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Starting with Visual Studio 2017, and continuing with Visual Studio 2019, we have moved away from large quarterly updates with corresponding servicing releases, to smaller and more frequent minor updates that have servicing releases. We also enabled a lower-impact way to preview upcoming features. Below you can find more details about how and when updates to Visual Studio ship, and how you can preview functionality before it's released to the world.

Shipping Cadence and Content

Updates to Visual Studio fall into two general categories:

  • Minor Updates ship roughly every six weeks. These updates may include new features, bug fixes, and changes needed to reflect platform changes (e.g. changes in Windows). You will be able to tell which minor update you are running by opening the Help, About and reading the second digit of the version number, for example 15.9 or 16.2.
  • Servicing Updates are very targeted releases that typically contain bug fixes and ship more quickly. These servicing updates can ship often (e.g. weekly). You're able to tell which servicing update you're running by opening Help, About and reading the third string in the version, for example 15.9.x, 16.1.y.

Both minor and servicing updates are supported and ready to be used in production environments. Particularly noteworthy updates are announced through the Visual Studio blog, and minor updates are accompanied by release notes. Visual Studio notifies you that a new update is available by raising the notification flag in the title bar of the IDE.

We strongly encourage everyone to adopt these updates as soon as possible. However, we do acknowledge that some customers can't absorb the updates as fast as we release them. In those situations, we recommend you create your own offline installer and store the bits for future use. Or, you can wait for the next released update which is always a superset of the most current update.

Previews

Starting in Visual Studio 2017, we made it easier for customers to preview upcoming functionality.

The ability to preview features is not new in Visual Studio. What is new, however, is the ability to install a preview release next to, and independently of, a regular release ("side by side"). Now with Visual Studio, releases and previews are explicitly designed to exist simultaneously on a machine without causing adverse impact to either installation. All features or experiences that are coming online in the next minor update always ship first in a preview release. Previews are meant to be used by those who are enthusiastic about trying out new bits and getting an early peek at upcoming functionality. Even though previews are not intended for use in production, they will be at a sufficient quality level for you to generally use and provide feedback that we can act upon before the functionality is released more broadly. There are multiple previews leading up to the next minor update, and they don't necessarily adhere to any preset schedule.

Like regular releases, most people become aware of updates to the preview releases through a notification flag in the IDE. The corresponding documentation will provide information about the changes to help you make an informed decision about the contents of the update and when to install it. Lastly, we will update all the relevant feedback items on the Developer Community portal to close the loop with you about when and where an issue was fixed.

Visual Studio Releases and Previews
(Figure 1) Visual Studio Releases and Previews

The new release cycle (Figure 1) is a response to customer requests that we make more of the work we're doing on Visual Studio available more quickly. Because we can now ship quicker, we're also able to respond to customer feedback quicker. By reporting feedback on our Developer Community, you raise awareness to our product teams and motivate more customers to participate in the analysis. We are committed to reviewing feedback frequently and will inform you when issues are fixed or when workarounds might be available sooner. Our release notes highlight all addressed customer feedback for each release, providing another opportunity to learn more about the improvements we implemented based on your feedback. For more information, see How to Report a Problem.


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