Working with Linked Dependencies (Direct Links)

You can use dependent links to track work items that depend on other tasks, issues, or features. By using dependent links, you can manage risks and dependencies, and collaborate more effectively across project teams. You can then use the Direct Links QueryWork Items and Direct Links query to list work items and their linked work items that are based on any type of link.

Choose the Direct Links QueryWork Items and Direct Links query to perform the following tasks:

  • Create a custom view of linked work items.

  • Track dependencies across team projects and manage commitments made to other project teams.

  • Assess changes to work items that you do not own but that your work items depend on.

If you want to view multiple levels of hierarchical relationships among work items, use the Tree of Work Items query described here: Working with Linked Hierarchies (Tree of Work Items).


This topic illustrates how to work in Team Explorer. You can perform similar procedures in Team Web Access, although with slight variations.


  • To create, save, or modify a query, you must be a member of the Contributors group or have the Edit work items in this node permission set to Allow. For more information about query permissions, see Find Bugs, Tasks, and Other Work Items.

To track dependencies, you create links between work items using the Related or Predecessor/Successor link types. To track test progress, use the Tested By/Tests link types. When you want to create links to work items that cross project boundaries, use the Related link type.

To link two work items, open the shortcut menu for any work item in a query results list, choose Link to an Existing Item, and then complete the dialog box that opens. Choose Save Results to save the changes made to the linked work items. Note that unsaved work items appear as bold in the results list.

Link to an existing work item

List work items and their linked dependents

The following example shows a dependent linked query that returns items with dependencies on work managed by other teams and other team projects. Use this query to see all dependent work items that link to active Product Backlog Items or Bugs that have not been removed, closed, or completed. Only those dependent work items that are under a product area other than the Phone Save\Phone Customers are returned.

Work Items and Dependent Links Query


(Optional) Choose the Collapse upper panel or Collapse bottom panel buttons to collapse an upper or lower panel, or choose the Collapse left panel or Collapse right panel buttons to collapse the left or right panel.

Why this works:

  • Removing the **Team Project = @Project** clause enables all dependent linked work items that match the filter criteria to be listed, no matter which team project they belong to in the collection.

  • Grouping each of two clauses returns all Product Backlog Items on the backlog or in progress, and the second grouped clause returns all Bugs on the backlog or in progress.

  • Grouping the two clauses with the OR operator at the start of the second clause returns work items that match either of the two filter criteria.

  • Choosing the Only return items that have the specified links returns only top-level work items that have dependencies.

  • Choosing Return links of any type returns all linked work items that match the filter criteria for linked work items, in this case, returning all work items that are not under the Phone Saver\Phone Customers area path, and aren't completed or removed.

The following image shows the query results that are returned.

Direct links query results


In Team Explorer, you can modify hierarchical link relationships in a tree query, but you can't modify link relationships in a direct links query. Also, when you open a direct links query in Excel, it opens as a flat list; link relationships can’t be modified here either.

See Also


Query Fields, Operators, Values, and Variables

Other Resources

Tracking Work and Supporting End-to-End Workflow