Improving how we update Visual Studio
A common piece of feedback we’ve gotten is to make it easier to find and acquire bug fixes and updates – basically, how we can bring more improvements to more customers, more promptly, and more easily. As you can imagine, there are many factors to balance here, ranging from the kinds of updates we should offer, how frequently we should offer them, and how exactly VS should tell you something is available. To help frame our thinking, we looked at a lot of updating mechanisms for the kinds of things that work and what doesn’t work – ranging from technologies like Windows Update through to the update mechanism we have for extensions for Visual Studio today. Looking at all of that, we chose to focus first and foremost on improving the discoverability of updates that we make to VS, focusing on enabling you to stay at the tip of quality.
The outcome of this work is a service in Visual Studio 11 Beta that we call Visual Studio Update or VSUpdate, which alerts you when updates are available. Earlier this week, we posted our first update via this channel and we have been rolling it out throughout the week to our MSDN subscribers. Today we’re making it available to the world, so you will see a notification in Visual Studio 11 Beta that looks like this:
If you click the notification, the Extension Manager will open, and the update will be visible in the Updates->Product Updates section. All you have to do is to click on the update button to download the update and start the installation. And if you want to opt out of receiving these notifications, you control that: select Tools->Extension Manager->Updates and select “Disable automatic detection of available updates.”
The update we pushed out this week includes a set of fixes to the Visual Studio 11 Beta including fixes for some of the most frequently reported crashing issues, performance improvements for large C# projects, and fixes for both IntelliTrace and Unit Test. For the full list, see the KB article.
We still have a lot of decisions to make about how to use this service – things like the frequency and even the kinds of things we provide through this channel, so please give us feedback, either in the comments to this blog post or through UserVoice (for specific feature requests, our Forums (for questions), or Connect (for bugs) – more on that later in the post.
From Many Steps to Two-Steps
This simple two-step notify-then-install process will help replace the often multi-step process you may have to go through today to bring VS up to date, which may involve installing VS, then installing some hotfixes and a service pack. To ensure that the process stays two steps, updates that come through VSUpdate will be cumulative: that is, every VSUpdate package will contain all the VSUpdate packages that came before it.
The implication of the decision to keep the process to two steps is that we’re going to have to be very thoughtful about how often we release updates and what goes into them.
We want to strike the right balance so that most of you choose to update Visual Studio when we have updates available. To that end, we need to make sure that you can trust the updates – that you know that installing an update won’t adversely affect Visual Studio or your work. To help increase our ability to deliver on this “first do no harm” approach, right now we’re choosing to focus on things like bug fixes and security updates. Each update will include a full list of what is included in its release notes, available from a link in the Extension Manager so you can find out what you are getting before you click the update button.
What we’re describing here is a first step – a good first step, we think – but there’s a lot more we’d like to do. We want your feedback on VSUpdate. What was your experience like with this first update? What would make it better? What would be in a compelling update? Is the in-product notification a good way to alert you when updates are available? Please tell us.
As always, we are reading your comments on this post, watching for issues in the Forums at http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/vssetup/threads, listening to your suggestions on User Voice at http://visualstudio.uservoice.com , and reviewing any bugs you log on Connect at http://connect.microsoft.com.
Short Bio: Dave Lubash joined the Visual Studio Team in 1998 and has worked on every version of Visual Studio from 7.0. Prior to becoming the Ultimate Release Manager in 2009, he worked on Debugger, Profiler, and other Diagnostic Tools.
David Guyer – Senior Program Manager, Visual Studio Professional
Short Bio: David Guyer is currently the Lead Program Manager for Visual Studio Setup and has been working on deployment technologies in Visual Studio since Visual Studio 2002.