Annotations on metric charts in Application Insights

Annotations show where you deployed a new build, or other significant events. Annotations make it easy to see whether your changes had any effect on your application's performance. They can be automatically created by the Azure Pipelines build system. You can also create annotations to flag any event you like by creating them from PowerShell.

Release annotations with Azure Pipelines build

Release annotations are a feature of the cloud-based Azure Pipelines service of Azure DevOps.

Install the Annotations extension (one time)

To be able to create release annotations, you'll need to install one of the many Azure DevOps extensions available in the Visual Studio Marketplace.

  1. Sign in to your Azure DevOps project.

  2. On the Visual Studio Marketplace Release Annotations extension page, select your Azure DevOps organization, and then select Install to add the extension to your Azure DevOps organization.

    Select an Azure DevOps organization and then select Install.

You only need to install the extension once for your Azure DevOps organization. You can now configure release annotations for any project in your organization.

Configure release annotations

Create a separate API key for each of your Azure Pipelines release templates.

  1. Sign in to the Azure portal and open the Application Insights resource that monitors your application. Or if you don't have one, create a new Application Insights resource.

  2. Open the API Access tab and copy the Application Insights ID.

    Under API Access, copy the Application ID.

  3. In a separate browser window, open or create the release template that manages your Azure Pipelines deployments.

  4. Select Add task, and then select the Application Insights Release Annotation task from the menu.

    Select Add Task and select Application Insights Release Annotation.


    The Release Annotation task currently supports only Windows-based agents; it won't run on Linux, macOS, or other types of agents.

  5. Under Application ID, paste the Application Insights ID you copied from the API Access tab.

    Paste the Application Insights ID

  6. Back in the Application Insights API Access window, select Create API Key.

    In the API Access tab, select Create API Key.

  7. In the Create API key window, type a description, select Write annotations, and then select Generate key. Copy the new key.

    In the Create API key window, type a description, select Write annotations, and then select Generate key.

  8. In the release template window, on the Variables tab, select Add to create a variable definition for the new API key.

  9. Under Name, enter ApiKey, and under Value, paste the API key you copied from the API Access tab.

    In the Azure DevOps Variables tab, select Add, name the variable ApiKey, and paste the API key under Value.

  10. Select Save in the main release template window to save the template.


    Limits for API keys are described in the REST API rate limits documentation.

View annotations


Release annotations are not currently available in the Metrics pane of Application Insights

Now, whenever you use the release template to deploy a new release, an annotation is sent to Application Insights. The annotations can be viewed in the following locations:

The usage pane where you also have the ability to manually create release annotations:

Screenshot of bar chart with number of user visits displayed over a period of hours. Release annotations appear as green checkmarks above the chart indicating the moment in time that a release occurred

In any log-based workbook query where the visualization displays time along the x-axis.

Screenshot of workbooks pane with time series log-based query with annotations displayed

To enable annotations in your workbook go to Advanced Settings and select Show annotations.

Screenshot of Advanced Settings menu with the words show annotations highlighted with a checkmark next to the setting to enable it.

Select any annotation marker to open details about the release, including requestor, source control branch, release pipeline, and environment.

Create custom annotations from PowerShell

You can use the CreateReleaseAnnotation PowerShell script from GitHub to create annotations from any process you like, without using Azure DevOps.

  1. Make a local copy of CreateReleaseAnnotation.ps1.

  2. Use the steps in the preceding procedure to get your Application Insights ID and create an API key from your Application Insights API Access tab.

  3. Call the PowerShell script with the following code, replacing the angle-bracketed placeholders with your values. The -releaseProperties are optional.

         .\CreateReleaseAnnotation.ps1 `
          -applicationId "<applicationId>" `
          -apiKey "<apiKey>" `
          -releaseName "<releaseName>" `
          -releaseProperties @{
              "ReleaseDescription"="<a description>";
              "TriggerBy"="<Your name>" }

You can modify the script, for example to create annotations for the past.

Next steps