ServiceNow: Geneva & UI16 - What's new


Brace yourself. Geneva is coming. 

Personally, I'm excited - I like new things. I've always been an early adopter, but I know that not everyone is as gung-ho for the future as I am, so I thought I'd share some tips and tricks on ServiceNow's "Geneva", and the new, drastically overhauled "UI 16" that will be the new place where most of us ServiceNow developers spend our daily 8-12 hours. 

Note: This is part 1 of a 2-part series on ServiceNow's Geneva update. This part will focus on the interface, and stuff you're likely to run into on day 1, as well as basic stuff you'll need to know so you don't shoot yourself in the foot.
Subscribe, and stay tuned

Update: Part 2 is up! 

Activating UI16

As we get started, let me first clarify that in this post, I'm referring to UI16 (the latest UI, included in the Geneva version of ServiceNow). This UI is the default for new instances, but if you're upgrading from a previous version, you'll need to have an Administrator activate the UI16 plugin (com.glide.ui.ui16). To do this, navigate to System Definition > Plugins, right-click the UI16 plugin from the list, and select Activate/Upgrade. Finally, click Activate

After you enable UI16, users with the admin role will have a button in System Settings that allows them to switch between UI16 and UI15. You can add a system property to allow others to switch back and forth as well. To do this, create a new System Property (Enter sys_properties.list in the Filter text box, and click New) with the name set to glide.ui.ui15_switch_rolesType to String, and Value to a comma-separated list of roles that are allowed to switch between UI16 and UI15. For the roles, you might select itil or something equivalent in your instance.

Note: After you've activated the UI16 plugin, you may need to do a hard-refresh (CTRL+F5 on your browser) and then click the sprocket/system properties menu at the top-right of the ServiceNow window, and then click Switch to UI16 to enable to new UI.

The Script Editor

Some of my favorite changes in Geneva have happened in the built-in ServiceNow script editor. While, full disclosure, I'm still going to use VS Code or Notepad++ as my editor(s) of choice, these enhancements are a serious step in the right direction. 

One of the first things you'll notice if you start coding in the script editor, is that there is now (finally) a real-time syntax checker. 

ServiceNow Geneva Script Editor

But that's not all -- Geneva also introduces "intellisense" style code completion! This is a game changer. Not only will this make coding easier for many, but it'll allow people to see - at a glance - what methods are available in various situations, just by typing something like "gr." and scrolling down through the options. 

ServiceNow Geneva Code Editor Intellisense Code Completion

Pro Tip: You can also press CTRL+Enter to access the code-completion list at any point, from your cursor's position.

Not only that, but auto-complete will actually work on records as well. Any time ServiceNow is able to determine what record the script is referring to (such as in most business rules), it will automatically offer to complete fields and methods related to that record. 

ServiceNow Geneva Code Editor Autocompletion of Record Values

Pro tip: In order for auto-complete of record values to work, you have to save the script to the database first. Just the initial save/insert of the script record, not each time you make a change.

Also new in Geneva, ServiceNow has some cool new hotkeys. Click the question mark icon at the top of any script editor to see them all, but my favorites are CTRL+/, which toggles comments on or off, and CTRL+J which pops up the definition of a given function or object (for those times when you're editing someone else's code, and you're not sure what a particular function does). Many other keyboard shortcuts have changed too, like Find Next, which is now CTRL+G

The Application Navigator

The Application Navigator has undergone something of an overhaul in UI16. For one thing, you may notice the lack of a "Refresh Navigator" option (Use CTRL+ALT+C to refresh it in UI16). 

Below, we'll explore some of the changes and enhancements to the Application Navigator. 

Filter Text / Filter Navigator Bar

Also known as the "left navigation bar", home to the "filter text bar". The first minor change you'll notice is that the bar now says "Filter navigator" rather than "Filter". I mention this because as a developer and Administrator, I often find myself talking people through interacting with the ServiceNow interface, and saying:
"Now type into the text box at the top left. It'll say 'Filter' in it". 

ServiceNow Application Navigator in Geneva.

Application Navigator Favorites  
(Now with real-world uses!)

Of course, there are more significant changes to the Application navigator, which you'll notice right away when you see it. For one thing, the "favorites" section is actually a separate tabbed section. This nicely compliments the fact that by default, ServiceNow no longer automatically marks any application module you click on as a favorite (wooo! That was annoying.

Geneva Application Navigator Favorites tab

That's not all -- Favorites are now actually useful! When you collapse the navigator using the ellipses button at the bottom, it's your favorites that show up as icons -- icons which you can customize, to allow you to quickly recognize what you're clicking on, at a glance! 

This collapsed Application Navigator pane is similar to (and essentially replaces) the "Edge", or what used to be called the "Power Edge". 

To change your favorites' icons and colors and such, just go to the Favorites tab in the Application Navigator, and click on Edit Favorites at the bottom-right of the Application Navigator pane. 

Edit 1/8/16: After publishing, I noticed another change in the Application Navigator. It seems that you can no longer right-click on a module and edit it. Instead, you must navigate to System Definition > Application Menus. Each one has a related list with the modules it contains.

Navigation History

Another UI change that goes along nicely with a functional change is the next tab in the Application Navigator - History. 
Remember on Fuji and earlier instances of ServiceNow, when you'd open multiple browser tabs/windows, and do more than one thing at a time? 
And then you'd attempt to use the back/forward browser or UI buttons to navigate to the previous page that you were on in the context of that browser tab/window
And then that didn't work so you threw your computer down a well? 

Well, no more! ServiceNow Geneva now supports a much more rich and intelligent history, and one of the ways that this shows itself is with the History tab of the Application Navigator!

Geneva Application Navigator History tab

Pro tip: You can configure the number of history entries displayed in the Application Navigator by going to the sys_properties table, and editing the Value of the glide.ui.nav.history_length property. 


If you're not already aware, here's a super pro tip - In the "Filter text" or "Filter Navigator" box at the top of the Application Navigator, you can type a table name and follow it with ".list", and ServiceNow will automatically take you straight to the list view for that table. 

In the past (UI15 and older) you did not have to press enter after typing the last letter in table_name.list. This was because pressing enter after typing into the filter text box used to just navigate you to whatever was the top-most result in the Application Navigator. 
Now however, you must press Enter after typing your ".list" command in order to navigate to the list. 

Pro-tips: Entering change_request.list will take you to the change request table in the current window. However, entering change_request.LIST (with .LIST in all caps) will take you there in a new window. Similarly, sc_req_item.form will take you to the form for the catalog request item table, and .FORM will take you to the same form, in a new window. This works on all tables in ServiceNow. 

System Settings

This section will deal with the System Settings dialog, and related configuration. In order to access System Settings, click on the sprocket gear thingy at the far top-right of your ServiceNow window. 

ServiceNow System Settings dialog

This dialog is where you can find settings relating to update sets, the application selector, and yes - even getting the old UI back.

Getting the old UI back

The new UI is officially called UI16. Maybe you're not a big fan. Whatever the reason, if you must, you can switch it back to UI 15 by simply clicking the "Switch to UI15" button at the top-right of the System Settings dialog. 

Update Sets / Applications

One question you're sure to have if you've just jumped into Geneva, is "How do I find/select my update set in Geneva/UI16?"
In the Developer tab of System Settings is where you'll find the Update Set selector. Since, as a developer, this is much more cumbersome for me than selecting it from the drop-down, I've opted to select the Show update set picker in header option. 

ServiceNow Update Set picker in Geneva system settings

This toggle shows the update sets drop-down list right in the header bar in ServiceNow, so you can quickly switch between update sets. 

ServiceNow Geneva Update Set Picker in Header

Pro-tip: Don't forget to check out my article on avoiding update set conflicts, and preventing accidentally saving your updates to the Default update set!

You can do pretty much the same thing with the Application picker, so if you use that often, don't forget to put it in your header! 

Impersonate Users & Security Admin Elevation

Another question you're likely to have once you've made the Geneva jump, is "How can I impersonate users/elevate my permissions in Geneva/UI16?" A couple of icons suspiciously absent in UI16 are the "Impersonate User" and "Elevate Permissions" icons, which you can see here from UI15:

If you've an Admin, and have never seen that lock icon before, it probably means your instance does not have high security mode enabled, which is fine. However, if your instance (like most) has High Security enabled, you'll need to click that icon and enable Security Admin before you can do the really cool stuff, like run Background Scripts

So, where are those bits of functionality in Geneva's UI16? - They are in the User Menu, which you can access by hovering over your name/user icon at the top-right of the page. 

UI16 Impersonate & Elevate Roles

Oh yeah, and one more thing -- this no longer drops you back at the home page! After elevating security roles for example, you are redirected to the page you were already on, so you don't have to find your way back! 

URL Navigation

In addition to some other navigational assistance such as a more intelligent History, ServiceNow has seen fit in UI16 and Geneva, to display full URLs for each page in the browser's URL bar.


No more trying to get a user to right-click the header (no, not that header, the OTHER header!) and click on "Copy URL" and then press CTRL+C (No, it isn't copied when you clicked the link that says "Copy".) and send you the link to the page they're on. No more asking "What form are you on?" and getting a link to "". Now, ServiceNow gives you the full URL including table name, and all URL parameters/sysparms (including things like the query) straight in the URL bar, on every page. Woohoo! 


Lots of forms have changed in several ways. Most of them are relatively intuitive, but we'll highlight a couple more notable changes here. 

When filling out certain forms such as the Incident form, "related search results" (including KB articles and catalog items) show up on the fly, as you type the short description.

Additionally, how comments and other "journal" data are entered into forms has been updated fairly significantly. On the Incident form for example, rather than having a separate box for "Comments" and "Work Notes", there is a single text input box, and a check-box for work notes. 

SN Geneva/UI16 Incident journal entry form

Selecting the check-box makes it so when you submit the form, any text entered in that box is directed instead, to work notes. 

If you click the icon at the top-right corner of the above screenshots however, it reverts to the old method of having two separate input boxes. 

You will likely also notice that the Activity formatter is quite a lot different in task-derived tables. It now displays attachments in-line, and streamlines the overall view, removing some clutter and highlighting certain updates.

Finally, forms should now update in real-time, which means that there will be far fewer cross-work accidents by agents working tickets and the like. 


As someone who has had to troubleshoot loads of complex notifications with templates containing mail scripts and such, one of my favorite enhancements in UI16 is the ability to preview notifications with a simple UI action on the notification table. 

In addition to saving me from having a mental breakdown and trying to implement this functionality myself, this is just a great idea. You just visit a notification record on the sysevent_email_action table, and click Preview Notification, and you get a nice little HTML preview with templates and mail scripts parsed out appropriately so you can see how it'll look. 

Email Account Configuration

Email Account Configuration replaces several properties which were used in previous versions of ServiceNow, to configure email accounts from which notifications can be sent or received. 

Configuring these email accounts is now as easy as going to Administration->Email Accounts in the Application Navigator. 

Along with easier configuration, we've also got Email Diagnostics now, which you can find in the Application Navigator, at: 
System Mailboxes / System Diagnostics -> Email Diagnostics

Real-Time Form Updates

Fields now update dynamically when another user modifies the data on the server so that it no longer matches the data in the form you're viewing. Conflict warnings now prevent users from stepping on each others' toes. 

Fields that have been updates show the blue update icon, indicating that they've been changed since you loaded the form. If you hover over the icon, you can see who made the update. 


Identification & Reconciliation

Similar to what companies such as Blazent have been doing, ServiceNow's Identification and Reconciliation application (new in Geneva) will identify and reconcile data from different data sources. 

So if your company, like so many, has multiple data sources (discovery, imports, dog tags, etc.) you can identify discrepancies, and create identification rules de-duplication tasks, and reclassification tasks to automate much of this. 

CI Change Timeline

The timeline view provides CIs' detailed history of changes across a certain time period. This allows you to quickly and easily drill down into a CI and see the source and cause of any discrepancies or recurring classification issues. 

Contextual Search ("Search As...")

Contextual search (active by default) allows you to show the search results of another user alongside your own. There is no information on this in the wiki or in the ServiceNow Geneva release notes as yet, and I can't figure out how to activate it. I will update this section once we have more information. 

Knowledge Import

Users can now create knowledge articles by importing MS Word documents to a KB. Most formatting will carry over, but any images in the document will be added as attachments to the knowledge article and embedded into the article body. 

ACL Configuration Watcher

The ACL configuration watcher waits for you to make any kind of significant change to an ACL, or create a new ACL. Once it detects such a change, it throws up a dialog which shows you what the impact of your ACL update will be! 

servicenow geneva ui16 ACL configuration watcher

A red highlight (as you can see in the screenshot above) indicates an ACL that is either deleted or deactivated. A blue highlight indicates a modified ACL. Green means that it's added or becomes active. 
"Masked" means that your change overrides the ACL, and "Unmasked" means the opposite - that your change renders the ACL effective. 

In the screenshot above, I'm making an ACL on the state field of the incident table, which is overriding the ACL on the task table (which incident extends). 


Other notable changes to the UI and related bits that we've noticed: 

  1. Double-clicking the All Applications tab (the left-most tab) collapses or expands all application modules in the Application Navigator. 
  2. Generally more alignment with ITIL terminology.
  3. Split Layout no longer exists. Remember that button at the top of the "power edge"/"Edge" that would let you open a split-view layout of the interface? Well, the Edge is gone, and so is that functionality. You can enable UI15 to re-enable that functionality if needed, though. 
  4. Tabbed form views are enabled by default for new instances (you won't be impacted if you're upgrading)
  5. Standard Change Catalog is now a thing, so users can submit standard changes from a catalog and have them be automatically approved. 
    1. New instances will have this enabled by default. Upgrading instances will need to enable the Change Management - Standard Change Catalog and Change Management - State Model plugins. 

Do you dread the day your organization upgrades to Geneva, or are you as excited as I am for these changes? Let me know in the comments or by sending me a message, and also feel free to share any ServiceNow questions you may have, or tips & tricks of your own! 

EDIT: Part 2 is up! Click here to read more, and see the answers to some of the most common questions about the changes to the Incident form, and more.