Code search overview

A recently published research paper from Google and a Google developer survey showed that 98% of developers consider their Sourcegraph-like internal code search tool to be critical, and developers use it on average for 5.3 sessions each day, primarily to (in order of frequency):

  • find example code,
  • explore/read code,
  • debug issues, and
  • determine the impact of changes.

Sourcegraph code search helps developers perform these tasks more quickly and effectively.

Sourcegraph provides fast, advanced code search across multiple repositories. With Sourcegraph's code search, you can:

  • Use regular expressions and exact queries to perform full-text searches
  • Search any branch and commit, with no indexing required
  • Search commit diffs and commit messages to see how code has changed
  • Narrow your search by repository and file pattern
  • Define saved search scopes for easier searching
  • Curate saved searches for yourself or your org
  • Set up notifications for code changes that match a query

This document is for code search users. To get code search, install Sourcegraph.


Powerful, flexible queries

Sourcegraph code search performs full-text searches and supports both regular expression and exact queries. By default, Sourcegraph searches across all your repositories. Our search query syntax allows for advanced queries, such as searching over any branch or commit, narrowing searches by programming language or file pattern, and more.

See the query syntax documentation for a comprehensive list of tokens.

Search over commit diffs using type:diff to see how your codebase has changed over time. This is often used to find changes to particular functions, classes, or areas of the codebase when debugging.

You can also search within commit diffs on multiple branches by specifying the branches in a repo: field after the @ sign. After the @, separate Git refs with :, specify Git ref globs by prefixing them with *, and exclude commits reachable from a ref by prefixing it with ^.

Diff searches can be further narrowed down with filters such as author and time. See the query syntax documentation for a comprehensive list of supported tokens.

Searching over commit messages is supported in Sourcegraph by adding type:commit to your search query.

Separately, you can also use the message:"any string" token to filter type:diff searches for a given commit message.

Commit message searches can be further narrowed down with filters such as author and time. See our query syntax documentation for a comprehensive list of supported tokens.

Searching for symbols makes it easier to find specific functions, variables and more. Use the type:symbol filter to search for symbol results. Symbol results also appear in typeahead suggestions, so you can jump directly to symbols by name.

Saved searches

Saved searches is a paid feature that lets you save and describe search queries so you can easily monitor the results on an ongoing basis. You can create a saved search for anything, including diffs and commits across all branches of your repositories. Saved searches can be an early warning system for common problems in your code--and a way to monitor best practices, the progress of refactors, etc.

See the saved searches documentation for instructions for setting up and configuring saved searches.

Search scopes

Every project and team has a different set of repositories they commonly work with and search over. Custom search scopes enable users and organizations to quickly filter their searches to predefined subsets of files and repositories. Instead of typing out the subset of repositories or files you want to search over, you can save and select scopes using the search scopes buttons whenever you need.


As you type a query, the menu below will contain suggestions based on the query. Use the keyboard or mouse to select a suggestion to navigate directly to it. For example, if your query is repo:foo file:\.js$ hello, the suggestions will consist of the list of files that match your query.

You can also type in the partial name of a repository or filename to quickly jump to it. For example, typing in just foo would show you a list of repositories (first) and files with names containing foo.

Data freshness

Searches scoped to specific repositories are always up-to-date. Sourcegraph automatically refetches repository contents upon any user action specific to the repository and makes new commits and branches available for searching and browsing immediately.

Unscoped search results over large repository sets may trail latest default branch revisions by some interval of time. This interval is a function of the number of repositories and (in the case of Data Center) the computational resources devoted to search indexing.

Other tips

  • When viewing a file or directory, press the y key to expand the URL to its canonical form (with the full 40-character Git commit SHA).
  • To share a link to multi-line range in a file, click on the starting line number and shift-click on the ending line number (in the left-hand gutter). is a public instance of Sourcegraph that lets you search inside any open-source project on GitHub. For demo purposes, you'll be prompted to narrow your query if it would search across more than 50 repositories. To lift this limitation or to search your organization's internal code, run your own Sourcegraph instance.