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Review apps

DETAILS: Tier: Free, Premium, Ultimate Offering: SaaS, self-managed

Review apps are a collaboration tool that provide an environment to showcase product changes.

NOTE: If you have a Kubernetes cluster, you can automate this feature in your applications by using Auto DevOps.

Review apps:

  • Provide an automatic live preview of changes made in a feature branch by spinning up a dynamic environment for your merge requests.
  • Allow designers and product managers to see your changes without needing to check out your branch and run your changes in a sandbox environment.
  • Are fully integrated with the GitLab DevOps LifeCycle.
  • Allow you to deploy your changes wherever you want.

review apps workflow

In the previous example:

  • A review app is built every time a commit is pushed to topic branch.
  • The reviewer fails two reviews before passing the third review.
  • After the review passes, topic branch is merged into the default branch, where it's deployed to staging.
  • After its approval in staging, the changes that were merged into the default branch are deployed to production.

How review apps work

A review app is a mapping of a branch with an environment. Access to the review app is made available as a link on the merge request relevant to the branch.

The following is an example of a merge request with an environment set dynamically.

review app in merge request

In this example, a branch was:

  • Successfully built.
  • Deployed under a dynamic environment that can be reached by selecting View app.

After adding review apps to your workflow, you follow the branched Git flow. That is:

  1. Push a branch and let the runner deploy the review app based on the script definition of the dynamic environment job.
  2. Wait for the runner to build and deploy your web application.
  3. To view the changes live, select the link in the merge request related to the branch.

Configuring review apps

Review apps are built on dynamic environments, which allow you to dynamically create a new environment for each branch.

The process of configuring review apps is as follows:

  1. Set up the infrastructure to host and deploy the review apps (check the examples below).
  2. Install and configure a runner to do deployment.
  3. Set up a job in .gitlab-ci.yml that uses the predefined CI/CD variable ${CI_COMMIT_REF_SLUG} to create dynamic environments and restrict it to run only on branches. Alternatively, you can get a YAML template for this job by enabling review apps for your project.
  4. Optionally, set a job that manually stops the review apps.

Enable review apps button

When configuring review apps for a project, you add a new job to the .gitlab-ci.yml file, as mentioned above. To facilitate this, and if you are using Kubernetes, you can select Enable review apps and GitLab prompts you with a template code block that you can copy and paste into .gitlab-ci.yml as a starting point.


  • You need at least the Developer role for the project.

To use the review apps template:

  1. On the left sidebar, select Search or go to and find the project you want to create a review app job for.

  2. Select Operate > Environments.

  3. Select Enable review apps.

  4. Copy the provided code snippet and paste it into your .gitlab-ci.yml file:

    enable review apps modal

You can edit this template as needed.

Review apps auto-stop

See how to configure review apps environments to expire and auto-stop after a given period of time.

Review apps examples

The following are example projects that demonstrate review app configuration:

Project Configuration file
NGINX .gitlab-ci.yml
OpenShift .gitlab-ci.yml
HashiCorp Nomad .gitlab-ci.yml
GitLab Documentation build-and-deploy.gitlab-ci.yml .gitlab-ci.yml
GitLab Insights .gitlab-ci.yml

Other examples of review apps:

Route Maps

Route Maps allows you to go directly from source files to public pages on the environment defined for review apps.

Once set up, the review app link in the merge request widget can take you directly to the pages changed, making it easier and faster to preview proposed modifications.

Configuring Route Maps involves telling GitLab how the paths of files in your repository map to paths of pages on your website using a Route Map. Once set, GitLab displays View on ... buttons, which take you to the pages changed directly from merge requests.

To set up a route map, add a file inside the repository at .gitlab/route-map.yml, which contains a YAML array that maps source paths (in the repository) to public paths (on the website).

Route Maps example

The following is an example of a route map for Middleman, a static site generator (SSG) used to build the GitLab website, deployed from its project on

# Team data
- source: 'data/team.yml'  # data/team.yml
  public: 'team/'  # team/

# Blogposts
- source: /source\/posts\/([0-9]{4})-([0-9]{2})-([0-9]{2})-(.+?)\..*/  # source/posts/
  public: '\1/\2/\3/\4/'  # 2017/01/30/around-the-world-in-6-releases/

# HTML files
- source: /source\/(.+?\.html).*/  # source/index.html.haml
  public: '\1'  # index.html

# Other files
- source: /source\/(.*)/  # source/images/blogimages/around-the-world-in-6-releases-cover.png
  public: '\1'  # images/blogimages/around-the-world-in-6-releases-cover.png

Mappings are defined as entries in the root YAML array, and are identified by a - prefix. Within an entry, there is a hash map with two keys:

  • source
    • A string, starting and ending with ', for an exact match.
    • A regular expression, starting and ending with /, for a pattern match:
      • The regular expression needs to match the entire source path - ^ and $ anchors are implied.
      • Can include capture groups denoted by () that can be referred to in the public path.
      • Slashes (/) can, but don't have to, be escaped as \/.
      • Literal periods (.) should be escaped as \..
  • public, a string starting and ending with '.
    • Can include \N expressions to refer to capture groups in the source regular expression in order of their occurrence, starting with \1.

The public path for a source path is determined by finding the first source expression that matches it, and returning the corresponding public path, replacing the \N expressions with the values of the () capture groups if appropriate.

In the example above, the fact that mappings are evaluated in order of their definition is used to ensure that source/index.html.haml matches /source\/(.+?\.html).*/ instead of /source\/(.*)/, and results in a public path of index.html, instead of index.html.haml.

After you have the route mapping set up, it takes effect in the following locations:

  • In the merge request widget:

    • The View app button takes you to the environment URL set in the .gitlab-ci.yml file.

    • The list shows the first 5 matched items from the route map, but you can filter them if more than 5 are available.

      View app file list in merge request widget

  • In the diff for a comparison or commit, by selecting View ({external-link}) next to the file.

  • In the blob file view, by selecting View ({external-link}) next to the file.

Visual Reviews (deprecated)

DETAILS: Tier: Premium, Ultimate Offering: SaaS, self-managed

WARNING: This feature was deprecated in GitLab 15.8 and is planned for removal in 17.0. This change is a breaking change.

FLAG: On self-managed GitLab, by default this feature is not available. To make it available, an administrator can enable the feature flag named anonymous_visual_review_feedback.

With Visual Reviews, members of any team (Product, Design, Quality, and so on) can provide feedback comments through a form in your review apps. The comments are added to the merge request that triggered the review app.

Using Visual Reviews

After Visual Reviews has been configured for the review app, the Visual Reviews feedback form is overlaid on the right side of every page.

Visual review feedback form

To use the feedback form to make a comment in the merge request:

  1. On the right side of a page, select the Review tab.
  2. Make a comment on the visual review. You can make use of all the Markdown annotations that are also available in merge request comments.
  3. Enter your personal information:
  4. Select Send feedback.

To see Visual reviews in action, see the Visual Reviews Walk through.

Configure review apps for Visual Reviews

The feedback form is served through a script you add to pages in your review app. It should be added to the <head> of your application and consists of some project and merge request specific values. Here's how it looks for a project with code hosted in a project on


Ideally, you should use CI/CD variables to replace those values at runtime when each review app is created:

  • data-project-id is the project ID, which can be found by the CI_PROJECT_ID variable or on the project overview page.
  • data-merge-request-id is the merge request ID, which can be found by the CI_MERGE_REQUEST_IID variable. CI_MERGE_REQUEST_IID is available only if rules:if: $CI_PIPELINE_SOURCE == "merge_request_event is used and the merge request is created.
  • data-mr-url is the URL of the GitLab instance and is the same for all review apps.
  • data-project-path is the project's path, which can be found by CI_PROJECT_PATH.
  • data-require-auth is optional for public projects but required for private and internal ones. If this is set to true, the user is required to enter their personal access token instead of their name and email.
  • id is always review-app-toolbar-script, you don't need to change that.
  • src is the source of the review toolbar script, which resides in the respective GitLab instance and is the same for all review apps.

For example, in a Ruby application with code hosted on in a project, you would need to have this script:


Then, when your app is deployed via GitLab CI/CD, those variables should get replaced with their real values.

Determining merge request ID

The visual review tools retrieve the merge request ID from the data-merge-request-id data attribute included in the script HTML tag used to add the visual review tools to your review app.

After determining the ID for the merge request to link to a visual review app, you can supply the ID by either:

  • Hard-coding it in the script tag via the data attribute data-merge-request-id of the app.
  • Dynamically adding the data-merge-request-id value during the build of the app.
  • Supplying it manually through the visual review form in the app.

If the ID is missing from the script, the visual review tool prompts you to enter the merge request ID before you can provide feedback.

Authentication for Visual Reviews

To enable visual reviews for private and internal projects, set the data-require-auth variable to true. When enabled, the user must enter a personal access token with api scope before submitting feedback.

This same method can be used to require authentication for any public projects.