Visual Studio 2013 Preview: Distinguishing Multiple Instances of Visual Studio


So this next feature I don’t personally have much use for but it may be useful for some of you. Basically, with older versions of Visual Studio, you would have multiple instances opened and you couldn’t distinguish between the active and inactive ones:

7-2-2013 9-16-18 PM


Now in Visual Studio 2013 you can distinguish between multiple instances:

5-16-2012 2-22-36 PM


It works with all the themes. Here is what it looks like if you are using the Dark theme:

5-16-2012 2-24-40 PM




I think this is one of those features that you either love or just don’t care about. If you work with multiple instances often this could be a big help.

Comments (8)

  1. GregM says:

    Here's a much easier way: use the OS chrome and display the name of the open file or solution on the title bar.  This way, you get it all for free, and you don't have to invent new things like changing the coloring of the icon, and hope that we can actually tell the difference.

  2. zainnab says:

    Greg 🙂

    Yeah I'm not a fan of this feature. I have to believe someone did the research and found that people wanted it but it doesn't do anything for me.


  3. jon says:

    Funny how it's a "feature" to put back (in a poor, less obvious way) something that the OS provides for free if only you would use it.

  4. Ben says:

    I read this post several times, but honestly I am not quite sure what it is that you are trying to illustrate. How exactly are multiple instances distinguishable? Looking at the images, it seems that the icon and title bar are either darker (normal) or lighter. Is this "active"vs. "inactive"? What about three or more instances of VS?

  5. zainnab says:

    Ben 🙂

    In a way that's kind of the point. I think this feature either needs more work to make it usable or possibly abandoned. Essentially the 2013 screenshots show the active instance you are currently working in (bottom title bar) and passive instance (top title bar) examples.


  6. Stilgar says:

    This is a marginal improvement.  I do run into this, but it'd be more useful to me if I could somehow color code different instances of Visual Studio similar to how the Productivity Power Tools will color code tabs from different projects.

  7. zainnab says:


    I LOVE THAT IDEA! I know the product team reads this blog but I'll surface it to Lisa F internally just to make sure the right team is aware of this suggestion.


  8. zainnab says:

    Hey Stilgar 🙂

    I just wanted to close the loop on your idea. I submitted it to the team and they are seriously discussing it and are going to do some more investigation to see how something like this would be implemented. They really seem to like the idea so I think we will see some good activity around this. Thanks for the suggestion!


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