Community Resources: Getting Help from Other Developers
Learning to program isn't always easy—even experienced programmers run into problems that they can't solve by themselves. Fortunately, there are several million other programmers out there that use Visual Basic, and many of them are eager to help each other.
If you are using Visual Basic Express, some of the Help links on this page may be unavailable, depending on the options that you chose during installation. For more information, see Troubleshooting Visual Basic Express.
Using Forums to Exchange Information
One of the best ways to obtain additional help with Visual Basic is by visiting an online forum, a virtual community where users ask and answer each other's questions. You may have noticed the MSDN Forums button on the Help viewer toolbar—clicking that button takes you to the MSDN Community Forums search page. You can enter a question and a search will be performed, returning any previous answers related to your question.
You must have an active connection to the Internet, and any proxy server or firewall must be configured to allow for access to the MSDN Community Forums.
An individual question or answer in a forum is known as a post; a collection of posts on a single topic is known as a thread. If you can't find a previous thread that answers your question, you can post a message to the forum with your specific question, and then check the thread later to see whether anyone has answered your question.
Some tips for using forums:
Read the Visual Basic documentation first. If a topic is covered in Help, don't expect other users to research it for you. On the other hand, if the Help is there but you don't understand it, ask away.
Search the forum to see whether the question has already been asked and answered. If you are asking a frequently asked question, your post may be ignored.
Choose the correct forum. If you post a question about the Visual Basic language in a Windows Forms forum, you are less likely to get an answer than if you post to the Visual Basic Language forum.
Use a descriptive title for your post. Asking "Can someone help me?" is less likely to get a response than asking "Does anyone know how to make a user control with a transparent background?"
Phrase your question clearly. Explain what you are trying to do and what isn't working; include what you have already tried and what the results were.
Include code where appropriate. If a particular line of code is causing an error, include enough code to make it clear what that line is trying to accomplish. However, do not try to post the whole application and expect someone else to debug it for you.
If you ask a question, try to answer someone else's question. The more you are willing to help others in the community, the more they will be willing to help you.
Always be polite. If someone answers your question, thank them. Remember that everyone answering questions on the forum is doing this voluntarily.
In addition to the MSDN Community Forums, there are many other forums related to Visual Basic, Windows Forms, and other technologies. You can search for these forums on the Internet.
To visit a forum
On the Help menu in Visual Basic 2008, click MSDN Forums.
The MSDN Community Forums search page is displayed.
In the Enter Keywords field, type Visual Basic Transparent User Control, and then click Go.
Previous posts that match the keywords are displayed if any are available.
Review the posts to see whether any of them explain how to create a transparent user control.
If none of the posts answers your question, you can post a more specific question by clicking Visual Basic General in the Can't find the answer? list.
You can check back later to see whether your question has been answered, or you can choose to be notified by e-mail, instant messenger, or even by a text message to your cell phone when a thread is responded to. When you enter a post or reply to a post on a forum, just click the Alert Me button.
Other Community Resources
In addition to online forums, there are many other community resources that can help you as you learn to use Visual Basic 2008.
The Start Page displayed when you start Visual Basic Express contains a News section that displays links to community events such as online chats and Webcasts that are available to everyone. These links are updated regularly, and you can even choose the types of links that you want to see.
The Search function in Help enables you to search not only in the local Help system, but also in the MSDN Online Library and in the Codezone community, a collection of online resources for Visual Basic. The MSDN Online Library may contain newer versions of Help topics, in addition to articles that aren't in the documentation; the Web sites that make up the Codezone community contain helpful information from many Visual Basic experts.
To access the MSDN Online Library and the Codezone community, you must have an active connection to the Internet, and any proxy server or firewall must be configured to allow for access. In addition, your Help settings must be configured for online access. For more information, see How to: Include Online Content in Search and F1 Help Results.
The Visual Basic team at Microsoft is always interested in hearing from you, whether you want to suggest an improvement to Visual Basic 2008, report a product bug, or make suggestions regarding the documentation.
The Product Feedback Center enables you to enter both product and documentation suggestions and report bugs. It also enables you to see those entered by others. You can also track the progress of your suggestions and bug reports, vote on suggested features, and much more. To access the Product Feedback Center, on the Help menu, click Report a Bug.
The Microsoft Visual Basic Developer Center contains frequently updated articles and other information about Visual Basic. To access the Developer Center, on the Start Page, click Visual Basic Developer Center.
User groups are local organizations of programmers with similar interests—there are many user groups throughout the world dedicated to Visual Basic and Visual Basic 2008. Most user groups meet regularly to demonstrate coding techniques, exchange information, and make contacts with other programmers. If you live in or near a major city, chances are there is a Visual Basic user group near you.
In this lesson, you learned about some of the resources available to the world-wide Visual Basic community. In the next lesson you will learn about resources for learning more about Visual Basic 2008.
Next lesson: Tell Me More: Resources for Learning Visual Basic.