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How Microsoft Visual Studio Is Doing Help

by Tom Johnson on Nov 7, 2009
categories: technical-writing

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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