Help Viewer 1.1 Preview Video

I’m excited to announce that we have just posted a preview video of Help Viewer 1.1, which will be shipping with Visual Studio 2010 SP1.

We have been hard at work over the last several months since Visual Studio 2010 was released. Over the beta period prior to release and since the release, we have had a significant amount of feedback driving for a more familiar Help experience to what we shipped in previous versions of Visual Studio. To that end, we have been developing an offline client help viewer - similar in some respects to Document Explorer (Dexplore.exe) that shipped with previous versions of Visual Studio.

Jeff Braaten, Director of Program Management for the Library Experience team which owns the Visual Studio Help Experience, has posted 3 blog posts today that both tell the story of how we got to where we are today and highlight some of the changes that you should expect to see in SP1. You can read the whole story, or go directly to the SP1 specific post.

The video we posted is me giving a brief demo of an early build of the new Help Viewer for Visual Studio 2010 SP1. A slightly more Channel 9 friendly version of the video is also available.

What does this mean for Visual Studio Industry Partners (VSIPs)?

We expect this should be a net gain for partners, with no new work required for them nor their customers to take advantage of the update beyond installing SP1.

Q: Do we need to do anything differently with our content than we did for Visual Studio 2010 RTM to get it to display in the new viewer?

No. The general requirements for integrating your help content with Visual Studio 2010 have not changed. Please see our Getting Started with Help Content and Integration for Visual Studio 2010 if you are new to these requirements.

Q: Are we able to customize how our content is branded in the new viewer?

Yes. The new viewer still supports the content branding features that are documented in the Help Viewer 1.0 SDK.

Q. Are we able customize how the new viewer itself is branded (“skinning”).

No. Our focus for SP1 was to ensure that customer productivity was restored in a number of key areas, as described in the video and Jeff Braaten’s blog posts.

Q. How will our content appear in the Table of Contents in the new viewer?

One of the things we heard most about from partners was the diminished discoverability of their content with Visual Studio 2010 RTM release. With the new viewer, we have restored the familiar treeview type of experience with the Table of Contents (TOC) so that no matter how you enter the TOC, 3rd party content will always be visible and accessible as in earlier versions of Visual Studio.

Q. What if the user’s default setting is to go Online?

The behavior is essentially the same as it was at VS 2010 RTM.

If the user’s default is set to Online, then a browser is launched to MSDN Online and 3rd party content is not visible, because it is not hosted or otherwise available via MSDN Online.

If a user issues an F1 help request, and 3rd party content is installed locally, we will open the local help for that content request for 3rd party partner content as we did at VS 2010 RTM.


If you have additional questions – feel free to post them and I will add responses to the list here.

We would very much welcome your feedback. Feel free to drop me a line here via the blog, leave comments on either my or Jeff’s blog, or send mail to our Help Feedback alias –

We look forward to hearing from you!