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September 25, 2023

#BigTip: Looking for a “needle” in a haystack of tasks

Project Management
WBS & Backlog Structuring

The easiest way to find a needle in a haystack is with a magnet, no matter how much hay there is in the stack or how tiny the needle is. Alternatively, you could burn all the hay (pretty drastic) or sift through the entire stack (pretty inefficient).

Say the haystack is your project and the needle is a specific task or project item you want to check on? You could manually sift through your backlog or work breakdown structure. But depending on your project size, it could take a while. You could also work smart and use a magnet. In this particular case, the magnet would be Jira filters and the different search options BigPicture offers. 

Here’s how you can use them to find that needle!

Narrow your project scope with Jira filters

Whatever you’re looking for in your project, Jira filters can help you find it fast. The narrower your scope of tasks, the easier your search.

Filters also help if you want to see a list of specific boxes, not only tasks within one box. For example, you can use filters to get a list of specific projects from a rich project portfolio or a list of Sprints/iterations from an Agile project.

In BigPicture, you have several different Jira filters at your disposal that will help you find the exact project items or boxes you’re looking for — Quick Filters, Date Range Filters, and Filter by feature.

A quick search with Quick Filters

Quick filters enable you to narrow down your searches with simple JQL or enhanced JQL statements. For example, you can filter your project to show only tasks you’ve assigned to a particular person or team. 

You’ll find Quick Filters in the Calendar, Board, Gantt, Scope, Resources, and Risks modules in the upper right menu.

The Quick Filter bar is located in the upper right section of the app. Click the thunder icon to show/hide it.


To use Quick Filters, you can apply one of the predefined filters (if they meet your needs). Or configure and save your own filters. You can also import them from your Jira board.

Using pre-defined Quick Filters

If you want to narrow down your search without setting up custom filters, you can use the default filters. Click on the Quick Filter bar and select the filter of your choice from the drop-down menu. To combine multiple filters together, use the relevant logic operator: “AND” or “OR” which you’ll find next to the Quick Filter bar.

A list of available default Quick Filters. You can mark any filter as a favorite by clicking the star next to it. Your favorite Quick Filters will appear as buttons on the left side of the bar. This way, you can apply them even without opening the droplist.


The logic operator becomes especially useful if you want to perform a specific operation without creating a separate filter for that search.

Adding custom Quick Filters

You can filter your project in lots of different ways: You’re not limited to the default JQL statements. To create and add custom Quick Filters (or edit the default ones), go to Box Configuration> Task > Quick Filters.

A list of custom Quick Filters. Here you can add, copy, delete, edit, or import your filters.


For each new filter, you’ll need to provide a Name, Description (optional), and the JQL statement. For example, if you want to see issues that have been updated in the past 24 hours, you would write “updatedDate >= -1d.”

Creating new Quick Filters takes only seconds. Just provide a name and JQL statement in the relevant bars.


If you’re not sure about the JQL syntax, the drop-down menu under the “JQL Query” bar will suggest the vocabulary as you type. Alternatively, you can use the “Syntax Help” link to visit Atlassian’s JQL guide for help writing the query you need.

The Overview module has Jira filters too

You won’t find Quick Filters in the Overview module. But that doesn’t mean you can’t filter from there. The built-in “Filter by” option lets you narrow the scope in your view based on the selected criteria. Specifically, you can define such search values for a box as its Type (e.g., Agile project, Portfolio); project Leader; Start and End dates of a box, and more.

The “Filter by” feature in the Overview module takes in a set of data values to return the exact box or boxes (e.g., projects, iterations) you want to see. You can add more rows to combine data types and perform more precise searches.


Here, the filtering options depend on the available columns. So if one of the supported data columns in your view is missing, you won’t be able to filter your view by it. For example, if you remove the Leader columns from your overview, this data type will also disappear.

Filtering boxes down to Sprints, iterations, and Stages, not tasks

The Overview module is like a command center for your entire portfolio of initiatives. It displays all projects, programs, Sprints, etc. being managed within your organization. So the filter in this module doesn’t work for drilling down to tasks within an individual box. 

But you’ll find this filter especially useful in the case of rich and diverse portfolios and programs that contain multiple boxes. For example, say you want to filter through all the programs under several portfolios, each holding dozens of projects, phases, stages, and iterations. 

In a situation like this, the filter enables you to pin down the specific project (or even iteration). You can then dig deeper using the Quick or Date Range Filters or the search bar (more on that later).

Go about your issues and boxes with Date Range filters

There’s one more special filter you can customize and apply while working in the Overview, Gantt, or Risks modules — a Date Range Filter. With this filter, you can search for basic tasks and Jira issues (Gantt, Risks) and (sub)boxes based on their scheduled time (Overview).

At first glimpse, the Date Range Filter seems self-explanatory — you provide a Start and/or End date to receive the results that satisfy your search criteria.

Pick the Start/End date (or both) from the calendar to narrow down the results.


However, the filter returns results based on the Start and End dates of a specific item. Those dates might not correspond to the Start/End date fields you have in Jira. 

That’s because the synchronization of relevant values between BigPicture and Jira depends on the field mapping setup. For example, the “End date” in BigPicture could be synced with the value assigned to the “Original Estimate” in Jira. So you’ll want to review your synchronization configuration to ensure BigPicture returns the results you expect.   

For more advanced searches, you can combine a Date Range Filter with Quick Filters (and even additionally with a search bar).

Applying Jira filters: Things to keep in mind

By default, the filters you’ve applied are active only in a specific module. But you can activate them in other modules as well. This way, the filtered view you’re seeing will remain consistent across other modules. To do this, check the “Apply current filters in all modules” option.

For instance, if you filter your Jira issues to show only those that have no assignee on a Board module (“assignee = EMPTY”), the Gantt and other modules would then show you the same results.

Task cards and issues in a backlog, filtered to show only Unassigned issues. If you switch to Gantt, Scope, Risks, Resources, or Calendar, the current scope will also be limited to only unassigned tasks.


The filter you apply to your current view and module(s) remains active only for you. Your active filters do not affect what other users see. Other users can also “star” different filters to have their favorite ones handy and their list will be visible only to them.

Sifting through tasks with your old pal, the search bar

Last but not least, you have a powerful search bar at your disposal. And it’s available in every module except Reports and Objectives. The search bar supports text-based keywords (Overview, Gantt, Scope, Board, Risks, Calendar, Resources, and Teams) and JQL statements (Gantt, Scope, Board, Risks, Calendar, and Resources). So you can type the JQL snippet directly into the search bar to receive the same results you would’ve seen had you used a Quick Filter.

Click “Text” or “JQL” inside the bar to switch between the search modes.

The search bar in BigPicture isn’t just for plain text. You can perform advanced searches using JQL — even without Quick Filters.


In the example above, the project items are narrowed down to only Stories that have an assignee. If you check the “Hide parent tasks in results,” the grayed-out results (parent items that don’t match search criteria) are hidden, simplifying your view.

Laser-focus on your “needle”

You can go one step further. Let the app bring you directly to your “needle” by enabling the “Snipe to result” feature (available in Gantt, Board, and Scope modules). This removes the grayed-out results and highlights the row(s) that match your search criteria. It also expands the WBS tree to make all matching items visible and displays their count.

The “Snipe to result” shows only the matching items and highlights the individual ones. You can go through every item one by one using the up/down arrows next to the count inside the search bar.

Sign up to try BigPicture for free

BigPicture helps you plan, build, and manage complex projects and portfolios. With its powerful search capabilities, you can find even the most granular elements of your project, and easily filter through the entire portfolio to find a very specific Agile iteration or Waterfall project phase. 

Sign up for a 30-day free trial and discover how BigPicture can help you build and execute projects more easily — no matter how big, complex, or unique they are. We also encourage you to join our live demo webinar to see for yourself why more than 20,000 PPMs and their teams trust our software to build their amazing products.