Search contexts

Search contexts help you search the code you care about on Sourcegraph. A search context represents a set of repositories at specific revisions on a Sourcegraph instance that will be targeted by search queries by default.

Every search on Sourcegraph uses a search context. Search contexts can be defined with the contexts selector shown in the search input, or entered directly in a search query.

If no search context is specified, context:global is used.

Using search contexts

The search contexts selector is shown in the search input. All search queries will target the currently selected search context.

To change the current search context, press the contexts selector. All of your search contexts will be shown in the search contexts dropdown. Select or use the filter to narrow down to a specific search context. Selecting a different context will immediately re-run your current search query using the currently selected search context.

Search contexts can also be used in the search query itself. Type context: to begin defining the context as part of the search query. When a context is defined in the search query itself, it overrides the context shown in the context selector.

You can also search across multiple contexts at once using the OR boolean operator. For example:

(context:release1 OR context:release2 OR context:release3) someTerribleBug

Creating search contexts

When search contexts are enabled on your private Sourcegraph instance, you can create your own search contexts.

A search context consists of a name, description, and a set of repositories at one or many revisions.

Contexts can be owned by a user, and can be private to the user or public to all users on the Sourcegraph instance.

Contexts can also be at the global instance level, and can be private to site admins or public to all users on the Sourcegraph instance.\

Creating search contexts from header navigation

  • Go to User menu > Search contexts in the top navigation bar.
  • Press the + Create search context button.
  • In the Owner field, choose whether you will own the context or if it will be global to the Sourcegraph instance. Note: At present, the owner of a search context cannot be changed after being created.
  • In the Context name field, type in a short, semantic name for the context. The name can be 32 characters max, and contain alphanumeric and . _ / - characters.
  • Optionally, enter a Description for the context. Markdown is supported.
  • Choose the Visibility of this context.
    • Public contexts are available to everyone on the Sourcegraph instance. Note that private repositories will only be visible to users that have permission to view the repository via the code host.
    • Private contexts can only be viewed by their owner, or in the case being globally owned, by site admins.
  • In the Repositories and revisions configuration, define which repositories and revisions should be included in the search context. Press Add repository to quickly add a template to the configuration.
    • Define repositories with valid URLs.
    • Define revisions as strings in an array. To specify a default branch, use "HEAD".

For example:

        "repository": "",
        "revisions": [
      }, {
        "repository": "",
        "revisions": [
  • Press Test configuration to validate the repositories and revisions.
  • Press Create search context to finish creating your search context.

You will be returned to the list of search contexts. Your new search context will appear in the search contexts selector in the search input, and can be used immediately.

Beta: Query-based search contexts

As of release 3.36, search contexts can be defined with a restricted search query as an alternative to a specific list of repositories and revisions. This feature is in beta and may change in following releases. Allowed filters are: repo, rev, file, lang, case, fork, and visibility. OR and AND expressions are also allowed.

If you're an admin, to enable this feature for all users set experimentalFeatures.searchContextsQuery to true in your global settings (for regular users, just use the normal settings menu). You'll then see a "Create context" button from the search results page and a "Query" input field in the search contexts form. If you want revisions specified in these query based search contexts to be indexed, set to true in site configuration.

Creating search contexts from search results

You can now create new search contexts right from the search results page. Once you've enabled query-based search contexts you'll see a Create context button above the search results.

Managing search contexts with the API

Learn how to manage search contexts with the GraphQL API.

Search contexts on Sourcegraph Cloud

Sourcegraph Cloud is the Software-as-a-Service version of Sourcegraph designed to be used by individuals for personal use. Search contexts are still under active development on Sourcegraph Cloud. Learn more about searching across repositories you've added to Sourcegraph Cloud with search contexts.