Link user stories, issues, bugs, and other work items in Azure Boards

Azure DevOps Services | Azure DevOps Server 2022 - Azure DevOps Server 2019 | TFS 2018

Link work items to other work items to manage dependencies and see relationships within work. You can link work items within your project or to work items within another project in your organization. Use different link types to support different business goals. You can also link work items to other objects such as builds, commits, versioned items, or network resources.

Link work items to other work items to manage dependencies and see relationships within work. You can link work items within your project or to work items within another project in your collection. Use different link types to support different business goals. You can also link work items to other objects such as builds, commits, versioned items, or network resources.

In general, you use the following link types when linking work items to one another:

  • Use Parent/Child links to link work items that you want to group within a hierarchy
  • Use Predecessor/Successor or Affects/Affected by links to link work items that have dependencies
  • Use Duplicate/Duplicate of links to link work items that track the same code defect or work
  • Use Related to link work items with some level of relationship, but not that strong

You can add a link to a work item from within the work item form or from a backlog or query results list. From a backlog or query results list, you can select multiple work items and then link them to a new or existing work item. In general, use the bulk edit to update several work items to link to the same work item, either new or existing.

Use this article to learn how to:

  • Link one or more work items to an existing work item
  • Link one or more work items to a new work item that you add when linking
  • Add a link to a remote work item
  • Link several work items to a new git branch
  • Link work items to a build artifact
  • Find work items that you want to link to
  • Bulk modify link relationships
  • Link one or more work items to an existing work item
  • Link one or more work items to a new work item that you add when linking
  • Link several work items to a new git branch
  • Link work items to a build artifact
  • Find work items that you want to link to
  • Bulk modify link relationships

Note

If you want to link work items in a parent-child hierarchy, use the mapping pane as described in Organize your backlog and map child work items to parents. If you want to link test cases to user stories, see Add, run, and update inline tests and Create test plans and test suites.

For an overview of how links are used to support traceability, see End-to-end traceability.

For an overview of which link types to use and link-related capabilities, see Linking, traceability, and managing dependencies. In general, we recommend you follow these guidelines:

  • For work items that appear on your backlogs, both product and portfolio, use the Parent and Child link types to create a hierarchy and group work. To quickly link many backlog work items within a hierarchy, see Organize your backlog, map child work items to parents.
  • When linking work items with Parent and Child link types, avoid nesting work items of the same type. While the system allows you to nest work items of the same type, such as linking bugs to bugs or bugs to user stories when tracking both types on your product backlog, it can cause problems with drag-and-drop of work items on a backlog or display of items on a Kanban board. To learn more, see Fix display, reordering, and nesting issues.
  • To track dependencies of work items, use the Predecessor and Successor link types.
  • For all other general tracking purposes, use the Related link type.

The following link relationships are restricted:

  • You can't assign a work item more than one parent using a Parent/Child or other tree-topology link type. To learn more about link types, see Link type reference.
  • You can't add links in such a way as to create a circular relationship.
  • You can't link more than 1,000 work items to a single work item.

Prerequisites

Backlogs are automatically created when you create a project or add a team. Each team has access to their own product, portfolio, and sprint backlogs as described in About teams and Agile tools.

Note

Users with Stakeholder access for a public project have full access to backlog and board features just like users with Basic access. For details, see Stakeholder access quick reference.

  1. From the web portal, open a backlog or query results page, and multi-select the work items you want to add a link to.

  2. Open the context menu of one of the selected work items, choose Add link, and then choose Existing item... or New item....

    Here we multi-select from the product backlog and choose Existing item....

    Screenshot of backlog context menu, Multi-select items in backlog, open context menu, choose Add link to an existing work item.

When you link work items, you select a link type. In general, use the following link types as indicated. To learn more about each link type, see Link type reference.

  • Use the Duplicate link type when two work items have been created that essentially capture the same information; close one of the work items and keep the other one active
  • Use the Parent/Child link types when you want to break down work items into smaller items—for example, break down features into stories, or stories into tasks
  • Use Predecessor-Successor link types when you want to track tasks that must be completed before others can be started; this link type is most often used when you plan work using Project
  • Use the Related link type when the work items being linked are at the same level—such as two user stories that define features that overlap one another—or to link work items that are defined in different projects or managed by different teams.

From the Add link dialog, select the link type, enter a work item ID, and then choose OK.

For example, here we use the Related link type to link three items to the bug with ID of 400.

Add link dialog, web portal, to an existing work item.

To link to multiple work items, you can use inline add which finds work items based on your recent activity or keyword searches. Select one or more of the work items displayed automatically based on your recent activity, or enter a keyword. Keyword searches will display work items based on work items that include that keyword in their title.

Note

You need to add each link one at a time. (You can no longer enter their IDs separated by commas or spaces.) To quickly find work items of interest, you can also use work item search.

To view the work items selected for linking, you can choose the .

Add link dialog to an existing work item

Screenshot of backlog context menu, choose Add link to an existing work item, TFS-2018 and previous versions.

To link to multiple work items, enter their IDs separated by commas or spaces. If you don't know the IDs or you want to link to an item in a different project, you can choose the … context menu to open a dialogue that will support you in choosing work items that are based on IDs, a query, or title keyword.

If you're working from the Query Results page, you'll need to bulk save the work items you've modified. When you work from a backlog, work items are automatically saved.

Screenshot of Query results page, save bulk modified items.

Screenshot of Query results page, multi-select items, bulk save modified work items, TFS-2018 and earlier versions.

Here, we've selected to add a link to the selected work items.

  1. Specify the link type, work item type, and title of the new work item. Choose OK.

    Add link dialog, Link to a new work item, TFS-2018 and later versions.

  2. A work item of the type selected opens. Enter additional information and save the work item.

    Screenshot of new work item Issue added.

  3. If you're working from the Query Results page, you'll need to bulk save the work items you've modified as shown in the previous procedure.

You can link work items to objects defined in other Azure DevOps organizations as long as both organizations use the same Azure Active Directory to manage users.

Choose from one of the following two remote link types supported.

  • Use the Consumes From/Produces For link types when you want to track dependencies of work items that are defined in different organizations and managed by different teams.
  • Use the Remote Related link type when the work items being linked are defined in different organizations and managed by different teams, but don't have strong inter-dependencies.

From the Add link dialog, select the link type, enter the URL of the remote work item, and then choose OK.

For example, here we use the Remote Related link type to link to work item ID 350 that exists in the remotelinkingtest2 organization, RemoteLinking project.

Add link dialog, Add a link to an existing, remote work item.

The link tab maintains a count of all links to the work item. The Remote Link Count field maintains a count of the number of links added to a work item that link to a work item defined in another project or organization.

The following image shows an example of two remote links, indicated by the cloud icon, added to a user story.

Screenshot of User Story form, Link tab, showing two external links.

You can add a new git branch and link them to existing work items at the same time.

From a backlog or query results page, multi-select the work items you want to link to a new git branch, choose the actions icon, and then New branch.... To learn more, see Link work items to Git development objects.

Screenshot of backlog, context menu, choose Link multiple backlog items to a git branch.

You can link work items to existing builds from the Add link dialog. These builds can be within your project or to other projects in your organization or collection.

Note

This feature requires installation of Azure DevOps Server 2020.1 update. To learn more, see Azure DevOps Server 2020 Update 1 RC1 Release Notes, Boards.

  1. From the Links tab of a work item, choose Add link>Existing item.

  2. From the Add link dialog, choose one of the build link types—Build, Found in build, Integrated in build— and specify the build number.

    If you don't know the build number—a combination of the pipeline and build name—you can search for it by choosing the icon.

    Add link dialog with Build link type selected.

  3. From the Link builds dialog, choose the parameters to filter your search of builds.

    If linking to a build in a different project, then first choose the Project whose build you want to link to.

    For example, you can specify a build number, select a build pipeline, a build result—such as, All, succeeded, partially succeeded, failed, or canceled. Or, with All selected for Result, choose Find to list the available builds to link to.

    Find builds dialog with project selected and builds listed.

  4. Choose the build from the list you want to link to and then choose OK.

  5. From the Add link dialog, choose OK to complete the operation.

    Add link dialog with Build number filled in.

You can link work items to existing builds from the Add link dialog.

  1. From the Links tab of a work item, choose Add link>Existing item.

  2. From the Add link dialog, choose one of the build link types—Build, Found in build, Integrated in build— and specify the build number.

    If you don't know the build number—a combination of the pipeline and build name—you can search for it by choosing the icon.

    Add link dialog with Build link type selected.

  3. From the Link builds dialog, choose the parameters to filter your search of builds.

    For example, you can specify a build number, select a build pipeline, a build result—such as, All, succeeded, partially succeeded, failed, or canceled. Or, with All selected for Result, choose Find to list the available builds to link to.

    Find builds dialog, link to a build within your project.

  4. Choose the build from the list you want to link to and then choose OK.

  5. From the Add link dialog, choose OK to complete the operation.

    Add link dialog with Build number filled in.

From the Add link dialog, you can open a secondary dialog to help you choose one or more work items to link to. If you're going to find and list work items to link to by using a saved query, first define the query that you want to use.

  1. From the Add link dialog, choose the … context menu or Browse button (Visual Studio) to open the following dialog.

    Choose Linked work items

    If the work items are defined in another project, then first select the Project. Then, make your selections:

    • Query. Use this method when you've defined a query that you know contains the set or superset of the work items that you want.

    • IDs. Use this method when you know the IDs of the work items that you want to link to. In the IDs box, type the IDs of the work items that you want to find, separated by commas or spaces.

    • Title contains. Use this method to find work items that have a common word or phrase in the title field. In the and type list, select the type of work item that you want to retrieve.

      Note

      To minimize the time required to run the query, narrow the filter criteria of the search.

  2. Select the Find button.

    Only those work items defined for the selected project and specified work item type are listed. To sort on a column field, choose the column title.

  3. In the list of returned work items, select one or more work items.

    • From the web portal: To select several items in a sequence, hold down the shift key. To select several non-sequential items, use the Ctrl key.

    • For Visual Studio, select each work item that should link to the current work item. You can also press the SHIFT key while clicking to select a range of work items, or press the CTRL key while clicking to select multiple work items.

Set work item state in pull request

When you create a pull request, you can set the state value of the linked work items in the description. Follow the syntax: {state value}: #ID. When you merge the pull request, the system reads the description and updates the work item state. In the following example, we set work items #300 and #301 to Resolved, and #323 and #324 to Closed.

Screenshot of setting work item state within a PR.

Note

This feature requires installation of Azure DevOps Server 2020.1 update. To learn more, see Azure DevOps Server 2020 Update 1 RC1 Release Notes, Boards.

To learn more about this feature, see Link to work items from other objects.

Other features you can use to quickly link or change links that use the parent-child link type (some features are version-dependent, see the linked article for details):

View list of linked objects

To view the list of all objects linked to a work item, open the work item and choose the Links tab. The links tab indicates the count of all linked objects.

Screenshot of Links tab with count of linked objects.

Linked objects are grouped under their link type, with a count within each group. You can expand or collapse each group, and sort within each group by State, Latest Update, or Comment by choosing the corresponding column title.

For example, the following Links tab shows a portion of the 64 linked objects for a work item.

Screenshot of Links tab with many linked objects.

Links prefaced with the red exclamation mark indicate that the build, release, or other object has been deleted. This is usually due to retention policies which automatically delete these objects after a certain time period has passed.