Keep Offline Help Up-to-Date in Visual Studio 2010

One of my favorite features offered by the new help system in Visual Studio 2010 is the ability to easily update offline content with the latest documentation from MSDN. If you use offline documentation in Visual Studio, one of the first things you should do after installation is to check for the latest updates to the documentation. (Hopefully you’ve noticed that the .NET 4 WPF docs are no longer in ‘preview mode’ on MSDN…)

In previous versions of Visual Studio, there was no way to update the documentation that shipped in the box. When documentation bugs were fixed or new content was added, you had to go to the online library to see the latest content. Now you can use the Help Library Manager to easily find and install the latest fixes and additions.

There are two ways that you can get to the Help Library Manager.

Through the Start menu: Start > Microsoft Visual Studio 2010 > Visual Studio Tools > Manage Help Settings

HLM - Start

Through the Help menu in Visual Studio 2010:

HLM - VS Help

In the Help Library Manager, you can select whether to use online or local help, install content, and check for updates.

HLM - Check for Update

You can only check for updates to content that you have installed locally, so if you haven’t installed content, select ‘Install content from online’ to select content to be installed locally.

If you have content installed, select “Check for updates online”.

You’ll be shown a list of the content that you have installed, whether updates are available, and the size of the download. Click ‘Update’ to download and install the latest content.

HLM - Update

You have to check for updates manually, so how often should you check? If the download size is not an issue and you want to have the very latest content available, I recommend checking every 4 to 6 weeks to keep your local help updated with newly published content.

For more information about the new help system, see this video on Channel 9 and the official documentation on MSDN.