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Find code changes and other history with CodeLens


This article applies to Visual Studio 2015. If you're looking for the latest Visual Studio documentation, see Visual Studio documentation. We recommend upgrading to the latest version of Visual Studio. Download it here

Stay focused on your work while you find out what happened to your code - without leaving the editor. Find references and changes to your code, linked bugs, work items, code reviews, and unit tests.


CodeLens is available only in Visual Studio Enterprise and Visual Studio Professional editions. It is not available in Visual Studio Community edition.

See where and how the individual parts of your code are used in your solution:

CodeLens indicators in the code editor

Contact your team about changes to your code without leaving the editor:

CodeLens - Contact your team

To choose the indicators that you want to see, or to turn CodeLens off and on, go to Tools, Options, Text Editor, All Languages, CodeLens.

Find references to your code

You'll need:

  • Visual Studio Enterprise or Visual Studio Professional

  • Visual C# .NET or Visual Basic .NET code

    Choose the references indicator (Alt + 2). If you see 0 references, you have no references from Visual C# or Visual Basic code. This doesn't include references from other items such as XAML and ASPX files.

    CodeLens - Choose references indicator

    To view the referencing code, move your mouse on top of the reference.

    CodeLens - Peek reference

    To open the file containing the reference, double-click the reference.

    To see relationships between this code and its references, create a code map and choose Show All References in the code map shortcut menu.

    CodeLens - References on code map

Find your code's history and linked items

Review your code's history to find out what happened to your code. Or, review changes before they're merged into your code so you can better understand how changes in other branches might affect your code.

You'll need:

  • Visual Studio Enterprise or Visual Studio Professional

  • Team Foundation Server 2013 or later, Visual Studio Team Services, or Git

  • Lync 2010 or later, or Skype for Business, to contact your team from the code editor

    For Visual C# .NET or Visual Basic .NET code that's stored with Team Foundation version control (TFVC) or Git, you get CodeLens details at the class and method levels (code-element-level indicators). If your Git repository is hosted in TfGit, you also get links to TFS work items.

    Code element-level indicators

    For all other types of files that you can open in the Visual Studio editor, you get CodeLens details for the entire file in one place at the bottom of the window (file-level indicators).

    File-level CodeLens indicators

    To use the keyboard to select indicators, press and hold the ALT key to display the related number keys.

    Press ALT to see the keyboard access numbers

Find changes in your code

Find who changed your C# or Visual Basic code, and the changes they made, in code-element-level indicators. This is what you see when you use Team Foundation version control (TFVC) in Team Foundation Server or Visual Studio Team Services.

CodeLens: Get change history for your code in TFVC

The default time period is the last 12 months. If your code is stored in Team Foundation Server, you can change this by running the TFSConfig command with the CodeIndex command and the /indexHistoryPeriod flag.

To see a detailed history of all the changes, including those from more than a year ago, choose Show all file changes.

Show all code changes

This opens the History window for the changesets.

History window for all code changes

When your files are in a Git repository and you choose the code-element-level changes indicator, this is what you see.

CodeLens: Get change history for your code in Git

Find changes for an entire file (except for C# and Visual Basic files) in the file-level indicators at the bottom of the window.

CodeLens: Get code file details

To get more details about a change, right-click that item. Depending on whether you are using TFVC or Git you get a series of options to compare the versions of the file, view details and track the changeset, get the selected version of the file, and email the author of that change. Some of these details appear in Team Explorer.

You can also see who changed your code over time. This can help you find patterns in your team's changes and assess their impact.

CodeLens: See code changes history as a graph

Find changes in your current branch

Suppose your team has multiple branches - a main branch and a child development - to reduce the risk of breaking stable code:

CodeLens: Find when your code was branched

Find how many people changed your code and how many changes were made (Alt + 6) in your main branch:

CodeLens: Find how many changes in your branch

Find when your code was branched

Go to your code in the child branch, for example, the Dev branch here. Choose the changes indicator (Alt + 6):

CodeLens: Find when your code was branched

Find incoming changes from other branches

CodeLens: Find code changes in other branches

…like this bug fix in the Dev branch here:

CodeLens: Change checked into another branch

You can review this change without leaving your current branch (Main):

CodeLens: See incoming change from another branch

Find when changes got merged

So you can see which changes are included in your branch:

CodeLens - Merged changes between branches

For example, your code in the Main branch now has the bug fix from the Dev branch:

CodeLens - Merged chagnes between branches

Compare an incoming change with your local version (Shift + F10)

CodeLens: Compare incoming change with local

You can also double-click the changeset.

What do the icons mean?

Icon Where did the change come from?
CodeLens: Change from current branch icon The current branch
CodeLens - Change from parent branch icon The parent branch
CodeLens: Change from child branch icon A child branch
CodeLens - Change from peer branch icon A peer branch
CodeLens - Change from branch further away icon A branch further away than a parent, child, or peer
CodeLens: Merge from parent icon A merge from the parent branch to a child branch
CodeLens: Merge from child branch icon A merge from a child branch to the parent branch
CodeLens: Merge from unrelated branch icon A merge from an unrelated branch (baseless merge)

Find linked work items

CodeLens - Find work items for specific code

Find linked code reviews

CodeLens - View code review requests

Find linked bugs

CodeLens - Find bugs linked to changesets

Contact the owner of an item

Contact the owner of an item

Open the shortcut menu for an item to see the contact options. If you have Lync or Skype for Business installed, you see these options:

Contact options for an item

Find unit tests for your code

Find out more about unit tests that exist for your code without opening Test Explorer. You'll need:

  • Visual Studio Enterprise or Visual Studio Professional

  • Visual C# .NET or Visual Basic .NET code

  • A unit test project that has unit tests for your application code

  1. Go to application code that has unit tests.

  2. Review the tests for that code (Alt + 3).

    CodeLens - Choose test status in code editor

  3. If you see a warning icon CodeLens - Unit tests not yet run warning, run the tests.

    CodeLens - View unit tests not run yet

  4. To review a test's definition, double-click the test item in the CodeLens indicator window to open the code file in the editor.

    CodeLens - Go to unit test definition

  5. Review the test’s results. Choose the test status indicator (CodeLens - Unit test failed icon or CodeLens - Unit test passed icon), or press Alt + 1.

    CodeLens - See unit test result

  6. To see how many people changed this test, who changed this test, or how many changes were made to this test, Find your code's history and linked items.

Q & A

Q: How do I turn CodeLens off or on? Or choose which indicators to see?

A: You can turn indicators off or on, except for the references indicator. Go to Tools, Options, Text Editor, All Languages, CodeLens.

When the indicators are turned on, you can also open the CodeLens options from the indicators.

CodeLens - Turn indicators off or on

Turn CodeLens file-level indicators on and off using the chevron icons at the bottom of the editor window.

Turn file-level indicators on and off

Q: Where is CodeLens?

A: CodeLens appears in Visual C# .NET and Visual Basic .NET code at the method, class, indexer, and property level. CodeLens appears at the file level for all other types of files.

  • Make sure CodeLens is turned on. Go to Tools, Options, Text Editor, All Languages, CodeLens.

  • If your code is stored in TFS, make sure that code indexing is turned on by using the CodeIndex command with the TFS Config command.

  • TFS-related indicators appear only when work items are linked to the code and when you have permissions to open linked work items. Confirm that you have team member permissions.

  • Unit test indicators don't appear when application code doesn't have unit tests. Test status indicators appear automatically in test projects. If you know that your application code has unit tests, but the test indicators don't appear, try building the solution (Ctrl + Shift + B).

Q: Why don't I see the work item details for a commit?

A: This might happen because CodeLens can't find the work items in TFS. Check that you're connected to the team project that has those work items and that you have permissions to see those work items. This might also happen if the commit description has incorrect information about the work item IDs in TFS.

Q: Why don't I see the Lync or Skype indicators?

A: They don't appear if you're not signed into Lync or Skype for Business, don't have one of these installed, or don't have a supported configuration. But you can still send mail:

CodeLens - Contact changeset owner by mail

Which Lync and Skype configurations are supported?

  • Skype for Business (32-bit or 64-bit)

  • Lync 2010 or later alone (32-bit or 64-bit), but not Lync Basic 2013 with Windows 8.1

    CodeLens doesn't support having different versions of Lync or Skype installed. They might not be localized for all localized versions of Visual Studio.

Q: How do I change the font and color for CodeLens?

A: Go to Tools, Options, Environment, Fonts and Colors.

CodeLens - Change font and color settings

To use the keyboard:

  1. Press Alt + T + O to open the Options box.

  2. Press Up Arrow or Down Arrow to go to the Environment node, then press Left Arrow to expand the node.

  3. Press Down Arrow to go to Fonts and Colors.

  4. Press TAB to go to the Show settings for list, and then press Down Arrow to select CodeLens.

Q: Can I move the CodeLens heads-up display?

A: Yes, choose CodeLens - Dock as a window to dock CodeLens as a window.

Dock the CodeLens indicator window

The docked CodeLens References window

Q: How do I refresh the indicators?

A: This depends on the indicator:

  • References: This indicator updates automatically when the code changes. If you have this indicator docked as a separate window, refresh the indicator manually here:

    CodeLens - Dock as window

  • Team: Refresh these indicators manually here:

    CodeLens - Refresh indicators

  • Test: Find unit tests for your code to refresh this indicator.

Q: What's "Local Version"?

A: The Local Version arrow points at the most recent changeset in your local version of this file. When the server has more recent changesets, they appear above or below the Local Version arrow, depending on the order used to sort the changesets.

Q: Can I manage how CodeLens processes code to show history and linked items?

A: Yes, if your code is in TFS, use the CodeIndex command with the TFS Config command.