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.

Notifications

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.

Prioritization

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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  • is there any way to view in VS 2010 or 2012 ?

  • Since NEVER i use the cloud or store any information, document or data outside my own servers and computers, and never subscribe or connect or create any kind of account for Visual Studio, Windows 8 and more, this function has no sense if its possible to be centralized on my own servers.

    I never paid for any Microsoft service on the cloud because Microsoft not offer the cloud services as an option. Is forcing to use it mandatorily. That why I stock on Visual Studio 2010 and Windows 7.

  • @Cathy:

    > 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.

    That's what I meant. That way, I think it's already smart enough not to dismiss a notification until the expected action of it is actually performed.

    One suggestion. I think it would be better as well if the notifications could be also shown as grouped/filtered according to their areas, e.g.: product updates, extensions, etc.

    For example, for me, product updates have higher priorities than extensions updates. If they were mixed together without grouping, I think it would be harder to choose which notification deserves more attention by simply skimming them, especially if the list are large (OK, it would be probably not that often, but still could possibly happen).

    What do you think?

  • @Maximilian Haru Raditya - That's a great suggestion and certainly something we are considering for future improvements to the Notifications hub. Thank you!

  • @chilberto - Right now Notifications that are surfaced in the hub are from Microsoft/in-the-box components from within Visual Studio. Are there any specific notifications you could see being valuable to come from your organization or development team?

    Thanks! Cathy

  • @Real McCoy - Thanks for including your suggestions. I would highly encourage you to add them to our UserVoice site (under the Editor category) so that the Editor team can take a look at them and consider them in their upcoming planning exercises.

    visualstudio.uservoice.com

    Thank you! Cathy

  • @Y S - No, there are no APIs for extensions to add their notifications. We are considering extensibility support in upcoming releases.

    @peppe - It's not possible to "add a custom server and configure it like NuGet" - Notifications are surfaced in the hub from Visual Studio providers like ones I listed above in the blog post. The notifications service does not have the ability to listen to specific VS components or check a server location, etc. for updates. What kinds of things would you want your custom server to send to the notifications hub?

    @msm2020 - No unfortunately there is no way to view Notifications in the hub in VS2010 of VS2012. The hub is only available in VS2013.

    Thanks! Cathy

  • Cathy,

    I love the new Notification Hub.  Has the team considered including notifications for "My Work" in this hub, such as when someone submits a code review to you?

    Rob

  • @Cathy: The ONLY real use I see for this is the one suggested by chilberto.

    Most things that MS is going to say have to be approved internally anyway.  If you say Visual Studio 2013 is out that is great for MS.  But when it matters is when my company approves it for development use.  

    Also, we create many internal packages that it would be nice to notify developers of in Visual Studio.

  • @Robert Bernstein  - Thanks for the feedback! I'll reach out to the TFS team who owns those scenarios to pass on the feedback, great suggestion.

    Thanks! Cathy

  • I was under the impression the whole point in the unusable icons and drab chrome is so we can focus on what we're working on, and then you decide that, since we've developed a blind-spot for the Start page, you want to interrupt us while we work?

    What could you possibly have to say to us that's so important you have to tell us while we're working?

    Is it that your technologies depreciate so fast and sudden, we now need to be notified with-in the hour?

    I hope there is a way to disable this (that's assuming I can find a compelling reason to upgrade from VS2010).

  • So let me see if I understand this. Here I am, engrossed in code, in the zone, gettin' 'er done... and then the IDE spams me with useless information for no apparent reason? This kind of thing should only appear on the "Home" page and not as annoying blips that distract my focus.

  • Nice...

    Like to see this in action :)

  • Is this extensible by VSPackages?

  • @vivmaha2: No, not in VS2013. There are only a specific set of providers (see Cathy's list under "What You’ll Find in the Hub") that can add notifications in Vs2013.

    But please open a suggestion at visualstudio.uservoice.com and indicate what kind of notifications would your package add to the hub and triage will consider making it extensible in next VS version...

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