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7 ways to export issues from Jira

Jaime González-Capitel
11-oct-2018 10:45:33

Since the early days, Atlassian has promoted an open model where customers can tinker with source code, integrate seamlessly between applications, or check how suggestions for product improvements get traction (or not).

A symptom of Jira’s openness is the ability to export issues into a few standard formats that can then be read, reused, and repurposed. The great thing about exporting issues is that issue granularity is perfect for a spreadsheet, where each issue takes one row, and each metadata field takes one column.


Why would you export issues?

Start exporting unlimited issues with attachments, comments and transitions using Exporter

It’s unsurprising that issue exports are a highly used feature. But since we keep meeting Jira fanboys and girls who ask us “why would you want to export issues from Jira,” we’ve gathered some of the most common use cases:

  • To share information with external stakeholders. It’s not uncommon for customers to demand full issue reports in different formats, like excel or pdf. What they do with that information may fall under some of the uses below.

  • To analyze data in excel. The unstoppable desire to dive into datasheets and understand issue data with formulas and pivot tables, also known as “the excel syndrome” is still one of the top reasons for exports. If you have a skilled analyst, there will be no need to learn any other reporting tool.

  • For auditing purposes. Sure, you could audit your instance directly on Jira, but that implies that your auditor 1) is a proficient Jira user, 2) has Administrator permissions and 3) finds sufficient information in Jira reports and dashboards. Instead, exporting the raw data and letting them explore at their own pace is usually a good idea.

  • To analyze compliance with SLAs. Add the excel syndrome to the need to see trends in how issues are being transitioned and determine what’s impacting your company’s SLAs, and voilà! You’ll be exporting your issues every month to run your compliance analyses.

  • For migration projects. Yup, migrations happen, and they’re (usually) painful. An easy way to extract all your issue data without any losses is of great help in these situations.

Pitfalls and pains of exporting issues from Jira

While it's true that you can export issues from Jira in three simple steps...

  • Search in the issue navigator.
  • Click the export button.
  • Select the format.

it's also true that the UI method has several limitations:

1) Unsupported formats: excel, pdf

export options

Starting with Jira 7.2, Atlassian decided to discontinue native exports to excel due to a Microsoft Office security update that prevented users with high-security settings from opening them.

Up until that point, whenever a user requested an excel export, Jira created an HTML file and saved it as an .xls file. When that operation was blocked, the export was preserved with the original HTML format.

This might seem no change at all; but since Atlassian has repeatedly warned that HTML exports would be discontinued altogether, it seems reasonable to have an alternative or two in sight.

2) Missing data and extra content

Ok, so you are a heavy CSV user and have no problem moving back and forth between text files and large spreadsheets. The option to export issues to CSV should suit you perfectly!

At least in theory– Your satisfaction will depend on how much information you need to preserve.

You should know that native issue exports lack important data, including:

  • Transitions
  • Comments
  • Attachments

Just think for a moment of how many specs refer to screenshots, diagrams, and illustrations  –if your goal is to migrate issues to another system, there will be a lot to be missed.

3) The 1,000 limit

A thousand. That’s a totemic number for Atlassian, and many restrictions are set against it (for example, the bulk change maximum, query results, or even the indexing batches).

Issue exports fall within this limitation as well. Unless you use the workaround that I’ll explain in a minute.

The easy, the hard and the ugly ways to export issues from Jira

A) Alternatives for users

1) With the export button in the issue navigator

Pros: It’s easy! B-)
Cons: It has all the above limitations: no native excel, not more than 1,000 results, no attachments, comments, or transitions
 

Yes, we already covered it. But it’s still the most comfortable option, and if you’re happy with the result, you should probably stick to it. No reason to re-invent the wheel for nothing.

Check this extensive documentation on the different export formats. It’s interesting to play with the URL parameters for the XML view, which by the way can be embedded in a Confluence macro nicely.

2) With a marketplace app

Pros: It’s the easiest way to add functionality, and you don’t have to worry about maintenance and compatibility with new Jira versions.
Cons: It might take some time to find the perfect app for your need.
 

If you don’t get what you want with the native exports, the easiest way to add functionality and get better, augmented exports of your issues is a third-party app, like DEISER’s Exporter. 

DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE

You can also use general apps that can be applied to the task, like Jira CLI. But honestly speaking, that would defeat the purpose of simplicity, and you won’t be able to distribute export capabilities among end users.

B) Alternatives for admins

Anything beyond this point is tech savvy, so don’t take it as a strict recommendation that you should do it: always weigh the pros and cons and the appropriateness for what you want to accomplish. If you’re not sure you understand the solution, don’t do it! It might work at once, or it might create larger problems you didn’t expect. In any case, all the items our list are real solutions –they can be done and because there are real, healthy people out there taking this route.

3) Tinkering with the configuration file

3.1 Reactivating excel exports

Pros: You’ll get the excel option in the export button dropdown
Cons: You’ll have to restart the machine. And it might be deprecated soon.
 

If you feel comfortable starting and restarting your instance, this option is as close as you will get to the good old excel export days. As of July 2018, it’s still working in the newest Jira 7 versions, including 7.10.

However, be aware that HTML exports might be deprecated anytime, so any processes that rely on this configuration may have to be reviewed when you least expect it.

Instructions:

      • Stop Jira
      • Go to the <jira-home> directory and find the jira-config.properties file
      • (If the file doesn’t exist, as will be the case for new Jira installations, go ahead and create it.)
      • Edit the file (follow these instructions if you’re unfamiliar with the process) and add this parameter in a new line: 
        jira.export.excel.enabled=true
      • Save the configuration file, and close it
      • Now you can restart Jira.
      • And tell your colleagues!

 3.2 Adjusting the property limit of 1,000 search results

Pros: A simple configuration setting that works like the above
Cons: You’re still not solving the limitations regarding format, and augmented content. Again, you must stop and restart Jira. Hopefully only once.
 

Atlassian suggests doing larger exports in batches to avoid Out of Memory Exceptions. But if you’re properly monitoring the performance of your instance, if you feel comfortable testing how far it can go without crashing the application, or if you have too many issues to take the batches approach, you can play with the 1,000-limit or remove it altogether.

Instructions:

See the source here

    • Stop Jira
    • Go to the <jira-home> directory and find the jira-config.properties file
    • Edit the file with your desired new maximum:
jira.search.views.default.max=[new max] 
  • Restart Jira
  • Go tell your buds!

3.3 Bypassing the property limit for a group of users

Pros: Get the love of a small circle of privileged users that will love you. Unconditionally. Forever.
Cons: Same as the above. Plus some bad looks from the unprivileged laymen and women.
 

Depending on who is exporting and for what purpose, you may want to remove the restriction for Jira administrators. For example, every IT manager at your company.

Remember that the issues of your export will be based on the results of your current filter in the issue navigator. Make sure that your super users understand the responsibility of the unlimited exports, and how they may affect performance.

Here are the instructions, same source as above. By this time, they should sound familiar:

            • Stop Jira
            • Go to the <jira-home> directory and find the jira-config.properties file
            • Edit the file to bypass the limit for admins:
jira.search.views.max.unlimited.group=jira-administrators 
          • Restart Jira
          • Send an important email to your group of unlimited exporters and explain to them the following:
            • To bypass the limit, Jira admins can edit URLs
            • Copy the URL of the search in the issue navigator
            • Paste it in a new tab
            • Edit the max parameter at the end, or remove it altogether to get the full results

C) Alternatives for cloud admins

4) Workaround to export more than 1,000 issues

Cons: This is a pain if you compare it to editing the property value, and it will get you two different batches that have to be merged manually. If you have thousands of issues, consider moving to Jira Server.
 

The biggest drawback for Cloud instances of Jira is that customizations are not allowed. Some restricted functions may be configured by Atlassian Technical Support (ATS) by raising a Cloud project ticket at https://support.atlassian.com.

If you’re considering that course of action for expanding the maximum size of your issue exports, stop right there: this is the way to go.

5) If you’re exporting for a backup… do the backup

Pros: You can include issue attachments.
Cons: Not the most elegant solution, as you’ll get a lot of information you don’t want.
 

This solution is not a great idea unless the reason for exporting your issues is… a backup process or a migration.

Here are Atlassian’s full instructions.

Getting the backup file is simple. The tricky part is extracting only the issues in the entities.xml file, where they coexist with projects, users, groups, components… It will be a matter of chopping the XML down to the issues.

D) Through the API

6) Java API

Pros: You can process the output as desired before exporting the issues
Cons: You’ll need technical skills to reach your goal.
 

If anyone in your team is sufficiently familiar with scripting in Java, it’s am excellent option to submit the JQL query through the Java API. You’ll be talking to Jira in its source language.

Here is the query:

String jql="assignee=currentUser()";
SearchService.ParseResult parseResult = searchService.parseQuery(applicationUser, jql);
if (parseResult.isValid()) {
try {
/**
* Execute the search and get the issues
*/
List issues = searchService.search(applicationUser, parseResult.getQuery(), PagerFilter.getUnlimitedFilter()).getIssues();
}catch (SearchException ex){
LOGGER.error("Error searching: ",ex);
}
} else {
LOGGER.error("Error parsing: " + parseResult.getErrors());
}

 

Click here to see the full snippet, including authentication and imports. Just add a class and a method to call it.

7) REST API

Pros: It’s bafflingly simple, and you get a JSON output file
Cons: Like the Java API, results are not something you can immediately share.
 

Following the GET method of the REST API, once you’re logged into Jira you’ll be able to retrieve all the issues for a given JQL from a URL:

 Method: GET 
 Url: JIRA_BASE_URL/JIRA_CONTEXT/rest/api/2/search?jql="assignee=currentUser()" 
 

This URL could be pasted directly on your web browser for onscreen results, but you probably want to use an API development environment like Postman or a command line tool like curl.

One thing you want to avoid is going through the resulting JSON as a user. Here is just the start of what the data for an issue looks like:

Screenshot_13

… and it goes on for yet 86 lines.

Of course, the flipside is the flexibility of treating the data for whichever purpose you want it, including reporting.

Whatever way you choose... enjoy your exports! 

Strat boosting your Jira issues exports


Export Jira Issues in a practical way

Get unlimited Issues from Jira to multiple formats with all the context that matters: comments, transitions, and attachments. Learn the best way and click the button below.

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