Help in the Visual Studio 2010

Mmmmm… I don’t know what kind of daemon possessed Microsoft usability engineers when they were designing Visual Studio 2010 help system, but something definitely went very-very-very wrong. :( What’s wrong, you might ask?

  • It opens in a web browser, which kind of sucks as it breaks my normal work-flow (I have to track help tabs in browser, and then close them, and if I open some new tabs, then help is not in place I expect it, etc. etc. etc.)
  • It’s content tree (the thing on the left side) is not really a tree anymore – it just shows top-level hierarchy and then also “path” to current topic. No more, no less. And if you need to go to some other topic, you will immediately lose track of previous topic. So, if you want to “browse around” the documentation – tough luck. What’s even more ugly is that the online help can be at least configured to show full content tree, but offline help won’t allow you any customizations.
  • There is no index. Full stop. Yes, yes – N-O—I-N-D-E-X. They say that there is search, but try to find some API related to paths and that you vaguely remember exists and has name PathBlaBlaBla (where BlaBlaBla is some meaningful name) and you will see that the search is as useless as it can only get.

Conclusion: new help system is VS2010 is light years behind that of VS2008 or VS2005.

Can something be done about it? There are at least two partial solutions:

  1. Microsoft Help Viewer Power Tool – simply adds keyword index capability to the Help Viewer, with an option to display help in a standalone window.
  2. Help 3 Viewer goes much further: it shows VS 2010 help in a traditional help viewer (similar to “old” DExplore) with full TOC and Index, and features multiple document tabs. There are other features too, and it can be set as default VS2010 help viewer.

I hope that these tools will help you with your help experience :) .


How to Enable Using the Binding Builder in WPF and Silverlight Applications

In VS2010, when the Data Sources Window is used to generate the UI, the generated XAML injects design-time information so that the Binding Builder can be used to create bindings for the UI controls. But if your application was written in Visual Studio 2005 or 2008, or you used the XAML Editor, the Designer or Expression Blend without the Data Sources Window, your coding style is to assign the DataContext in code and not data bind to CollectionViewSources in your XAML, then you won’t be able to take advantage of the new Binding Builder. How to Enable Using the Binding Builder in WPF and Silverlight Applications by Karl Shifflett to the rescue – it demonstrates the simple requirements to enable you to use the new Binding Builder in a variety of scenarios like the ones mentioned above.

Today’s Sites/Blogs

  • Started to “bump” into the Smashing Magazine quite often nowadays. Usually it collects interesting Internet resources related to web development (notably CSS, HTML, AJAX, etc.) and design (user interfaces, fonts, new ideas, etc.), and also has some tutorial-like or how-to-like posts (e.g. about PNG optimization, common mistakes, etc.). Really nice! Webdesigner Depot, Line25 Web Design Blog, and Presidia Creative all have similar concept.
  • Windows Presentation Foundation SDK by Windows Presentation Foundation SDK writers and editors. Might be more interesting, but OK nevertheless.
  • Expression Blend and Design – The team blog of the Expression Blend and Design products