Service Desk

Moved to GitLab Free in 13.2.

Service Desk is a module that allows your team to connect with any external party through email, without any external tools. An ongoing conversation in the same place as where your software is built ensures user feedback ends up where it’s needed.

With Service Desk, you can provide efficient email support to your customers. They can email you bug reports, feature requests, or general feedback. They all end up in your GitLab project as new issues. In turn, your team can respond directly from the project.

As Service Desk is built right into GitLab itself, the complexity and inefficiencies of multiple tools and external integrations are eliminated. This significantly shortens the cycle time from feedback to software update.

For an overview, check the video demonstration on GitLab Service Desk.

How it works

GitLab Service Desk enables people to create issues in your GitLab instance without needing their own user account.

It provides a unique email address for end users to create issues in a project. Follow-up notes can be sent either through the GitLab interface or by email. End users only see the thread through email.

For example, let’s assume you develop a game for iOS or Android. The codebase is hosted in your GitLab instance, built and deployed with GitLab CI/CD.

Here’s how Service Desk works for you:

  1. You provide a project-specific email address to your paying customers, who can email you directly from the application.
  2. Each email they send creates an issue in the appropriate project.
  3. Your team members go to the Service Desk issue tracker, where they can see new support requests and respond inside associated issues.
  4. Your team communicates back and forth with the customer to understand the request.
  5. Your team starts working on implementing code to solve your customer’s problem.
  6. When your team finishes the implementation, whereupon the merge request is merged and the issue is closed automatically.
  7. The customer’s requests are handled through email, without ever having access to your GitLab instance.
  8. Your team saved time by not having to leave GitLab (or setup any integrations) to follow up with your customer.

Configuring Service Desk

Users with Maintainer and higher access in a project can configure Service Desk.

Service Desk issues are confidential, so they are only visible to project members. In GitLab 11.7 we updated the generated email address format. The older format is still supported, so existing aliases or contacts still work.

If you have templates in your repository, you can optionally select one from the selector menu to append it to all Service Desk issues.

To enable Service Desk in your project:

  1. (GitLab self-managed only) Set up incoming email for the GitLab instance. You should use email sub-addressing, but you can also use catch-all mailboxes.
  2. In a project, in the left sidebar, go to Settings > General and expand the Service Desk section.
  3. Enable the Activate Service Desk toggle. This reveals a unique email address to email issues to the project.

Service Desk is now enabled for this project! To access it in a project, in the left sidebar, select Issues > Service Desk.

Anyone in your project can use the Service Desk email address to create an issue in this project, regardless of their access level to your GitLab instance.

To improve your project’s security, we recommend the following:

  • Put the Service Desk email address behind an alias on your email system so you can change it later.
  • Enable Akismet on your GitLab instance to add spam checking to this service. Unblocked email spam can result in many spam issues being created.

The unique internal email address is visible to project members at least the Reporter role in your GitLab instance. An external user (issue creator) cannot see the internal email address displayed in the information note.

Using customized email templates

Version history
  • Introduced in GitLab 12.7.
  • Moved from GitLab Premium to GitLab Free in 13.2.

An email is sent to the author when:

  • A user submits a new issue using Service Desk.
  • A new note is created on a Service Desk issue.

You can customize the body of these email messages with templates. Save your templates in the .gitlab/service_desk_templates/ directory in your repository.

With Service Desk, you can use templates for:

Introduced in GitLab 15.9.

Instance administrators can add a small header or footer to the GitLab instance and make them visible in the email template. For more information, see System header and footer messages.

Thank you email

When a user submits an issue through Service Desk, GitLab sends a thank you email. You must name the template file

You can use these placeholders to be automatically replaced in each email:

  • %{ISSUE_ID}: issue IID
  • %{ISSUE_PATH}: project path appended with the issue IID

Because Service Desk issues are created as confidential (only project members can see them), the response email does not contain the issue link.

New note email

When a user-submitted issue receives a new comment, GitLab sends a new note email. You must name the template file

You can use these placeholders to be automatically replaced in each email:

  • %{ISSUE_ID}: issue IID
  • %{ISSUE_PATH}: project path appended with the issue IID
  • %{NOTE_TEXT}: note text

New Service Desk issues

You can select one description template per project to be appended to every new Service Desk issue’s description.

You can set description templates at various levels:

The templates are inherited. For example, in a project, you can also access templates set for the instance, or the project’s parent groups.

To use a custom description template with Service Desk:

  1. On the top bar, select Main menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. Create a description template.
  3. On the left sidebar, select Settings > General > Service Desk.
  4. From the dropdown list Template to append to all Service Desk issues, search or select your template.

Using a custom email display name

Introduced in GitLab 12.8.

You can customize the email display name. Emails sent from Service Desk have this name in the From header. The default display name is GitLab Support Bot.

To edit the custom email display name:

  1. On the top bar, select Main menu > Projects and find your project.
  2. On the left sidebar, select Settings > General > Service Desk.
  3. Enter a new name in Email display name.
  4. Select Save Changes.

Using a custom email address

Version history

It is possible to customize the email address used by Service Desk. To do this, you must configure a custom mailbox. If you want you can also configure a custom suffix.

Configuring a custom mailbox

On a custom mailbox is already configured with contact-project+%{key} as the email address, you can still configure the custom suffix in project settings.

Service Desk uses the incoming email configuration by default. However, by using the service_desk_email configuration, you can customize the mailbox used by Service Desk. This allows you to have a separate email address for Service Desk by also configuring a custom suffix in project settings.

The address must include the +%{key} placeholder in the ‘user’ portion of the address, before the @. The placeholder is used to identify the project where the issue should be created.

When configuring a custom mailbox, the service_desk_email and incoming_email configurations must always use separate mailboxes. It’s important, because emails picked from service_desk_email mailbox are processed by a different worker and it would not recognize incoming_email emails.

To configure a custom mailbox for Service Desk with IMAP, add the following snippets to your configuration file in full:


:::TabTitle Linux package (Omnibus)

In GitLab 15.3 and later, Service Desk uses webhook (internal API call) by default instead of enqueuing a Sidekiq job. To use webhook on an Omnibus installation running GitLab 15.3, you must generate a secret file. For more context, visit Omnibus GitLab MR 5927. In GitLab 15.4, reconfiguring an Omnibus installation generates this secret file automatically, so no secret file configuration setting is needed. For details, visit issue 1462.
gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_enabled'] = true
gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_address'] = "project_contact+%{key}"
gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_email'] = ""
gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_password'] = "[REDACTED]"
gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_mailbox_name'] = "inbox"
gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_idle_timeout'] = 60
gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_log_file'] = "/var/log/gitlab/mailroom/mail_room_json.log"
gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_host'] = ""
gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_port'] = 993
gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_ssl'] = true
gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_start_tls'] = false

:::TabTitle Self-compiled (source)

  enabled: true
  address: "project_contact+%{key}"
  user: ""
  password: "[REDACTED]"
  host: ""
  delivery_method: webhook
  secret_file: .gitlab-mailroom-secret
  port: 993
  ssl: true
  start_tls: false
  log_path: "log/mailroom.log"
  mailbox: "inbox"
  idle_timeout: 60
  expunge_deleted: true


The configuration options are the same as for configuring incoming email.

Use encrypted credentials

Introduced in GitLab 15.9.

Instead of having the Service Desk email credentials stored in plaintext in the configuration files, you can optionally use an encrypted file for the Incoming email credentials.


The supported configuration items for the encrypted file are:

  • user
  • password


:::TabTitle Linux package (Omnibus)

  1. If initially your Service Desk configuration in /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb looked like:

    gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_email'] = ""
    gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_password'] = "examplepassword"
  2. Edit the encrypted secret:

    sudo gitlab-rake gitlab:service_desk_email:secret:edit EDITOR=vim
  3. Enter the unencrypted contents of the Service Desk email secret:

    user: ''
    password: 'examplepassword'
  4. Edit /etc/gitlab/gitlab.rb and remove the service_desk settings for email and password.
  5. Save the file and reconfigure GitLab:

    sudo gitlab-ctl reconfigure

:::TabTitle Helm chart (Kubernetes)

Use a Kubernetes secret to store the Service Desk email password. For more information, read about Helm IMAP secrets.

:::TabTitle Docker

  1. If initially your Service Desk configuration in docker-compose.yml looked like:

    version: "3.6"
        image: 'gitlab/gitlab-ee:latest'
        restart: always
        hostname: ''
            gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_email'] = ""
            gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_password'] = "examplepassword"
  2. Get inside the container, and edit the encrypted secret:

    sudo docker exec -t <container_name> bash
    gitlab-rake gitlab:service_desk_email:secret:edit EDITOR=editor
  3. Enter the unencrypted contents of the Service Desk secret:

    user: ''
    password: 'examplepassword'
  4. Edit docker-compose.yml and remove the service_desk settings for email and password.
  5. Save the file and restart GitLab:

    docker compose up -d

:::TabTitle Self-compiled (source)

  1. If initially your Service Desk configuration in /home/git/gitlab/config/gitlab.yml looked like:

        user: ''
        password: 'examplepassword'
  2. Edit the encrypted secret:

    bundle exec rake gitlab:service_desk_email:secret:edit EDITOR=vim RAILS_ENVIRONMENT=production
  3. Enter the unencrypted contents of the Service Desk secret:

    user: ''
    password: 'examplepassword'
  4. Edit /home/git/gitlab/config/gitlab.yml and remove the service_desk_email: settings for user and password.
  5. Save the file and restart GitLab and Mailroom

    # For systems running systemd
    sudo systemctl restart
    # For systems running SysV init
    sudo service gitlab restart


Microsoft Graph
Version history

Service Desk can be configured to read Microsoft Exchange Online mailboxes with the Microsoft Graph API instead of IMAP. Follow the documentation in the incoming email section for setting up an OAuth 2.0 application for Microsoft Graph.

  • Example for Omnibus GitLab installations:

    gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_enabled'] = true
    gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_address'] = "project_contact+%{key}"
    gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_email'] = ""
    gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_mailbox_name'] = "inbox"
    gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_log_file'] = "/var/log/gitlab/mailroom/mail_room_json.log"
    gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_inbox_method'] = 'microsoft_graph'
    gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_inbox_options'] = {
     'tenant_id': '<YOUR-TENANT-ID>',
     'client_id': '<YOUR-CLIENT-ID>',
     'client_secret': '<YOUR-CLIENT-SECRET>',
     'poll_interval': 60  # Optional

For Microsoft Cloud for US Government or other Azure deployments, configure the azure_ad_endpoint and graph_endpoint settings.

  • Example for Microsoft Cloud for US Government:
  gitlab_rails['service_desk_email_inbox_options'] = {
   'azure_ad_endpoint': '',
   'graph_endpoint': '',
   'tenant_id': '<YOUR-TENANT-ID>',
   'client_id': '<YOUR-CLIENT-ID>',
   'client_secret': '<YOUR-CLIENT-SECRET>',
   'poll_interval': 60  # Optional

The Microsoft Graph API is not yet supported in source installations. See this issue for more details.

Configuring a custom email address suffix

You can set a custom suffix in your project’s Service Desk settings after you have configured a custom mailbox. It can contain only lowercase letters (a-z), numbers (0-9), or underscores (_).

When configured, the custom suffix creates a new Service Desk email address, consisting of the service_desk_email_address setting and a key of the format: <project_full_path>-<custom_suffix>

For example, suppose the mygroup/myproject project Service Desk settings has the following configured:

  • Email address suffix is set to support.
  • Service Desk email address is configured to contact+%{key}

The Service Desk email address for this project is: The incoming email address still works.

If you don’t configure the custom suffix, the default project identification is used for identifying the project. You can see that email address in the project settings.

Using Service Desk

You can use Service Desk to create an issue or respond to one. In these issues, you can also see our friendly neighborhood Support Bot.

As an end user (issue creator)

Support for additional email headers introduced in GitLab 14.6. In earlier versions, the Service Desk email address had to be in the “To” field.

To create a Service Desk issue, an end user does not need to know anything about the GitLab instance. They just send an email to the address they are given, and receive an email back confirming receipt:

Service Desk enabled

This also gives the end user an option to unsubscribe.

If they don’t choose to unsubscribe, then any new comments added to the issue are sent as emails:

Service Desk reply email

Any responses they send via email are displayed in the issue itself.

For information about headers used for treating email, see the incoming email documentation.

As a responder to the issue

For responders to the issue, everything works just like other GitLab issues. GitLab displays a familiar-looking issue tracker where responders can see issues created through customer support requests, and filter or interact with them.

Service Desk Issue tracker

Messages from the end user are shown as coming from the special Support Bot user. You can read and write comments as you usually do in GitLab:

Service Desk issue thread

  • The project’s visibility (private, internal, public) does not affect Service Desk.
  • The path to the project, including its group or namespace, is shown in emails.

Receiving files attached to comments as email attachments

Introduced in GitLab 15.8 with a flag named service_desk_new_note_email_native_attachments. Disabled by default.

On self-managed GitLab, by default this feature is not available. To make it available per project or for your entire instance, ask an administrator to enable the feature flag named service_desk_new_note_email_native_attachments. On, this feature is not available.

If a comment contains any attachments and their total size is less than or equal to 10 MB, these attachments are sent as part of the email. In other cases, the email contains links to the attachments.

Privacy considerations

Changed the minimum required role to view the creator’s and participant’s email in GitLab 15.9.

Service Desk issues are confidential, but the project owner can make an issue public. When a Service Desk issue becomes public, the issue creator’s and participants’ email addresses are visible to signed-in users with at least the Reporter role for the project.

In GitLab 15.8 and earlier, when a Service Desk issue becomes public, the issue creator’s email address is disclosed to everyone who can view the project.

Support Bot user

Behind the scenes, Service Desk works by the special Support Bot user creating issues. This user does not count toward the license limit count.

Moving a Service Desk issue

Changed in GitLab 15.7: customers continue receiving notifications when a Service Desk issue is moved.

Service Desk issues can be moved like any other issue in GitLab.

You can move a Service Desk issue the same way you move a regular issue in GitLab.

If a Service Desk issue is moved to a different project with Service Desk enabled, the customer who created the issue continues to receive email notifications. Because a moved issue is first closed, then copied, the customer is considered to be a participant in both issues. They continue to receive any notifications in the old issue and the new one.

Troubleshooting Service Desk

Emails to Service Desk do not create issues

Your emails might be ignored because they contain one of the email headers that GitLab ignores.

Responses to a Service Desk issue do not generate emails

Your issue might have been moved to a different project. Moved Service Desk issues do not retain email participants.