Visual Studio Documentation – Have your say

Brad A’s just been highlighting the MSDN Survey to get opinions on how Visual Studio and MSDN documentation works (or doesn’t) for people.  I added my 2c and it made me think a little about how I access ‘help’ these days.  Here’s what I wrote in the ‘other comments’ (Q 14 I think).

I generally access MSDN content through google (as it’s quicker than accessing the MSDN site, waiting for it to load the TOC, then searching).  It’s probably testament to the indexing of the site that a search such as “msdn Path.Combine” will take me straight to the specific page I ‘know’ I’m looking for.  I guess this means I’ve got some knowledge of how things are structured and I use that to good effect.  In a simple comparison…

Local Help
Typing Path.Combine into VS.NET code editor – selecting the text and hitting F1 came up with a false start (my current machine doesn’t even have the docs installed apart from Enterprise Library 3.1.  It did find some less than useful reference from EntLib!).  I went to Help options and chose ‘use online first’, and tried again (incidentally I didn’t even realise you could pull in your own list of sites to search (Codezone community) – cool).  It chose a different ‘Path property’ first and took about a minute in total to get to the right ‘Path class’.

MSDN Library Site
Opening up the MSDN site (which still feels too heavy in my book – and now curiously like BBC news) and searching for ‘Path.Combine’ took about the same time (1 min).  This includes opening the browser, loading up the MSDN home page, searching, clicking the first item in the search results, and loading that page.

Google search on MSDN
Opening up Google (admittedly my home page – but I’m looking for speed here) and searching for ‘msdn Path.Combine’ took 20 seconds.  The first item in the list was what I wanted so got straight to it.  It’s also worth noting that Google’s become a little fat puppy too with all my iGoogle stuff on it, but it’s still way quicker than any of the alternatives.