The Windows Mobile 5.0 SDK and the Documentation

If you have installed Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2, and the Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC and Smartphone SDKs (and I hope you have), you might have found the state of the documentation a little.. odd. In fact, if you found it at all, you might have discovered it was broken in places. Let me explain why that might appear to be the case, and how you can work around it.


Publishing documentation here at Microsoft is a crazily complicated affair. Not only do we have a team of dedicated programmer writers actually creating the stuff, but a team of production folks who have the unenviable task of taking all the source material, combining it into various chunks, and getting those chunks merged with all the other chunks that all the other teams are working on. Documentation sets easily consist of tens if not hundreds of thousands of individual topics, and there are dozens of products that create their own documentation. Add in the fact that a lot of documentation is localized, and well, it's a full time job for a lot of people, put it that way.


One top of that, the Windows Mobile team produces documentation for difference audiences - and it does so by creating topics that have information that can be switched in and out depending on who is the target for the current "build".


Currently, if you install the SDK, you won't find the SDK documentation in the ordinary Visual Studio 2005 help system. In fact, you need to go to the Start menu / All Programs / Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC SDK / Windows Mobile 5.0 Pocket PC Help. Unfortunately, if you open this help file, you might find some of the links you click on are broken - the material they point to isn't present.


That said, you will find a node called SmartDevices as part of the standard Visual Studio help. This is the help that covers using Visual Studio and its tools to create mobile applications - rather than detailing the various APIs that are present in the specific SDKs. I know it's subtle distinction, but it's an important one. Partly it's a reflection of the structure of the teams that create the documentation (I used to work in that other team, so it's not like we don't keep in touch!) but mostly it's because of the nature of SDKs as separately installable modules.


So this is hardly ideal, but don't worry - another reason for this current state of affairs is the fact that Visual Studio is still a Beta. By the time it reaches RTM - which is Microsoft-speak for saying it's finished - we will have taken our SDK documentation and stuffed it into the complete Visual Studio help collection. Once this happens, so there won't be any broken links.


In the meantime, there is an easy workaround: go to MSDN. As our complete documentation set is up on MSDN, it will not have any broken links. Even more importantly, as we regularly update the documentation on MSDN, you can be sure you're reading the most up-to-date version that we have available. And don't forget all those great samples that are installed as part of the SDK: sometimes a line of code can be worth a thousand words :-)


This is the link to the MSDN documentation.