The code-owners plugin provides support for code owners in Gerrit and is replacing the find-owners plugin.

For projects that used code owners with the find-owners plugin before, the existing OWNERS files continue to work and the only major difference is that the code-owners plugin comes with a new UI for selecting code owners and showing the code owner status.

The code-owners plugin is an open-source plugin and is maintained by the Gerrit team at Google.

This document focuses on the workflows in the UI. Further information can be found in the backend user guide.

Enable the plugin

As a user

You don’t need to do anything as the plugin is enabled by the host admin.

As an admin

The code-owners plugin is only supported for the Gerrit version that is currently developed in master. The first Gerrit release that supports the code-owners plugin is Gerrit 3.3.0.

Before installing/enabling the plugin, or enabling the code owners functionality for further projects, it is important that the plugin is correctly configured. The required configuration is described in the plugin setup guide.

Bug report / Feedback

Report a bug or send feedback using this Monorail template. You can also report a bug through the bug icon in the reply dialog next to the HIDE OWNERS / SUGGEST OWNERS button.

suggest owners from reply dialog

Code Owners

Who are code owners?

A code owner is a user whose approval is required to modify files under a certain path. Who is a code owner of a path is controlled via OWNERS files that are checked into the repository. For submitting a change Gerrit requires that all files that were touched in the change are approved by a code owner. Code owners usually apply their approval by voting with “Code-Review+1” on the change. Their approval is to confirm that “This change is appropriate for our system and belongs in this directory."

Why do we leverage Code Owners?

Owners are gatekeepers before a CL is submitted, they enforce standards across the code base, help disseminate knowledge around their specific area of ownership, ensure their is appropriate code review coverage, and provide timely reviews. Code owners is designed as a code quality feature to ensure someone familiar with the code base reviews any changes to the codebase or a subset of the codebase they are the Owner of, by making sure the change is appropriate for the system.

What is the code-owners plugin?

What is the benefit?

Code owners in Gerrit will be supported by a new code-owners plugin which is developed as an open-source plugin and maintained by the Gerrit team at Google.

The code-owners plugin supports:

  • defining code owners
  • requiring owner approvals for submitting changes
  • displaying owner information in the UI & suggesting code owners as reviewers
  • overriding owner checks
  • a REST API to inspect code owners

How does it work?

The plugin provides suggestions of owners for the directory or files that you are modifying in your change based on a score. It also informs you at a glance about the status of code owners for the change and the status of code owners per file.


The code-owners plugin suggests a maximum of 5 closest code owners based on their score. The code owner score is calculated based on the distance of code owners to the files.

Defining code owners

If you have used code owners via the find-owners plugin before, your code owners are already defined in OWNERS files and you don’t need to do anything since the new code-owners plugin just reads the existing OWNERS files.

If you haven’t used code owners before, you can now define code owners in OWNERS files which are stored in the source tree. The code owners that are defined in an OWNERS file apply to the directory that contains the OWNERS file, and all its subdirectories (except if a subdirectory contains an OWNERS file that disables the inheritance of code owners from the parent directories).

The syntax of OWNERS file is explained in the backend documentation and examples can be found in the cookbook.

The code-owners plugin does not support an editor to create and edit OWNERS files from the UI. OWNERS files must be created and edited manually in the local repository and then be pushed to the remote repository, the same way as any other source file.

Add owners to your change

  1. To add owners of the files in your change, click on SUGGEST OWNERS next to the Code-Owners submit requirement.

suggest owners from change page

  1. The Reply dialog opens with the code owners section expanded by default with owners suggestions. Code owners are suggested by groups of files which share the same code owners.

owner suggestions

  1. Hover over a file to view the list of files and their full file path.

suggestion file groups

  1. Click user chips to select code owners for each file or group of files. The selected code owner is automatically added to the reviewers section and automatically selected on other files the code owner owns in the change (if applicable).

add or modify reviewers from suggestions

  1. Click SEND to notify the code owners you selected on your change.

Reply dialog use cases

Approved files

Once a file has received an approval vote by the code owner, the file disappears from the file list in the reply dialog. This lets you focus on the files that are not yet assigned to a code owner or are pending approval.

No code owners found

There are 3 possible reasons for encountering a “Not found” text:

no owners found

  • No code owners were defined for these files. Reason: This could be due to missing OWNERS defined for these files.

  • None of the code owners of these files are visible. Reason: The code owners accounts are not visible to you.

  • None of the code owners can see the change. Reason: The code owners have no read permission on the target branch of the change and hence cannot approve the change.

  • Code owners defined for these files are invalid. Reason: The emails cannot be resolved.

For these cases, we advise you to:

  1. Ask someone with override powers (e.g. sheriff) to grant an override vote to unblock the change submission.
  2. Contact the project owner to ask them to fix the code owner definitions, or permissions if needed.

Renamed files

renamed file from file list

renamed file in code owners

Renamed files (new path) will have a “Renamed” chip attached to them. A renamed file will be considered as approved only if both old path/name and new path/name are approved.

Failed to fetch file

This status is informing you about a failed API call. Refresh the page to recover from this error.

failed to fetch

Large change

In case of a large change containing a large number of files (hundreds or even thousands), it will take some time to fetch all suggested code owners. In the reply dialog, the plugin will show the overall status of the fetching and results as soon as it has results together with the loading indicator. The loading will disappear until all files finished fetching, failed files will be grouped into a single group.

The fetching of suggested code owners should not block the reply itself. So you still can select from suggestions even when not all files are finished and sent for reviewing.

Change page overview

In the change page, you can get an overview of the code owner statuses.

If applicable, the code owner status is displayed:

  • Next to the Code-Owners submit requirement

submit requirement

  • Next to each file

owner status

Code owner status

Code-Owners submit requirement

The Code-Owners submit requirement is providing an overview about the code owner status at a glance.

  • Missing a reviewer that can grant the code owner approval
  • Pending code owner approval
  • Approved by a code owner

Missing code owner approval

The change is missing a reviewer that can grant the code owner approval.

missing owner

Pending code owner approval

  • The change is pending a vote from a reviewer that can grant the code owner approval. Code owners have been added to the change but have not voted yet.

pending owner's approval 1

  • A code owner has voted -1 on the change. A -1 doesn't block a file from being approved by another code owner. The status is pending because the change needs another round of review.

pending owner's approval 2

Approved by code owner

Each file in your change was approved by at least one code owner. It's not required that all code owners approve a change.

owner approved

File status

Additionally, the code-owners plugin provides a more detailed overview of code owner status per file in the change with 3 statuses and you can hover over the icon to display a tooltip.

Missing code owner approval

A code owner of this file is missing as a reviewer to the change.

missing owner tooltip

Pending code owner approval

A code owner of this file has been added to the change but have not voted yet.

pending owner tooltip

Approved by code owner

A code owner of this file has approved the change. You can also see this icon if you are a code owner of the file as in this case the file is implicitly approved by you.

approved owner tooltip

Failed to fetch status icon

This status is informing you about a failed API call. Refresh the page to recover from this error.

failed owner tooltip

No label and no status

When you own all the files in your change, the code-owners plugin will:

  • Not show the Code-Owners submit requirement
  • Not show the file status

Owners-Override label

In the reply dialog

The Owners-Override label is votable by a user with certain permissions (e.g. sheriff). The Owner-Override label will show in the reply dialog and you can vote on it if you have certain permissions.