My musings about .NET and what not

Dynamic Help Removed From Visual Studio 2010

Been going blind looking for the Dynamic Help window in the new VS 2010 Beta 2? Me too… until I learned this bit of bad news from a inside source.

Like many of you, I’ve been messing around with the Visual Studio 2010 Beta 2. VS 2010 contains a number of long-awaited IDE improvements, like multiple monitor support, new editing and design tools, and a cleaner, more responsive WPF-based interface.

So far, I’m loving all of it. Well, almost all of it.

I happen to be a huge fan of Visual Studio’s Dynamic Help feature. This is a window containing links to related Help topics based on where you are in the IDE.


In fact, I recently wrote a blog post explaining how to integrate exception handling into the development cycle. The process I presented in that post makes good use of this handy feature.

In previous versions of Visual Studio, I’ve always placed the Dynamic Help window to the right side in Auto-Hide mode, ready at a moment’s notice. However, when I went to set up VS 2010 in the same way, I noticed that the Dynamic Help window appeared to have been left off the Help menu.

"Okay, no big deal," I thought. It is beta software after all. You can't really complain if a beta appears a little half-baked, right?

Nevertheless, this was still disappointing to me. I was tempted to report this as a bug, but just didn’t feel like dealing with the massive vortex of suck that is Microsoft Connect. So instead, I did what most other malcontented developers do – I complained on Twitter.


A few hours later - much to my chagrin - I received the following reply:


Whaaaaaa? This made absolutely no sense to me. I figured it couldn’t be true… until I learned that Charles Christian is actually a Project Manager on the Visual Studio Help Experience Team. So, there you go. I guess if anyone would be in a position to know, he’d be the guy.

Sure enough, a quick visit to the MSDN seemed to confirm it. Check it out below – no link to 4.0 up there near the top.


It looks like Visual Studio 2010 will definitely take some getting used to – because of all the new features added, and for at least one that was taken away.

I’ve asked Charles to provide an explanation as to why Dynamic Help was removed. As soon as I get a reply, I’ll update this post. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Charles' explanation appears below in the comments.

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    » Comments

    1. Charles Christian avatar

      Hello Lee,

      I traced to the root of this and got the below response.

      When Dynamic Help was first launched, a lot of users disabled it because of the loss of real estate in the screen, the distracting flickering and that the results were too general to be helpful. Because of this, in subsequent releases, almost all of the VS profiles disabled Dynamic Help by default. The customer feedback data showed a very low percentage of users opting back in to this feature. Our UE teams were also not resourced to do the attribution that is required to make the results more useful. With all of this, the Visual Studio team decided to no longer invest in this feature and decoupling Help System from Visual Studio 2010 made it easier to cut this feature.

      While the above is true, the underlying architecture is still available and you can easily add an extension if you are interested. Please let me know if you are interested and I will be happy to help.



      Charles Christian — November 5, 2009 12:12 AM
    2. giammin avatar

      noooo, i love dynamic help!!!!

      we should create a petition....

      giammin — November 12, 2009 3:36 AM
    3. Noel C avatar

      That was a pretty bad decision.

      Dynamic Help was the quick way to get to the REAL help entry one needed. Now I highlight OffsetRect, looking for the specifics of the Windows function call, and instead am taken directly to... The CRect class.

      Why does Microsoft think that new versions should not have all the user features previous versions have? Poll the user community, ask them whether they could live without a feature, then in some future version take it out if they really are ambivalent.


      Noel C — November 22, 2009 4:53 PM
    4. Jeff Klawiter avatar

      I also think this is unfortunate. I hope someone comes out with an extension for it. This is one of the first tips I give to any new developer or people I notice not using it. It was invaluable my first few years as a .NET developer and is extremely helpful when dealing with a new namespace or new release of .NET. Just noticed it was missing when I wanted to go to the help documentation for Directory.EnumerateFiles

      Jeff Klawiter — December 25, 2009 3:32 PM
    5. Allen C. avatar

      Well this was the 1st time I visited your Blog, and this entry immdeatly caught my eye. I have used dynamic help for years and encourage everyone on my team to use it. I guess I am in that small % of people that used it. I will keep an eye on this post, and hope that an extension appears. Thank you for the information.

      Allen C. — January 14, 2010 2:50 PM
    6. spatulasnout avatar

      Disappointing. I found this blog as I began looking for a way to turn on Dynamic Help in VS 2010 and couldn't find it on the menus.

      I tended not to leave Dynamic Help visible all the time, but it was a tab on a pane within easy reach.

      My typical usage pattern was to type something like, say, "std::multimap" in my code, then click on the Dynamic Help tab and start browsing the help for the class members of multimap.

      Which is exactly what I was just trying to do, and why I'm here now.


      spatulasnout — January 18, 2010 10:18 PM
    7. stan avatar

      Using F1 key over type/member seems to do the job well enough.

      stan — January 19, 2010 4:27 AM
    8. Lee Dumond avatar

      stan - I'd point out that F1 doesn't work from inside the HTML source code designer (.aspx files), where Dynamic Help did.

      Lee Dumond — January 19, 2010 8:31 AM
    9. Marko avatar

      This is really bad decision. Dynamic Help should be brought back but it seems it won't be - it is still missing from RC.

      Marko — February 14, 2010 9:27 AM
    10. Holger avatar

      I also found this blog searching for dynamic help. At least you can find this information, I loved this tool. And you really coul keep it very small on the screen. Am wondering that only few people used it???

      Holger — February 18, 2010 3:49 AM
    11. Hans avatar

      Super messed up! I loved Dynamic Help, it saved me a lot of time!!!

      Hans — February 27, 2010 5:33 PM
    12. Federico avatar

      We loved to use dynamic Help. I have asked and many programmers are using it in other versions of VS.

      I think it's necessary to include it again.

      Federico — March 31, 2010 3:13 PM
    13. Nick avatar

      Just installed the RTM version and it's still not there.

      Charlies, How can you say it used real estate when you can dock it behind another tab? I never saw any flickering, and the topics it showed were generally spot on.

      It is an invaluable tool for exploring namespaces that you don't visit often, and much faster than f1. *Please* bring it back.

      Nick — April 15, 2010 11:13 PM
    14. Darren Kopp avatar

      Interesting, never knew about that feature. I guess i'm not missing out on anything XD.

      Darren Kopp — April 16, 2010 10:41 AM
    15. PapillonUK avatar

      Noooooo!!! I just wasted an hour Googling this - bring back DH!

      PapillonUK — April 16, 2010 4:12 PM
    16. Jaimir Guerrero avatar

      Visual Studio’s Dynamic Help was smart enough to scan for related topics and display them in a ranked list for you to pick from. Remove it is a mistake

      Jaimir Guerrero — April 17, 2010 11:19 AM
    17. giammin avatar

      Want Dynamic Help back in Visual Studio 2010? Vote it on Microsoft Connect

      giammin — April 21, 2010 9:26 AM
    18. Dick P avatar

      Just installed RTM. I find some nice new features then discover DYNAMIC HELP HAS BEEN REMOVED!!!

      I used this continuously. It was the easiest way of re-familiarising myself with CLR types. Just hover your mouse and you are on the road to instant enlightenment. Now what do I do? Open up the help and type in the class name in the search menu and plough throw the thousands of results returned and figure out which one I want. I thought the basic idea of human progress was that we move forward?

      Dick P — April 22, 2010 2:11 AM
    19. Ryan Smyth avatar

      ACK! Say it isn't so! Please! Bring back Dynamic Help!

      I really appreciated it in Visual Studio. It was simply a fantastic way to explore different parts of the .NET framework and get answers really fast.

      It was a massive time saver, and excellent educator. I hope somebody writes a plugin as mentioned above.

      Ryan Smyth — April 29, 2010 8:20 AM
    20. Adriaan Davel avatar

      Was it turned off due to low usage stats, or were the usage stats low because it was turned off by default? I never used MSDN apart from Dynamic Help, simply because I could never get accurate search results from MSDN search (unless I started with Google, but then I mostly ended up else where), Dynamic Help on the other hand ALWAY gave me good results...

      I think Charles eluded to the actual reason why it has been left out: Too much work to tag the topics correctly (aka: had to get this version out so we had to leave certain things out)

      Charles I would love to know how to bring it back, even if it has to be in an extension (as I expect the other would too)

      Adriaan Davel — May 10, 2010 12:52 AM
    21. James Zheng avatar

      The distracting flickering is true when one leaves the Dynamic Help (DH) window on as the default instead of any other ones such as Solution Explorer. I hide the DH window in docking tool, and when I need it, I click the tab to bring the window up. This can avoid the distracting flickering DH window.

      I love DH window very much just like everyone, but Charles! :-)

      James Zheng — May 13, 2010 8:55 AM
    22. Kraft D.Inc avatar

      It will be missed by me what? I guess i could write and extention but I have never played with help files before....might be a "Fun" summer project. will be missed.

      Kraft D.Inc — May 14, 2010 12:22 PM
    23. EdwardQ avatar

      Dynamic Help I miss you. :( I used you ever since I discovered you 6 years ago. RIP DH

      EdwardQ — June 2, 2010 9:33 AM
    24. Tim Welsh avatar

      I am absolutely FURIOUS over this! I would like to echo the following comments.

      @James Zheng - If the DH window is not visible (i.e. docked) the system is fully responsive and does not flicker.

      @Adriaan Davel - Agreed, most folks opted out of the Customer Experience Program in their production development environments; therefore, the usage stats would be HIGHLY inaccurate and NOT representative of the developers who perform actual work. (as compared to the MS evangelists with the big mouths/egos).

      @Dick P - amen, brother. The first thing any experienced VS developer is going to do is attempt to convert a copy of an existing project to the latest .NET version. Once successful, they're going to poke around using DH to discover new/better/different ways of performing the existing tasks.

      Ugh. I will be exploiting VS 2008 for as long as I can, or at least until MS pulls their heads out of their [4th point of contact]s and puts DH back into VS. Here's an idea: SP1 !!

      Tim Welsh — June 8, 2010 1:25 PM
    25. Richard Choroszewski avatar

      A very bad decision on Microsoft's behalf.

      I can see why DH is not always a first choice, but when you do want to use it its is sorely missed.

      Just moving over from VS 2008 to 2010 and am very dissappointed about this decision

      Richard Choroszewski — June 26, 2010 5:06 AM
    26. Cimpy avatar

      I always needed DH, and would like to have it back. I am going to vote here:

      Cimpy — July 7, 2010 9:25 AM
    27. agenews avatar

      Thanks for the help. Love it.

      agenews — August 15, 2010 2:44 AM
    28. ib avatar

      How it is possible? Dynamic Help was one of the best help instruments I ever knew.

      ib — October 5, 2010 3:15 AM
    29. Paul avatar

      Decision to remove DH sucks big time. Bring it back.

      Paul — November 3, 2010 7:26 PM
    30. alex avatar

      Get it back! Please!

      alex — December 23, 2010 7:49 PM

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