How do I do a full text search of TFS Work Items?

The easiest way to do this is to use the search functionality built into Team System Web Access (TSWA). This uses the SQL Server Fulltext search engine in the back-end. This will find all matches of the string in not just the title of the work item, but the description as well.

One of the questions I've seen a few times now about this functionality is "Where is it??". This is because the search box looks disabled, so people tend to overlook it.

Team System Web Access Search box

The 2008 SP1 version (CTP here) of TSWA includes improved search support. Read more on Hakan and Buck's blogs.

Now it's even easier to search for work items with the advanced search syntax. Similar to Outlook search syntax, you can reference any work item field by either using the field name, or by using some shortcuts.

Here's a simple search example that searches for resolved bugs assigned to me which contain the word "northwind" in the Title or Description.:

northwind a=@me s=resolved t=bug

Another way to quickly search work items within Visual Studio is to use Corneliu's TFS Quick Search Addin for Visual Studio. It reflects over the .NET controls and searches for the string that you type in. This means that it will only work for fields that are visible in your query. It's very quick at doing that though.

TFS Quick Search Visual Studio Addin

Comments (5)
  1. tmks says:

    It doesn’t seem to search work item descriptions. Only tiltes.

    Do I have to flip some switch to be able to search for e.g. sqlstate in log in some bug report, or is it simply too much to ask.

  2. Jack says:

    If you want to be able to do a full text search over all fields (More than just title and description) I think you can use this:

  3. krugle says:

    Another solution option… there is a free version of the Krugle search engine which "deep" searches tfs code files, office documents and work items (and any attachments), across multiple tfs servers if needed. Get it at

  4. Anton says:

    Its amazing that something so useful, that is common place in competitive products, is so difficult to find and use in TFS.

    I guess, that TFSs general usability, is why Atlassian and the likes are killing it.

Comments are closed.

Skip to main content