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Oh Dear God, The VS 2010 Help System is AWFUL!

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  • User profile image
    sysrpl

    I wrote an article a ways back about how help files have gotten worse and worse over time. People/companies have attempted automate the generation of help content of many years. Instead of paying a group of college degree'd English majors working as technical writers and editors to compose organized and purposefully written help references, help files are now built from a mix of source code comments and observable meta data. The result IMO is a huge mess.

    Case in point, the new Visual Studio help system. Microsoft's again has shifted to an even more automate help system, and this time the results reach a new low watermark. The new Visual Studio help system removes the document explorer and (if you decide to use local help) switches to a locally hosted web server, displaying help in your default web browser.

    What's the problem with this? Well in addition to losing dynamic help, the help index, and the expandable help tree, you can no longer search the help effectively. What do I mean by effectively? Suppose you want to read about a type List<T> ... you have to go to the web page, move to the search field, type List<T>, press search, and you are then presented with a paginated list of results, none of which match your search criteria. Why? Because the new search system requires an exact match to get you the results you need, and without an index it's difficult to know what are the exact matches.

    Also, there is no more filtering, so when I do a search for "List" I get this:

    http://imagebot.org/snapshops/vs2010-new-search.jpg

    Awful, awful, awful

     

    Discuss

  • User profile image
    Bas
  • User profile image
    vesuvius
  • User profile image
    stun

    Here is the  workaround, which is better and faster.

    www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=List<T>

     

    Don't need to use that useless built-in search Cool

  • User profile image
    turrican

    Back in Delphi I think, I used to just stay on a word and hit F1, it would bring me right to the List<T> help section, with code samples and all. Not sure what went wrong in VS help. But as someone said, they just decoupled it from VS so hopefully, version 2.x will be better.

  • User profile image
    lensman

    The last useful documentation MSDN was produced October 2006.  Since then the "F1" help has basically been useless.  In VS 2005/2008 the system uses Web based searches even when told not to.  In situations where network connectivity is not available searches just stank.

     

    As I program in multiple environments I know useful help documentation is available from other vendors.  I thought part of ISO certification was to document what you do and do what you document.  It seems Microsoft is failing by choice.  Lawsuits have been won on this mater without practical effects.

     

    Personally I find google to be the most effective solution.  If Microsoft would develop a useful and effective search capability I would gladly use it.  To date all their attempts have been less than effective.

     

     

     

  • User profile image
    turrican

    lensman said:

    The last useful documentation MSDN was produced October 2006.  Since then the "F1" help has basically been useless.  In VS 2005/2008 the system uses Web based searches even when told not to.  In situations where network connectivity is not available searches just stank.

     

    As I program in multiple environments I know useful help documentation is available from other vendors.  I thought part of ISO certification was to document what you do and do what you document.  It seems Microsoft is failing by choice.  Lawsuits have been won on this mater without practical effects.

     

    Personally I find google to be the most effective solution.  If Microsoft would develop a useful and effective search capability I would gladly use it.  To date all their attempts have been less than effective.

     

     

     

    The ironic thing is, they are driving us the developers to use their competitor's search engine. *lol* ...if they want it that way, then so be it.

     

    ( damn it, posted this but somehow it got losts. O.o )

  • User profile image
    ManipUni

    Visual Studio has a help system? Like how to use the UI and junk?

     

    If I want coding help I use Google, or if I'm really desperate I Google MSDN. I don't even install the MSDN library.

     

    edit: I will agree with automatically generated help/MSDN pages. I love the pages of status codes with almost no meaning except what you can guess from the variable names.

  • User profile image
    ScanIAm

    ManipUni said:

    Visual Studio has a help system? Like how to use the UI and junk?

     

    If I want coding help I use Google, or if I'm really desperate I Google MSDN. I don't even install the MSDN library.

     

    edit: I will agree with automatically generated help/MSDN pages. I love the pages of status codes with almost no meaning except what you can guess from the variable names.

    On most keyboards, the escape key and F1 are close enough that many times a day, I end up hitting F1 accidentally.  It's usually a plus, though, as I can take a break, strech my legs, write a sonnet, solve a bit of world peace, finish up just in time for the UI to tell me it found nothing that matches.

  • User profile image
    mstefan

    ScanIAm said:
    ManipUni said:
    *snip*

    On most keyboards, the escape key and F1 are close enough that many times a day, I end up hitting F1 accidentally.  It's usually a plus, though, as I can take a break, strech my legs, write a sonnet, solve a bit of world peace, finish up just in time for the UI to tell me it found nothing that matches.

    Yes, the searching is incredibly bad, where it seems to only return exact matches. Search for "GetModule" and the API functions GetModuleFileName, GetModuleHandle, etc. are nowhere to be found (and I do have the Win32 API help installed as well). So, basically if you want to find anything with their new help system, you already need to know exactly what you're looking for. That's less than useful.

     

  • User profile image
    felix9

    the Index is back ! the team released a power toy: HelpViewerKeywordIndex

    http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/en-US/4af86641-a302-4edf-9853-007bcc670b30

  • User profile image
    figuerres

    felix9 said:

    the Index is back ! the team released a power toy: HelpViewerKeywordIndex

    http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/en-US/4af86641-a302-4edf-9853-007bcc670b30

    I guess i now will add my vote -  amazing they made the help system for VS 2010 *WORSE*  this is amazing!

    I really really really hope they hear this and release some kind of update that brings back some level of decent help !

    not just a small addon.... needs to work at least was well as 2008 and 2005 did just to get parity.

  • User profile image
    sysrpl

    felix9 said:

    the Index is back ! the team released a power toy: HelpViewerKeywordIndex

    http://visualstudiogallery.msdn.microsoft.com/en-US/4af86641-a302-4edf-9853-007bcc670b30

    Felix9, that extension makes a lot better. Thanks for posting.

     

    After installing that extension the help system still had issues. Search is still wonkey, and pressing F1 in the test editor bypasses the extension completely. TOC sometimes begins appearing in the help contents even though I have it turned off in the extension. I've posted some notes to the developer on the page you linked.

  • User profile image
    W3bbo

    Proposal: can someone get the VS2010 documentation and recompile it to the *.hxs format so we can continue to use DocEx?

  • User profile image
    figuerres

    sysrpl said:
    felix9 said:
    *snip*

    Felix9, that extension makes a lot better. Thanks for posting.

     

    After installing that extension the help system still had issues. Search is still wonkey, and pressing F1 in the test editor bypasses the extension completely. TOC sometimes begins appearing in the help contents even though I have it turned off in the extension. I've posted some notes to the developer on the page you linked.

    Way more than search just beeing bad, missing options like filter to only .net results or to only sql server results is a big loss.

    if i seach for MessageBox i get WIn32 api but what i want is C# / .Net topics.

     

    this just makes google even better, i can google for the stuff and it finds the right stuff in the msdn web site !

    but the 2010 help system gives me win32 calls....

     

  • User profile image
    ScottWelker

    figuerres said:
    felix9 said:
    *snip*

    I guess i now will add my vote -  amazing they made the help system for VS 2010 *WORSE*  this is amazing!

    I really really really hope they hear this and release some kind of update that brings back some level of decent help !

    not just a small addon.... needs to work at least was well as 2008 and 2005 did just to get parity.

    All right figuerres, admit it... you gave up on MS help years ago... just like the rest of us Wink

    Google and Safari Library... all the help I need Smiley

  • User profile image
    joechung

    ScanIAm said:
    ManipUni said:
    *snip*

    On most keyboards, the escape key and F1 are close enough that many times a day, I end up hitting F1 accidentally.  It's usually a plus, though, as I can take a break, strech my legs, write a sonnet, solve a bit of world peace, finish up just in time for the UI to tell me it found nothing that matches.

    In Visual Studio 2010, they changed the Help keyboard shortcut to Ctrl-F1, a quiet nod to your frustration with the Help system.

  • User profile image
    figuerres

    ScottWelker said:
    figuerres said:
    *snip*

    All right figuerres, admit it... you gave up on MS help years ago... just like the rest of us Wink

    Google and Safari Library... all the help I need Smiley

    Half-way...  Smiley

     

    there are times when the 2008 help does help, just not all the time.

     

    Safari - hate it!  that to me is just junk that's too expensive. i do not like the interface. i just buy the real book.

     

    i do use google for "how do i" stuff to give me ideas on how to flow things.

     

    and i hate how msdn help is like 90%  the same stuff as the intelisence - telling me the parameters that i already knew!

     

    i also find the google gets the right results and bing fails.

     

    also pinvoke.net for com interop bits!

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