Get started with semantic search

Azure DevOps Services | Azure DevOps Server 2020 | Azure DevOps Server 2019 | TFS 2018 - TFS 2017

The Search function for Azure DevOps enables you to easily search across all the projects, teams, and repositories to which you have access.

With semantic search, you can quickly find work items, code files, wiki pages, or packages based on a keyword, wildcards, and other supported semantic search filters.

With semantic search, you can quickly find work items and code files based on a keyword, wildcards, and other supported semantic search filters.

You can find an at-a-glance look at all of the semantic search features further in this article.

Prerequisites

  • Every project member can use the semantic search functions, including project members granted Stakeholder, Basic, and higher levels of access.
  • When searching across the organization or collection, only results for which a project member has access are listed.
  • Stakeholder wiki search results are limited to provisioned wikis. Because published wikis require access to regular repositories, which Stakeholders don't have access to, results for published wikis don't appear in the search results. Similarly, Code search results don't appear for Stakeholders.

Note

For Code search, a Collection Administrator must install the Code Search extension.

Start your search with a keyword

Start your search using a keyword. You can then apply other options, as needed, to broaden or narrow your search results.

Search boxes in Azure DevOps

Search boxes in TFS 2018 and earlier

Tip

  • If you get no results matching the input, try removing filters and retry the search. Broadening the search and after you view the search results, you can apply appropriate filters again and search again for relevant results.
  • Check for the spelling of your search terms. Currently Work item search doesn't support ignoring of users' spelling mistakes.
  • If there are lots of hits when you're using a wildcard search, such as when you're using a simple wildcard search string, you may see a message that no matching files are found. In this case, narrow your search to reduce the number of matches. Specify more characters of the word or words that you want to find, or add a condition or filter to limit the number of possible matches. Searches aren't case-sensitive.

Semantic search features, usage, and examples

The following features apply to all searches, including work items, code, wikis, and packages.

The following features apply to all searches, including work items, code, and packages.


Search feature

Usage

Example


Keyword

Search based on one or more keywords.

validate finds instances that contain the word validate.


Exact match

Search based on an exact match, enclosed in double-quotes.

"Client not found" finds instances that contain the exact phrase match Client not found.


Wildcard

  • Add wildcard characters, * and ?, to keywords to extend the search criteria.
  • Add * at the end of a keyword to find items that start with the keyword.
  • Add ? in the middle to represent any alphanumeric character.
  • Use wildcard characters anywhere in your search string except as a prefix. You can use prefix wildcards with the other search filter functions.
  • You can use more than one wildcard to match more than one character.
  • alpha?version finds instances of alpha1version and alphaXversion.
  • Browser* finds instances of BrowserEdge, BrowserIE, and BrowserFirefox.
  • CodeSenseHttp* finds files containing words that start with CodeSenseHttp, such as CodeSenseHttpClient and CodeSenseHttpClientTest.

Boolean operators

  • Find two or more keywords using Boolean operators: AND, OR, and NOT (must be uppercase).
  • Add parenthesis to clauses to support logical groupings.
  • Because AND is the default operator, an entry of two keywords with no operator is the same as an AND search.
  • Validate AND revisit finds files that contain both the words validate and revisit.
  • Validate OR revisit finds files that contain either of the words validate or revisit.
  • Validate NOT revisit finds files that contain the word validate but not the word revisit.
  • (Validate NOT revisit) OR "release delayed" finds files that contain the word validate but not the word revisit or files that contain the phrase release delayed.

Proximity

  • Search for files based on vicinity using proximity operators: NEAR, BEFORE, and AFTER (must be uppercase).
  • By default, proximity search looks for terms within five tokens distance.
  • term1 BEFORE term2 returns all files where term1 occurs BEFORE term2 within a distance of five tokens between them.
  • term1 AFTER term2 returns the same results as term2 BEFORE term1.
  • term1 NEAR term2 returns all files where term1 is within five token distance from term2 in any direction. term1 NEAR term2 returns the same results as term1 BEFORE term2 OR term2 BEFORE term1.

Special characters

  • Escape the special characters ()[]:*, and ? by enclosing them in a phrase delimited with double-quotes.
  • Include special characters in a search string, or search specifically for special characters, according to the following rules:
  • CodeA23?R finds files containing words that start with CodeA23
  • Have any alphanumeric character next, and end with R. For example, CodeA234R and CodeA23QR.
  • Search for any special character that isn't a part of the query language.
  • "flatten()" finds the literal string flatten(). Search for a literal occurrence of the double-quote character " by preceding it with the escape character \ and enclosing the search string in double-quotes.
  • "\"react-redux\"" finds the literal string "react-redux".

Choose your semantic search starting page

You can start a search from one of the following pages:

  • Projects page for the organization, starts a search across all projects.
  • Project overview page, automatically applies a filter to search within the selected project.
  • Boards page for a project, automatically displays recent work items and backlogs accessed by the user.
  • Repos, Pipelines, Test Plans, or an Artifacts page for a project, automatically displays functional filters for code searches.
  • Wiki page for a project, automatically access recent wiki pages access by the user.

Tip

Use the content type filter to access a page that you recently opened. Search page filter

Start your search from the Projects page

From your organization's Overview page, enter a keyword or phrase in the semantic search, and then select Enter or choose start search.

Starting search from organization projects page

Start your search from the Project-Overview page

From your project's Overview page, enter a keyword or phrase in the semantic search, and then select Enter or choose start search.

Start search from project overview page

Start your search from a Boards page

Start searching across all your work items over all your projects with a keyword or phrase. Work item search includes all work item types, including test-related and custom work item types.

  1. Choose any Boards page, enter a keyword or phrase in the semantic search, and select Enter or choose start search.

    Project semantic search

  2. Search results display in a snippet view where the matches found are shown in bold.

    Search matching results

    This full text search uses simple search strings for words or phrases. Work item search matches derived forms of your search terms; for example, a search for "check" also finds instances of the word "checked" and "checking".

  3. Select a snippet of a work item to display it in the window on the right side of your screen.

  4. Open the search results in a new browser tab from the semantic search: Select Ctrl + Enter or hold Ctrl and select start search start search. In Google Chrome, select Ctrl + Shift + Enter to switch the focus to the new browser tab.

  1. In the semantic search, check that the text says Search work items. If it doesn't, use the selector to select it.

    The Work item search textbox in the title bar

  2. Enter a search string in the text box, and select Enter or starting search icon start search.

  3. Search results display in a snippet view where the matches found are shown in bold.

    Search results

    This full text search uses simple search strings for words or phrases. Work item search matches derived forms of your search terms. For example, a search for "updating" also finds instances of the word "updated" and "update". Searches aren't case-sensitive.

  4. Select a snippet of a work item to display it in the right window.

  5. Open the search results in a new browser tab from semantic search. Select Ctrl + Enter or hold Ctrl and select the start search icon start search. In Google Chrome, select Ctrl + Shift + Enter to switch the focus to the new browser tab.

For more information about searching and filtering in Azure Boards, see Filter backlogs, boards, and plans.

Start your search from a Wiki page

When you search from Wiki, you automatically navigate to wiki search results. Text search across the wiki is supported by the search platform.

Start search from wiki page

For more information about searching wikis, see Search Wiki and Provisioned vs. published wiki.

Warning

No results found for ...
If there's a large number of hits when using a wildcard search, such as when using a very simple wildcard search string, you may see a message that no matching files were found. In this case, narrow your search to reduce the number of matches. For example, specify more characters of the word(s) you want to find, or add a condition or filter to limit the number of possible matches.

Additional search functions

If you want to search for various settings, users, projects, and more, see the following table to find non-semantic search tasks and corresponding actions.


Non-semantic search task

Action


Go to your organization and select Organization settings.


Go to your project and select Project settings.


Go to your User settings page.


Find a user

Go to your organization and select Organization settings > Users, and then enter the name in the filter box.


Find an organization

Scroll through the left side of your screen, which lists all organizations.


Find a project

Go to your organization, and then enter the project name in the Filter projects box.


View file history and compare versions

Go to Repos > Files, highlight your file, and then select History.


Go to your wiki and enter your semantic search.


Note

The organization settings search function finds all settings, both organization and project.

Search re-index requirements

Search for Azure DevOps Server has the following limitation:

  • If you do a disaster recovery (DR) operation and move your server back to an earlier snapshot of your SQL database, reindex all your collections.

Marketplace extensions

  • Code Search - Extends semantic search with fast, flexible, and precise search results across all your code. Required for searching repositories.
  • Azure Paths Search - Adds a special search hub to Boards for searching within iterations and area paths without having to create and maintain custom queries.

Note

Some extensions aren't supported features of Azure DevOps and therefore aren't supported by the product team. For questions, suggestions, or issues you have when using these extensions, visit their corresponding extension page on the Visual Studio Marketplace.

Next steps