Deleting, Hiding & Merging Jira Custom Fields

We hear a lot of Jira Administrators say that they suffer from "Custom Field Bloat". Understandable. It's easy to get carried away when you realize how many different ways there are to use Jira. So now it's time to prune those fields back. (Rachel Wright has a great article on how to audit your custom fields.) In this article, we’ll provide the steps for three of options: deleting, hiding and merging Jira custom fields. For each option, we’ll not only look at the steps for execution, we’ll also discuss when you should use it and how you should prepare users for the change.

Deleting Jira Custom Fields

When to Use:

Don’t do this lightly. Deleting fields will also delete the data they hold and this act cannot be undone. Therefore, this method is best reserved for fields that were created, but never used (a scenario that occurs more often than one might think) or in cases where the data has been moved to another field.

Preparing the People:

Users will not react kindly to having something they feel they need removed. So check first to see if anyone is using the field. If they are, provided a substitute (see below) or a work-around before deleting the field. You’re a hero when you give users functionality, but a devil when you take it away.

How to Do It:

  1. Select Jira settings > Issues.
  2. Under Fields, select Custom Fields.
  3. Find the custom field and click.
  4. Click Delete to remove the custom field and any information entered in the field from all issues.

Hiding Jira Custom Fields

When to Use:

Although this method doesn’t truly reduce the number of custom fields in your instance, it does allow you to declutter your screens. This is a good method to use for custom fields that were used in the past and contain data that you don’t want to use, but are not (or rarely) used now.

You can also hide fields as an intermediary step before deleting them. Hide the field. Wait a week or two to see if users miss it, and if not, delete the field.

Preparing the People:

Most of the time when you use this method it will be for fields that were important in the past, but are no longer in use. Check with the Project Admins to confirm that this is the case.

Note that if you’re told, “Oh no, we need that field!” but suspect otherwise, you can query for [custom field] NOT EMPTY and then sort by last updated date to see how frequently and how recently the field has been used.

How to Do It:

To hide a Jira custom field go to Project > Project Settings >Fields. Find the custom field and click Screens. Click Remove.

Merging Jira Custom Fields

When to Use:

In the rush to create what we need, we often forget to check if it’s already there. Your audit may reveal that multiple custom fields have been created which essentially do the same thing. In this case, you should select the one best option (correct field type and most generic name) and merge the other fields into it.

Preparing the People:

The  key in this case is communication. You simply need to let people know that the field they formerly used (XYZ Project Start Date) has now been renamed (Start Date). You can use an announcement banner (available on the System admin menu) to communicate with all of your users.

How to Do It:

  1. Add the new (correct) field to all relevant issue type(s).
  2. Now, run a query to return all of the Jira issues you wish to update (all issues in which have data in the old/incorrect field).
  3. Adjust the columns to show the summary, issue key, the old/incorrect custom field and the new/correct custom field.
  4. Click Export Excel CSV (current fields).
  5. On your CSV file, remove any unnecessary columns, and everything but the header and data rows (export may add extra rows of footer/header content). This is also a good opportunity to “clean up” your data - fix misspellings, etc.
  6. Now go to the Jira Administration menu and select Jira Settings>System.
  7. Select External System Import (under the Import and Export heading) in the left hand navigation bar.
  8. Select CSV.
  9. Click on the Choose File button and browse to your CSV file. Click Next.
  10. Select your project. Note that you can also add an email suffix and adjust the date format on this screen. Click Next.
  11. Map your fields including the issue key, summary and the relevant custom fields:
    1. Issue Key (CSV field) > Issue Key (Jira field).
    2. Summary (CSV field) > Summary (Jira field).
    3. Old/incorrect custom field (CSV field) > New/correct (Jira field).
  12. Click Next. Jira will make the update and indicate the result.
  13. You can repeat your original search to see the data from the old/incorrect field is now populating the new/correct field.
  14. Follow the instructions above for deleting the old field.


Other Options

This was adapted from an article published by ThinkTilt as part of a series on managing custom field bloat. Another option for dealing with custom fields is to substitute a form field for the custom field. Learn more here. (Note that I am with ThinkTilt.)

1 comment

Adam Varadi November 9, 2022

@Jennifer Choban Following sentence might require revision:

"This is a good method to use for custom fields that were used in the past and contain data that you don’t want to use, but are not (or rarely) used now."


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