How To: Use Work Item Search

VSTS | TFS 2018 | TFS 2017

Work Item Search is available as a built-in extension in Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS). Users can use Work Item Search by default without any installation.

By using Work Item Search you can:

  • Search over all your projects: Search in your own and your partner teams' backlog. Use cross-project searches over all the work items in your VSTS account to search across your organization's entire work items. Narrow your search by using project and area path filters.

  • Search across all work item fields: Quickly and easily find relevant work items by searching across all work item fields (including custom fields). Use a full text search across all fields to efficiently locate relevant work items. The snippet view indicates where matches were found.

  • Search in specific fields: Use the quick in-line search filters, on any work item field, to narrow down to a list of work items in seconds. The dropdown list of suggestions helps complete your search faster. For example, a search such as AssignedTo:Chris WorkItemType:Bug State:Active finds all active bugs assigned to a user named Chris.

  • Take advantage of integration with work item tracking: The Work Item Search interface integrates with familiar controls in the Work hub, letting you view, edit, comment, share, and much more.

Full text search across all fields

You can easily search across all work item fields, including custom fields, which enables more natural searches. The snippet view indicates where matches were found.

Search across all work item fields

Use simple search strings for words or phrases. Work item search matches derived forms of your search terms; for example, a search for "updating" will also find instances of the word "updated" and "update". Note that searches are not case-sensitive.

When you search from inside a project, the default is to search only within that project. When you search from inside a team, the default is to search only within the default area path of that team. When you have one project selected, you see a list of area paths in that project for which you have read access - you won't see any projects and area paths for which you don't have read permission. Select area paths in the tree to narrow your search if required.

The selected projects are always at the top of the list. Notice that hit counts are also shown for projects that are not selected.

Open the search results in a new browser tab from either search box by pressing Ctrl + Enter or by holding Ctrl and clicking the start search icon icon. In Google Chrome, press Ctrl + Shift + Enter to switch the focus to the new browser tab.

Quick Filters for matching in specific fields

Quick inline search filters let you refine work items in seconds. The dropdown list of suggestions helps complete your search faster. Mix and match the functions to create quick powerful searches. For example:

  • Scope your search terms to match in any work item field including custom fields. Simply type the field name followed by the search terms; for example, a search such as tags:Critical finds work items having a field 'tags' containing the term 'Critical'.

  • Use multiple inline search filters to scope your search by any work item field, including custom fields. For example, a search such as t: Bug path:"project\search" finds all bugs in the area path "project\search".

  • Use the operators >, >=, <, <=, =, and != for date, integer and float fields. For example, a search such as t: Bug CreatedDate> @Today-7 finds all bugs created in the last week

  • For the search query that contain multiple terms and users looking for exact match, embed the search term inside " "; for example, a search such as BuildPath: "tools.demoproject.com" finds all work items that neccesarily contain the path "tools.demoproject.com".

Quick inline search filters let you refine work items in seconds

Quick Filters shortcuts

The common inline search filters can be quickly accessed using shortcuts:

  • a: for Assigned to:
  • c: for Created by:
  • s: for State
  • t: for Work item type

For example, you can use quick searches such as a:@Me s:active t:bug to find all bugs assigned to you.

Quick Filters shortcuts

Filters to scope projects, area and iteration paths

Filters make it easy to narrow the search to specified projects and area paths. Narrow the search to a specific location using the proj, area, or iteration filters:

  • Wiki proj:Fabrikam finds all occurrences of the word Wiki in the Fabrikam project.
  • Wiki area:Contoso/Mobile finds all occurrences of the word Wiki in the area path Contoso/Mobile and its sub-paths.
  • Wiki iteration:Contoso/Sprint101 finds all occurrences of the word Wiki in the iteration path Contoso/Sprint101 and its sub-paths.
  • Enclose the argument to the filter in double-quotes if it contains a space. For example: Wiki path:"Contoso/Windows Phones and Devices/Services".

Quickly navigate to a work item using its ID

Type or paste the work item ID in the search box in the VSTS title bar to quickly navigate to it. Searching for a work item ID opens the work item in a modal dialog, providing quick access to read and edit work items.

Opening the work item in a modal dialogue

Narrow your search with Boolean operators

Narrow your search by using Boolean operators to combine search criteria. Combine multiple search criteria using AND, OR, or NOT (they must be uppercase).

Use parentheses to specify the precedence of the operations when you use more than one Boolean operator. By default, a search combines all the words you enter using the AND operator so that it will return only work items that contain all of the words you entered.

For example:

  • welcome AND page finds work items that contain derived forms of both the words welcome and page. Note that AND is the default operator, and so this is equivalent to the search string welcome page.
  • signup OR signin finds work items that contain either of the words signup or signin.
  • signin NOT signup finds work items that contain the word signin but not the word signup.
  • (signin NOT signup) OR "user login" finds work items that contain the word signin but not the word signup or work items that contain the phrase user login.

To find an exact match to a set of words, enclose your search terms in double-quotes. For example, "Client not found"

Broaden your search with wildcards

Use the wildcard characters * and ? to broaden your search criteria. For example:

  • Browser* finds work items containing words that start with Browser, such as BrowserEdge, BrowserIE and BrowserFirefox.
  • alpha?version finds work items containing words that start with alpha, have any alphanumeric character next, and end with version. For example, alpha1version and alphaXversion.

You can use wildcard characters anywhere in your search string except as a prefix. For example, you cannot use a search query such as *RequestHandler. However, you can use prefix wildcards with the other search filter functions; for example, the search query strings area:*mobile and tags:*Browser are valid.

You can use more than one ? wildcard to match more than one character.


Warning No results found for ...

  • If there are no results matching the input, try removing filters and retry the search. This will broaden 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 a very 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.


See more of the work item

You can quickly get a full screen view of the selected work item using the expand Expand the file to fullscreen and shrink Shrink the file to a window icons in the toolbar. However, another way to see more of the work item, while still being able to select work items from the list of matching results, is to hide the left column filter pane by choosing the < icon at the top left of the column. Use the > icon to restore the filter pane.

If you are using a portrait orientation screen, use the Preview pane: Right link at the top right of the window to display the code below the search results list.

Search remembers the state of the filter pane, configuration of the work item view pane, and its position between sessions as part of your user preferences.

Got feedback?

Question Send your feedback to vstssearch@microsoft.com. Post your ideas and feature requests on UserVoice.