Basic Azure DevOps Build Pipeline

November 07, 2021

I had the opportunity recently to work on an existing project that had an Azure DevOps build pipeline. Azure DevOps pipelines have a lot of options and configurations and can be involved to dive into.

I had some existing work I could use as a guideline but I knew I needed to try to figure out a basic build pipeline before I could proceed. I have a personal Azure DevOps account so I was able to model out the work I needed to do. To sign up for an account, a person needs to have an email account that is not associated to Google or other personal type accounts; I created a Zoho mail account to use for Azure.

Configuration for sample Node.js application

I started with a basic Node.js app, Simple Node Azure Pipeline. I installed dotenv so I could work with variables in my sample script and prepare for using them in the Azure build pipeline.

// .env
// src/app.js
console.log('Hello world, this is a simple Node app')
console.log(`Your name is ${}. Your favorite color is ${process.env.favColor}. Your favorite food is ${process.env.favFood}.`)

I created a script in package.json to run locally and confirm that my src/index.js script worked as expected. I invoked dotenv from this script so that I wouldn’t need to require it in src/index.js.

  "scripts": {
    "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1",
    "simple": "node -r dotenv/config src/index.js"
$ npm run simple
> simple-node-azure-pipeline@1.0.0 simple
> node -r dotenv/config src/index.js
Hello world, this is a simple Node app
Your name is Kristen. Your favorite color is orange. Your favorite food is chocolate.

I created a version of the simple script called simple:ci. The second version calls only src/index.js since variables will be handled by Azure. Our organization uses the ci tag to identify scripts run as a part of CI/CD pipelines.

  "scripts": {
    "test": "echo \"Error: no test specified\" && exit 1",
    "simple": "node -r dotenv/config src/index.js",
    "simple:ci": "node src/index.js"

This final version was pushed to a remote repo in Azure DevOps.

Configure Azure DevOps Variable Group

The first action I took was configuring a variable group. These variables will be used later within the build pipeline.

  • Navigate to Pipelines > Library
    Azure pipelines library
  • Add a Variable Group
    Azure pipelines add variable group
  • Name the variable group and create entries for each variable, together with the value you want to use in the build pipeline
    Azure pipelines variable group entries

Configure Azure DevOps Build Pipeline

  • Navigate to Pipelines > Pipelines
    Azure pipelines initial
  • Choose to Create pipeline (if there are no existing pipelines) or New pipeline (if other pipelines exist)
    Azure pipelines create
  • In the Connect step, choose Azure Repos Git since the repo was pushed to the remote project
    Azure pipelines connect
  • Choose the repo to work with
    Azure pipelines repo choice
  • Choose the project type; the repo contains a Node.js app
    Azure pipelines repo type
  • A basic YAML file will be created.
    Azure pipelines basic YAML
  • From the Save and run dropdown, choose Save to work further with the file. Note: For future development, perform a pull locally before additional work to retrieve the YAML file.
    Azure pipelines YAML save

Adjust YAML file for variable use

The basic YAML file needs to be updated to reference the variable group and its variables.

Additions to note in the image below:

  • Lines 12 - 13: Add a reference to the variable group
  • Line 21: Update the reference to the simple:ci script
  • Lines 23 - 26: Add an env group and list the variable name and its correlated entry in the variable group enclosed in $()
    Azure pipelines YAML update

Grant pipeline permission to variable group

  • Return to Pipelines > Library and select the variable group to update
  • Choose Pipeline permissions
    Azure variable group permissions
  • Click the + to add the pipeline configured above to the permission group
    Azure variable group permissions add
  • The permissions are automatically saved

Run the build pipeline

  • Return to Pipelines > Pipelines and select the pipeline configure above. Choose Run pipeline
    Azure pipelines run
  • Click the Job entry to monitor the run
    Azure pipelines run monitor
  • The job will run through all of the configured steps, some of which have been set up by Azure
    Azure pipelines run steps
  • Click on the npm run and build step that invoked the script; the output reflects the variables set in the variable group not the local set of variables
    Azure pipelines review script execution


This basic Azure DevOps build pipeline configuration provides an example of how to set up the pipeline and use variables from a variable group.

Once the configuration is established in the YAML, it can be further enhanced to perform other actions and tasks.