Notifications in Visual Studio 2013

Notifications in Visual Studio 2013

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One of the benefits to having a connected IDE is that your environment can be kept up to date easily by presenting you with notifications of updates and relevant account information. Visual Studio will not only keep your environment up to date but also keep you in control of your preferred configurations.

There are two main avenues for presenting you with notifications of an event in your environment that requires your attention.

The first avenue is Contextual notification presentation, which requires immediate surfacing to provide developers real-time information based on an action that has been performed or the result of something.

Some examples of this presentation are:

  • Build Solution - the status bar found along the bottom of the IDE is updated with the text: “Build started…”
  • Incorrect code syntax - the red “squiggles” found in the editor identify code that is not syntactically correct.

The second avenue is for Environment/IDE specific notification presentation. Unlike contextual presentation, this type does not need to be surfaced immediately to you. In most cases, you can continue to work in Visual Studio and take action on these messages when it’s convenient for you.

Some examples of environment/IDE specific presentation are:

  • Visual Studio Product Update is available
  • An update to an extension you have installed is available
  • Your trial of Visual Studio will expire soon

In Visual Studio 2012, we enhanced the Extension Updates notification mechanism to also notify you of our product updates (get the latest here!). When an update is detected, we surface a message as a Windows Task Tray notification.

VS2012 task tray notification

Because of how tray notifications work, you may miss notifications if you happen to step away from your machine. If you dismissed it thinking you would handle it later, there was no way to see it again. We also heard a request from customers to make the text more descriptive of the kind of update that was detected.


In Visual Studio 2013, we have centralized the environment/IDE specific notifications to accommodate the growing number of notifications in the IDE and you’ll find it works similar to the way you work in Visual Studio.

The new notifications experience will:

  • Surface notifications that are relevant and specific to your environment
  • Help you easily determine what’s going on in your environment and display priority (based on the importance of the message)
  • Let you decide what you want to take action on and when
  • Stay out of your way; won’t block your code or projects

The new Notifications experience, badge in upper right corner

There a two components to the new notifications experience:

1. Notifications Badge – The badge has four unique states to provide insight into what the Notifications Hub currently contains and to help identify if new notifications have arrived since the last time you viewed the hub.

4 unique states of the badge - empty, non-empty, new notification, critical

2. Notifications Hub – The hub is where you can review all your notifications and take action on them. Notifications in the hub are sorted based on creation date and time. For example purposes, I have included a critical and informational notification below.

Notification Hub

What You’ll Find in the Hub

In Visual Studio 2013 Preview and RC, you may notice one or more of the following types of notifications in your hub. Here’s some additional details on why they are there:

  • Product Updates – Future updates for Visual Studio or newly available SDKs
  • Visual Studio Gallery – Any new update available for extensions you have installed from the gallery
  • Samples Gallery – Any new updates available for samples you have installed
  • Download Offline Help – First launch experience has been streamlined and the option to install offline help can now be found as a notification
  • Synchronized Settings Conflicts – Any conflicts at the time of settings synchronization, will be surfaced via a notification (read an MSDN Article about Resolving settings conflicts for more info)
  • Licensing – Occasionally Visual Studio needs to communicate some information about your license that requires an action; one example is that your trial is expiring
  • Customer Improvement Experience Program – Join the Customer Experience Improvement Program; it’s one of the easiest ways for you to give us feedback

If you’re using the Preview, you might have already noticed a new notification surface in the hub letting you know that the Visual Studio 2013 RC release is available for download.


Notifications are prioritized into 3 levels each with a respective color to easily identify them: Informational (gray), Important (yellow) and Critical (red). You’ll find a majority of notifications in your hub to be informational but sometimes when Visual Studio needs to surface something to you that you should take immediate action on, the notification will be marked with a higher priority.

Taking Action on a Notification

You can take action on the notifications in your hub by simply clicking on the title of the notification. This action will bring you to the place where you can decide if you’d like to take action. We won’t auto-install a product or extension update for you, like in the case of a Product or Extension update.

You’ll see below that after selecting the “Windows Azure SDK for .NET 1.8.1 is available” that the Extensions and Updates manager is opened and focus is in the relevant category of the dialog (Product Updates). Once you have taken the noted action, the notification will automatically be removed from the hub.

Taking action on a notification

If you decide you want to ignore a specific notification, you can simply dismiss it by hovering over the notification and selecting the X in the upper right hand corner or select Dismiss All to remove and ignore all notifications from your hub.

Dismiss and Dismiss All

Visual Studio won’t notify you again about that message unless there has been a change in the details of the notification; maybe you ignored the 1.2 update for an Extension and a week later the 1.3 version is released. You would then see the 1.3 update, but never see the 1.2 update again.

To ensure the hub doesn’t bloat over time, all notifications have an expiration date that is clearly shown under the notification. Once a notification expires, it will no longer be viewable in the hub. Expired notifications behave in the same way that dismissed notification do; they are removed from the list and will no longer be displayed in the hub. New versions or messages that become available will generate a new notification in the hub for example.

What do you think?

As with most of the new experiences we’ve introduced in Visual Studio 2013 Preview, we believe these are just the first steps for notifying you about relevant activities going on in the IDE. If there’s functionality you’d love to see in the hub or different messages that you’d like to see surfaced, please let us know by creating a suggestion on User Voice (in the IDE category) for the community to vote on. If you find a bug use the Connect site to let us know.

A special thanks to the Notifications feature crew for helping review and edit this post (thanks Filip, Andrew and Alana)!

image Short Bio – Cathy Sullivan is a Program Manager on the Visual Studio platform team. Cathy joined Microsoft in 2006 and worked as a developer in Microsoft IT building enterprise applications. She joined the Visual Studio team in 2011 and has worked on a variety of areas including C#/Visual Basic IDE, Visual Studio Shell and IDE Experiences. When she’s not working on improving user experiences in the IDE, you can find her speaking on what’s new in Visual Studio at conferences like DevConnections, VSLive! and BUILD.
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  • Cathy,

    I have some questions:

    - Where can I see the list of all notifications, whether they're new, have been dismissed, or possible other states?

    - How can I restore an accidentally-dismissed notification?

    - "Once you have taken the noted action, the notification will automatically be removed from the hub."

    Is it possible to configure it so that it won't be automatically removed?

    For example, I might only want to check the details of the notification first, but not necessarily taking an immediate action of installing it.


  • Just one more way MS can spam us.

  • @Maximilian Haru Raditya - Thanks for commenting on the post...

    1. Q: "Where can I see the list of all notifications, whether they're new, have been dismissed, or possible other states?"

    A: Right now, you can only see a list of Notifications from the Notifications Tool Window. The hub only shows active notifications. You cannot view dismissed or expired notifications. Do you have other needs to see dismissed or expired notifications (that don't show up in the hub)?

    2. Q: "How can I restore an accidentally-dismissed notification?"

    A: You cannot restore accidentally dismissed notifications. The hub is simply a place to surface these messages, so for example with Extension and Update notifications, you can always go directly to the Extensions and Updates Manager to find any updates. This is the same across other providers. We're currently investigating the need to surface non-active notifications, but it would helpful if you could provide some scenarios where you would want/need to see these notifications.

    3. Q: "Once you have taken the noted action, the notification will automatically be removed from the hub."

    A: Notifications should only be removed from the hub if you performed the expected action. For example if you selected the notification to install a Visual Studio Update and after the Extensions and Updates Manager opens, you decide you aren't ready to install the update and close the dialog, the notification will remain in the hub (since you didn't take the expected action). If you did chose to install the update, the notification would be removed after the installation was complete.

    4. Q: "Is it possible to configure it so that it won't be automatically removed?"

    A: It is not possible. Per #3 above, you can click on the notification to see where it will take you and not take any action. The notification will remain in the hub as active. Are there any other cases where you would want notifications to not be automatically removed after you took the expected action?

    Thanks again for your comments/questions!


    Cathy Sullivan

    VS IDE Team

  • Is what I like. If I wanted to be disturbed I use Google wares.

  • Have a website that has, you know, notices.  Nothing but notices for product X.  No need to push annoying, in-your-face blurbs few care about at that time; instead let those who care click whatever bookmark (I know, also novel) and be taken right to there to gawk to their heart's desire. This is so novel that it is: Patent pending.  But I promise to give MS and everyone else who wants it royalty-free rights foreva!

    In other words, don't waste effort that makes no difference.  Fix bugs without adding more.  Try it sometime.

  • @Cathy,

    If I click on cross then it will be removed. Now is their any place where I can see them. What I means is sometime I want to check back or mistakenly removed the notification that I didn't want to remove.

  • @Anirudha Gupta - You cannot restore or see accidentally dismissed notifications. The hub is simply a place to surface these messages, so for example with Extension and Update notifications, you can always go directly to the Extensions and Updates Manager to find any updates. This is the same across other providers. We're currently investigating the need to surface non-active notifications (ones that were dismissed or expired).

  • Who controls what is pushed to the IDE?  Is there a way to control what you are notified about?

    Likewise could an enterprise push notifications to their development teams this way?

  • Just another useless waste of memory for a developer tool.  Why not focus on features that actually improve our productivity?

  • Great addition. I was looking for an extension that does this.

  • Hi,

    VS needs at least three improvements in search.

    1) When search in Solution Explorer (Ctrl+;), it search in ALL folders in ALL projects. Please give us ability to filter search scope under search filed. Also consider adding an entry in context menu, when right-click any file, folder or project in the solution (to set the scope to that file)... inspired by Netbeans.

    2) When we press Ctrl+F, enters the search-term and press Find All, it shows the search results but the count is displayed at the end of the results. For an instance:

    "Matching lines: 13 Matching files: 7 Total files searched: 144"

    From user experience point of view, its very incontinent to scroll down through all the results to get to the last list. IMO, it should be displayed at the top of the result window. Also, it would be great, if in the mini-find and Find-and-Replace popups, the count like "3 of 19 records" (the same approach IE team has used in Find on Page feature).

    3) Ability to search only in comments..

  • What I really dont like about the current system is this: I start VC, open my project and dig into the source. Then moments later a notification pops up with some update. Interrupting my flow.

    Why not handle it silently? Or integrate it into the shutdown process of windows, or at the least supress it and show it right awa at the next start of VC.

    On a side node, this package manager seems to get an update every week :-)

  • I wish, MSFT would stop adding useless, bloating features to VS and bring it back to stability and performance levels of VS6. And fix IntelliSense for C++. And Add refactoring for C++.

  • Are there any APIs for extensions, etc. to add their own notifications?

  • Hi Cathy,

    will it be possible to create a custom server notifications and configure it in VS like in NuGet?


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