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How to group issues in backlog by epic

Jan Nykl Jan 09, 2018


I was trying to figure out, whether there is an option to group issues in backlog by epics. 

The desired look is similar to the Portfolio, where I see the list of epics, and when clicked, the list of sub-tasks (stories) is displayed.

Often, when I have a new idea, I create an epic, and later on, when we are going to develop the feature, we design the stories, but the epic is not visible in the backlog! so I end up creating a new one :(

Actually, the epics are hardly visible, when we want to use the epic swimlanes in current sprint, which I think is very useful.

I would love to see my backlog grouped by epics, it would definitely improve the usability.

Thanks for your responses and time!

2 answers

1 vote
Andrew Heinzer Atlassian Team Jan 10, 2018

You can certainly sort/view issues on a backlog by their epic.  There is some documentation that helps explain how to use epics with the boards such as: Working with Epics.

You will notice that Scrum boards, (and more recent versions of Kanban boards) will have both a "Versions" and "Epics" tab on the left side of the board itself.  You can easily use this as a means to display epics on the board as well as manage what issues are included from that backlog into that epic itself.  You can drag and drop them provided the epic appears on that board.

That is the one catch I think many users overlook; you can only see epics on a board if the epic issue itself is included in the JQL filter that is in use for that board.   So some users will create an epic in a different project (say project B), and if your board is using a simple filter that say, only includes the issue in project A, you won't be able to see the epic itself.  In those cases, you might need to adjust your saved JQL filter for that board to also include the epic you want.  This could be done with a simple JQL such as appending 'OR issuekey=$EPICKEY-123'  where you actually enter the issue key of the epic you want to see. 

Or if you want to see all epics in Jira on that board you could do something more wholistic such as an 'OR issuetype=epic' and add that to the JQL filter in use for that board.  This is one way you could see all the epics in that board.

Jan Nykl Jan 11, 2018

Hi Andrew,

thanks for your reply!

I know I can display epics on the left-panel, but I wanted to display them directly in the backlog.



I would like to see the epics in the RIGHT panel, same as stories. Or, even better, grouping the stories, by the epics.

The left panel is much less clear. You cant see that many epics at once and so on..

The prefered view in the backlog is like in the portfolio: 


Thanks again for your time!

Andrew Heinzer Atlassian Team Jan 11, 2018 • edited

Hi Jan,

Thanks for further explaining what you are looking for here.  I found a past feature request that I believe is similar to your request in

In that case, the user wanted to see the epic just like any other issue type in the backlog.  You can see in the comments there that one of the Agile product team members, @Martin Jopson, wrote up this response:

The representation of epics in JIRA Agile is to show them in a panel (on the left side) where issues can easily be added to them. We feel this design is preferable for the use-case of organisation of issues into an epic, or the creation of issues in an epic.

This issue is Resolved as Answered, not Resolved as Fixed. The message states that it's not something we're looking to add to JIRA Agile at this time. We feel it's better to give a straight answer than to just leave the issues open.

As a workaround for your preferred way of using epics, a different issue type or even a Story with a prefixed summary "EPIC-" could be used to display an epic in the backlog. When the 'epic' is broken down then one could swap to Story issue type or remove the prefix.

JIRA Agile team

As such I can't see a way to do this in Jira Software, and it does not appear that this is something the team plans to add to Agile/Software either.

I realize that this is not exactly the same thing, but I just want to check to make sure you are aware of this part:  When you click the epic in the left panel, it does filter to only show the issues in that epic on the board. 

When all issues are selected

When only that epic is selected.


I know this is not exactly the same thing as you can see in say something like Jira Portfolio, but I still think this might be a useful way to sort and organize.


Jan Nykl Jan 11, 2018

Thanks a lot again!

Yeah I'm aware of the ability to filter with epics.

The use case is following, I prefer to log new feature requests into backlog as epics, because they are usually larger. And then, when we decided, ok, lets do it next month, i.e. it comes on the horizon, we specify the stories.

I have to find another way :)

Thank you!

0 votes
Jan Nykl Jan 12, 2018


I try to sum up minimal adjustments, that would really improve working with the issues in backlog on the epics level:

  1. Allow wider LEFT panel (I did that manually only by removing the 220px width css property), this allows viewing more epics at once, because the names are not wrapped
  2. Allow selecting multiple epics at once (same as stories)
  3. Add send to top, send to bottom and delete options to right click panel (there is no right click panel yet) - helps prioritize epics easily

This allows nicely manage the epics. Look at the screenshot: 

backlog-wide epics.jpg

Ron Healy Jun 29, 2018

Hi @Jan Nykl. I spotted your query while looking for something different so apologies if it is no longer an issue (pun intended!). However, in case anyone else spots the query, I wanted to explain what I do to achieve the same result you are looking for: namely, how to have Issues appear in the backlog that are still conceptually Epics, rather than Stories.

Very simply, instead of creating an Epic (which you are doing) I create a Spike because, in Agile terms, it isn't an Epic or Story until you have an idea how it's going to be delivered. I may (or may not) create a standalone EPIC for that Spike and I usually have a standalone Epic acting as a 'bucket' for all otherwise-uncategorised Spikes.

When the Spike is up for discussion, it gets manage din the Backlog exactly as a Story - including prioritisation, which is the main purpose of having it there.

Once the development path for a feature is discussed and the BA or Team have some idea how it's going to be broken down, a Spike can be easily converted to a Story (and supplemented by more Stories as required) and will still stay in it's place on the Backlog.

While this doesn't get the Epics on the backlog, I think it achieves what you're trying to do. Hope it helps.

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