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How Microsoft Visual Studio Is Doing Help

Nov 7, 2009 • general

The following 10 minute video shows what's new in the help system for the upcoming release of Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2.

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The key trends are as follows:

  • Help is embedded in a browser because the browser is the predominant mode people use to find information.
  • Search is the main method for navigating content. There's still a table of contents, but no more index.
  • When you choose a topic, you see contextual topics related to the topic you're viewing.
  • You can choose to include online content into the search.
  • The help is "decoupled" from the Visual Studio application, so the help authors can update the help without waiting for the next release of Visual Studio. (This is what I referred to in my content independence post.)

The direction the Visual Studio Help team is moving reflects my own trends as well: moving towards a web-like experience with help, relying more on search, adding contextual topics based on what the user is viewing, and publishing help in a location I can update on the fly.

(Thanks to Keith Soltys for the link.)

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.