Studio to enable the Toolkit to call service APIs on your behalf, for example, to list your Amazon S3 buckets in AWS Explorer or to launch an Amazon EC2 instance. The integration of AWS CodeCommit with Team Explorer also uses these credential profiles. However, to work with Git itself we need additional credentials, specifically, Git credentials for HTTPS connections. You can read about these kinds of credentials (a user name and password) at Setup for HTTPS Users Using Git Credentials in the AWS CodeCommit user guide.

You can create the Git credentials for AWS CodeCommit only for Identity and Access Management (IAM) user accounts. You cannot create them for a root account. You can create up to two sets of these credentials for the service and, although you can mark a set of credentials as inactive, inactive sets still count toward your limit of two sets. Note that you can delete and recreate credentials at any time. When you use AWS CodeCommit from within Visual Studio, your traditional AWS credentials are used for working with the service itself, for example, when you’re creating and listing repositories. When working with the actual Git repositories hosted in AWS CodeCommit, you use the Git credentials.

As part of the support for AWS CodeCommit, we’ve extended the Toolkit for Visual Studio to automatically create and manage these Git credentials for you and associate them with your AWS credential profile. That way, you don’t need to worry about having the right set of credentials at hand to perform Git operations within Team Explorer. Once you connect to Team Explorer with your AWS credential profile, the associated Git credentials are used automatically whenever you work with a Git remote.

Later in this post we’ll go over how and when to set up the Git credentials that you need. Just remember that you have to use an IAM user account (which we strongly recommend you do anyway).

Connecting to AWS CodeCommit

When you open the Team Explorer window in Visual Studio 2015 or later, you’ll see a new entry in the Hosted Service Providers section of Manage Connections, as shown.

Choosing Sign up opens the AWS home page in a browser window. What happens when you choose Connect depends on whether the Toolkit for Visual Studio can find a credential profile with AWS access and secret keys to enable it to make calls to AWS on your behalf. You might have set up a credential profile by using the new Getting Started page that displays in the IDE when the Toolkit cannot find any locally stored credentials. Or you might have been using our Toolkit, the AWS Tools for PowerShell, or the AWS CLI and already have AWS credential profiles available for the Toolkit to use.

When you choose Connect, the toolkit starts the process to find a credential profile to use in the connection. If the Toolkit can’t find a credential profile, it opens a dialog box that invites you to enter the access and secret keys for your AWS account. We strongly recommend that you use an IAM user account, and not your root credentials. In addition, as noted earlier, the Git credentials you will eventually need can only be created for IAM users. Once the access and secret keys are provided and the credential profile is created, the connection between Team Explorer and AWS CodeCommit is ready for use.

If the Toolkit finds more than one AWS credential profile, you’re prompted to select the account you want to use within Team Explorer, as shown.

If you have only one credential profile, the toolkit bypasses the profile selection dialog box and you’re connected immediately.

When a connection is established between Team Explorer and AWS CodeCommit via your credential profiles, the invitation dialog box closes and the connection panel is displayed, as shown below.

Because we have no repositories cloned locally, the panel shows just the operations we can perform: Clone, Create, and Sign out. Like other providers, AWS CodeCommit in Team Explorer can be bound to only a single AWS credential profile at any given time. To switch accounts, you use Sign out to remove the connection so you can start a new connection using a different account. We’ll see how this panel expands to display our local AWS CodeCommit repositories later in the post.

Now that we have established a connection, we can create a repository by clicking the Create link.

Creating a repository

When we click the Create link, the Create a New AWS CodeCommit Repository dialog box opens.

AWS CodeCommit repositories are organized by region, so in Region we can select the region in which to host the repository. The list has all the regions in which AWS CodeCommit is supported. We provide the Name (required) and Description (optional) for our new repository.

The default behavior of the dialog box is to suffix the folder location for the new repository with the repository name (as you enter the name, the folder location also updates). To use a different folder name, edit the Clone into folder path after you finish entering the repository name.

You can also elect to automatically create an initial .gitignore file for the repository. The AWS Toolkit for Visual Studio provides a built-in default for Visual Studio file types. Or you can choose to have no file or to use a custom existing file that you would like to reuse across repositories. Simply select Use custom in the list and navigate to the custom file to use.

Once we have a repository name and location, we’re ready to click OK and start creating the repository. The Toolkit requests that the service create the repository and then clone the new repository locally, adding an initial commit for the .gitignore file, if we’re using one. It’s at this point that we start working with the Git remote, so the Toolkit now needs access to the Git credentials we described earlier.

Setting up Git credentials

Until now we’ve been using AWS access and secret keys to request that the service create our repository. Now we need to work with Git itself to do the actual clone operation, and Git doesn’t understand AWS access and secret keys. Instead, we need to supply the user name and password credentials to Git to use on an HTTPS connection with the remote.

As we said earlier, the Git credentials we’re going to use must be associated with an IAM user. You cannot generate them for root AWS credentials (this is another reason why we recommend you set up your AWS credential profiles to contain IAM user access and secret keys, and not root keys). The Toolkit can attempt to set up Git credentials for AWS CodeCommit for you, and associate them with the AWS credential profile that we used to connect in Team Explorer earlier. Let’s take a look at the process.

When you choose OK in the Create a New AWS CodeCommit Repository dialog box and successfully create the repository, the Toolkit checks the AWS credential profile that is connected in Team Explorer to determine if Git credentials for AWS CodeCommit exist and are associated locally with the profile. If so, the Toolkit instructs Team Explorer to commence the clone operation on the new repository. If Git credentials are not available locally, the Toolkit checks the type of account credentials that were used in the connection in Team Explorer. If the credentials are for an IAM user, as we recommend, the following message is shown.

If the credentials are root credentials, the following message is shown instead.

In both cases, the Toolkit offers to attempt to do the work to create the necessary Git credentials for you. In the first scenario, all it needs to create are a set of Git credentials for the IAM user. When a root account is in use, the Toolkit first attempts to create an IAM user and then proceeds to create Git credentials for that new user. If the Toolkit has to create a new user, it applies the AWS CodeCommit Power User managed policy to that new user account. This policy allows access to AWS CodeCommit (and nothing else) and enables all operations to be performed with AWS CodeCommit except for repository deletion.

When you’re creating credentials, you can only view them once. Therefore, the toolkit prompts you to save the newly created credentials (as a .csv file) before continuing.

You won’t be surprised to learn that this is something we also strongly recommend (and be sure to save them to a secure location)!

There might be cases where the Toolkit can’t automatically create credentials. For example, you may already have created the maximum number of sets of Git credentials for AWS CodeCommit (two), or you might not have sufficient programmatic rights for the Toolkit to do the work for you (if you’re signed in as an IAM user). In these cases, you can log into the AWS Management Console to manage the credentials or obtain them from your administrator. You can then enter them in the Git Credentials for AWS CodeCommit dialog box, which the Toolkit displays.

Now that the credentials for Git are available, the clone operation for the new repository proceeds (see progress indication for the operation inside Team Explorer). If you elected to have a default .gitignore file applied, it is committed to the repository with a comment of ‘Initial Commit’.

That’s all there is to setting up credentials and creating a repository within Team Explorer. Once the required credentials are in place, all you see when creating new repositories in the future is the Create a New AWS CodeCommit Repository dialog itself. Now let’s look at cloning an existing repository.

Cloning a repository

To clone a repository, we return to the connection panel for AWS CodeCommit in Team Explorer. We click the Clone link to open the Clone AWS CodeCommit Repository dialog box, and then select the repository to clone and the location on disk where we want to place it.

Once we choose the region, the Toolkit queries the service to discover the repositories that are available in that region and displays them in the central list portion of the dialog box. The name and optional description of each repository are also displayed. You can reorder the list to sort it by either repository name or the last modified date, and to sort each in ascending or descending order.

Once we select our repository we can choose the location to clone to. This defaults to the same repository location used in other plugins to Team Explorer, but you can browse to or enter any other location. By default, the repository name is suffixed onto the selected path. However, if you want a specific path, simply edit the text box after you select the folder. Whatever text is in the box when you click OK will be the folder in which the cloned repository will be found.

Having selected the repository and a folder location, we then click OK to proceed with the clone operation. Just as with creating a repository, you can see the progress of the clone operation reported in Team Explorer.

Working with repositories

When you clone and/or create repositories, notice that the set of local repositories for the connection are listed in the connection panel in Team Explorer under the operation links. These entries give you a convenient way to access the repository to browse content. Simply right-click the repository and choose Browse in Console.

You can also use Update Git Credentials to update the stored Git credentials associated with the credential profile. This is useful if you’ve rotated the credentials. The command will display the Git Credentials for AWS CodeCommit dialog box we noted earlier for you to enter or import the new credentials.

Git operations on the repositories work as you’d expect. You can make local commits and, when you are ready to share, you use the Sync option in Team Explorer. Because the Git credentials are already stored locally and associated with our connected AWS credential profile, we won’t be prompted to supply them again for operations against the AWS CodeCommit remote.


We hope you found this post useful in detailing how to manage credentials for AWS CodeCommit inside Team Explorer and using them to create and clone repositories within the IDE!