SQL Server offline help and Help Viewer

APPLIES TO: yesSQL Server noAzure SQL Database noAzure Synapse Analytics (SQL DW) noParallel Data Warehouse

You can use the Microsoft Help Viewer to download and install SQL Server help packages from online sources or local disk. You can then view the content offline. The Help Viewer is installed with several different tools. This article describes the tools that install the Help Viewer, how to install offline help content, and how to view help.

Internet access is required to download the Help Viewer content. You can then migrate the content to a computer that does not have internet access.

Note

To get local content for the current versions of SQL server, install the current version of SQL Server Management Studio SQL Server Management Studio 18.x.

What tools Install the Help Viewer versions?

There are two major versions of the Microsoft Help Viewer. Versions 1.x and 2.x. Each version supports different versions of SQL Server content. The format of the offline books has changed over time, and the older versions of Help Viewer do not support the newer versions of the books.

Content Set Tools that install Help Viewer Help Viewer version
SQL Server 2019


SQL Server 2017
SQL Server 2016
Visual Studio 2019 (*1)
SQL Server Management Studio 18.x

Visual Studio 2017 (*1)
SQL Server Management Studio 17.x
SQL Server Data Tools for Visual Studio 2015
Visual Studio 2015
v2.3


v2.2
SQL Server 2014
SQL Server 2012
SQL Server 2016 Setup (*2)
SQL Server 2014 Management Studio
SQL Server 2014 Setup (*2)
SQL Server Management Studio 2012
SQL Server 2012 Setup (*2)
v1.x

(*1) To install the Help Viewer with Visual Studio 2019 or 2017, on the Individual Components tab in the Visual Studio Installer, select Code Tools > Help Viewer > Install.

(*2) Indicates the Documentation Components option in SQL Server Setup.

Note

  • SQL Server 2016 installs Help Viewer 1.1, which does not support SQL Server 2016 help content. To view SQL Server 2016 content you need the v2.x of the help viewer. For more information, see SQL Server 2016 Release Notes.
  • Help Viewer 2.x can display the documentation for SQL Server versions 2014 - 2019, at least.
  • An easy way to obtain Help Viewer 2.3 or later is by first downloading the latest version of SSMS.exe, which is free. And then use the SSMS Help menu.
  • Starting with SQL Server 2017, the Help Viewer cannot be installed from SQL Server Setup.

Use Help Viewer v2.x

For this approach, Help Viewer 2.3 or later is recommended. The Help menu in the latest version of SSMS.exe offers 2.3 or later.

To download and install offline help content with Help Viewer v2.x

  1. In SSMS or VS, click Add and Remove Help Content on the Help menu.

    HelpViewer2 Add Remove Content

    The Help Viewer opens to the Manage Content tab.

  2. To install the latest help content package, choose Online under Installation source.

    HelpViewer2_ManageContent_OnlineSource

    Note

    To install from disk (SQL Server 2014 help), choose Disk under Installation source, and specify the disk location.

    The Local store path on the Manage Content tab shows where on the local computer the content will be installed. To change the location, click Move, enter a different folder path in the To field, and then click OK. If the help installation fails after changing the Local store path, close and reopen the Help Viewer. Ensure the new location appears in the Local store path and then try the installation again.

  3. Click Add next to each content package (book) that you want to install. To install all SQL Server help content, add all 13 books under SQL Server.

  4. Click Update at lower right. The help table of contents on the left automatically updates with the added books.

    HelpViewer2_ManageContent_AddContent

Note

Not all the top-node titles in the SQL Server table of contents exactly match the names of the corresponding downloadable help books. The TOC titles map to the book names as follows:

(*) Content that is from the first general availability version of SQL Server 2017 content along with older 2016 content. These books will be removed as the separate and complete books for SQL Server 2016 and 2017 contain content edits as of January 2019.

Contents pane SQL Server book
* Analysis services language reference Analysis Services (MDX) language reference
* Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) reference Data Analysis Expressions (DAX) reference
* Data mining extensions (DMX) reference Data mining extensions (DMX) reference
* Getting started with Machine learning in SQL Server Microsoft Machine learning Services
* Power Query M Reference Power Query M Reference
SQL Server 2016 Documentation SQL Server 2016 Documentation
SQL Server 2017 Documentation SQL Server 2017 Documentation
* Developer Guides for SQL Server SQL Server Developer Reference
* Download SQL Server Management Studio SQL Server Management Studio
* Homepage for client programming for Microsoft SQL Server SQL Server Connection Drivers
* SQL Server on Linux SQL Server on Linux
* SQL Server Technical Documentation SQL Server Technical Documentation (SSIS, SSRS, DB engine, setup)
* Tools and utilities for Azure SQL Database SQL Server tools
* Transact-SQL Reference (Database Engine) Transact-SQL Reference
* XQuery Language Reference (SQL Server) XQuery Language Reference (SQL Server)
     

Note

If the Help Viewer freezes (hangs) while adding content, change the Cache LastRefreshed="<mm/dd/yyyy> 00:00:00" line in the %LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\HelpViewer2.x\HlpViewer_SSMSx_en-US.settings or HlpViewer_VisualStudiox_en-US.settings file to some date in the future. For more information about this issue, see Visual Studio Help Viewer freezes.

To view offline help content in SSMS with Help Viewer v2.x

To view the installed help in SSMS, press CTRL + ALT + F1, or choose Add or Remove Content from the Help menu, to launch the Help Viewer.

HelpViewer2 Add Remove Content

The Help Viewer opens to the Manage Content tab, with the installed help table of contents in the left pane. Click articles in the table of contents to display them in the right pane.

Tip

If the contents pane is not visible, click Contents on the left margin. Click the pushpin icon to keep the contents pane open.

Help Viewer v2.x with content

To view offline help content in VS with Help Viewer v2.x

To view the installed help in Visual Studio:

  1. Point to Set Help Preference on the Help menu and choose Launch in Help Viewer.

    VS Help View Set Preference Help Viewer

  2. Click View Help in the Help menu to display the content in the Help Viewer.

    View Help

    The help table of contents shows on the left, and the selected help article on the right.

Use Help Viewer v1.x

In this section, you do the following general steps:

  • Manually download the SQL Server 2014 Offline Books, which are a set of four.
  • Use the Help menu of SSMS or VS to start the Help Viewer.
  • Finally, you tell the Help Viewer where the SQL Server 2014 *.msha file is on your local hard drive.

Earlier versions of SSMS and VS provided the 1.x versions of the Help Viewer. 1.x is able to display the Offline Books for SQL Server versions 2012 and 2014. But 1.x cannot display the Offline Book for SQL Server 2016 or later.

Help Viewer 2.3 is also able to display the SQL Server 2014 Offline Books, after you download the SQL Server 2014 Offline Books to your local hard drive.

To download and install offline help content with Help Viewer v1.x

This process uses Help Viewer 1.x to download SQL Server 2014 help from the Microsoft Download Center and install it on your computer.

  1. Navigate to the Product Documentation for Microsoft SQL Server 2014 download site and click Download.

  2. Click Save in the message box to save the SQLServer2014Documentation_*.exe file to your computer.

    Note

    For firewall and proxy restricted environments, save the download to a USB drive or other portable media that can be carried into the environment.

  3. Double-click the .exe to unpack the help content file, and save the file to a local or shared folder.

  4. Open the Help Library Manager by launching SSMS or VS and clicking Manage Help Settings on the Help menu.

  5. Click Install content from disk, and browse to the folder where you unpacked the help content file.

    HelpLibraryManager_MainPage_InstallFromDisk

    HelpLibraryManager_InstallContentFromDisk_dialog1

    Important

    To avoid installing local help content that has only a partial table of contents, you must use the Install content from disk option in the Help Library Manager. If you used Install content from online and the Help Viewer is displaying a partial table of contents, see this blog post for troubleshooting steps.

  6. Click the HelpContentSetup.msha file, click Open, and then click Next.

  7. Click Add next to the documentation you want to install, and then click Update.

    HelpLibraryManager_InstallContentFromDisk_dialog2

  8. Click Finish, and then click Exit.

To view offline help content with Help Viewer v1.x

  1. To view installed help, open Help Library Manager, click Choose online or local help, and then click I want to use local help.

  2. Open the Help Viewer to see the content by clicking View Help on the Help menu. The content you installed is listed in the left pane.

    HelpViewer1_withContentInstalled_ZoomedIn

View online help

Online help always shows the most up-to-date content.

To view SQL Server online help in SSMS 17.x

To view Visual Studio online help in Visual Studio

  1. Point to Set Help Preference on the Help menu and choose either Launch in Browser or Launch in Help Viewer.
  2. Click View Help in the Help menu. The latest Visual Studio help displays in the chosen environment.

To view online help with Help Viewer v1.x

  1. Open the Help Library Manager by clicking Manage Help Settings on the Help menu.

  2. In the Help Library Manager dialog box, click Choose online or local help.

    HelpLibraryManager_MainPage_ChooseOnlineORLocal.png

  3. Click I want to use online help, click OK, and then click Exit.

    HelpLibraryManager_ChooseOnlineORLocalHelp_OnlineHelpSelected_dialog

  4. Open the Help Viewer to see the content by clicking View Help on the Help menu.

View F1 help

When you press F1 or click Help or the ? icon in a dialog box in SSMS or VS, a context-sensitive online help article appears in the browser or Help Viewer.

To view F1 help

  1. In the Help menu, click Set Help Preference, and choose either Launch in Browser or Launch in Help Viewer.
  2. Press F1, or click Help, or click ? in dialog boxes where they are available, to see context-sensitive online articles in the chosen environment.

Note

F1 help only works when you are online. There are no offline sources for F1 help.

Systems without internet access

After you download offline books on a system that has internet access, you can use the following steps to migrate the content to a system that does not have internet access.

Note

Software that supports the Help Viewer, such as SQL Server Management Studio, must be installed on the offline system.

  1. Open Help Viewer (Ctrl + Alt + F1).
  2. Select the documentation you're interested in. For example, filter by SQL and select the SQL Server Technical Documentation.
  3. Identify the physical path of the files on disk, which can be found under Local store path.
  4. Navigate to this location using your file system explorer.
    1. The default location is: C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft SQL Server\140\Tools\Binn\ManagementStudio\Extensions\Application
  5. Select the three folders, ContentStore, Incoming, IndexStore and copy them to the same location on your offline system. You may need to use an interim media device such as a USB or CD.
  6. Once these files have been moved, launch Help Viewer on the offline system and the SQL Server technical documentation will be available.

physical-location-of-offline-content.png

Next steps

Microsoft Help Viewer - Visual Studio

info_tip Get help