MS Help Viewer 2.0

Those checking out the new developer preview bits (Beta releases of both Visual Studio 11 & Windows 8) may notice some changes in help.

Jeff Braaten [MSFT] has all the detail for you here…

http://thirdblogfromthesun.com/2011/09/announcing-microsoft-help-viewer-2-0-developer-preview/

Paul O’Rear also posted these notes…

http://blogs.msdn.com/b/thehelpguy/archive/2011/09/15/help-viewer-2-0-visual-studio-11-windows-8-developer-preview.aspx

To summarizing:

  • Help Viewer 1.1 has been super seeded by Help Viewer 2.0 in VS 11.
  • Windows 8 help is using the same help engine (HV 2.0) but their own UI.
  • The Agent tray application is gone. There is now a COM interface to access the Help Viewer API.
  • Content filtering is still in the pipe and we will see this in a later release.
  • Help Library Manager app has been completely revamped and integrated into the Help Viewer.
  • Can now move the data store.
  • Can now connect to any download source (so a company could host their own MSDN download source).
  • New downloader is smarter. Can recover and continue if interrupted.

H3Viewer – Our own Help Viewer replacement H3Viewer is currently not compatible with VS 11 and Win 8 help. This is because it still uses the HelpLibAgent.exe interface. In time we will update.

Congratulation to the help team on reaching this significant milestone.

== Screen shots ==

Remember this a preview and the some features will change.

Posted in MS Help, MS Help Viewer | Comments Off

Windows 8 Developer Preview

Yesterday was very exciting for the developer community. Microsoft released details of Windows 8 at the Build 2011 (formally PDC) developer conference. The new features and improvements to Windows 8 are too numerous to list. But I took these notes as I listened to the 2.5hr keynote if you are interested:  My notes from Build 2011 Keynote.

You can download a developer preview of Win8 here:

There is an Win8 ISO image that contains VS 2011 (contains the new Metro Style controls), or you can download the VS 11 preview separately:

Info on VS 11 preview:

All Metro style Forums (Thanks Lisa): http://forums.dev.windows.com

  1. UI Design for Metro style apps
  2. Tailoring your Metro style app for hardware and devices
  3. Building Metro style apps with HTML5
  4. Building Metro style apps with C++
  5. Building Metro style apps with C# or VB
  6. Building Metro style games with DirectX
  7. Tools for Metro style apps
  8. Windows Developer Preview: General OS questions

 

Posted in Microsoft, MS Technology, Windows | Comments Off

What if MSDN Library had Books?

иконографияWhenever I talk to the Microsoft LEX team (VS & MSDN help), I come away staggered at the scale they operate on. The MSDN site is one of the biggest websites in the world and supports many different online languages.  They are always working hard on the next big thing to make it easier for customers to find stuff.  These guys love customer feedback. So here’s my latest…

The following thoughts have been buzzing around in my head for some time crystallizing and I wanted to write them down.

IMHO I think MSDN Library has grown rapidly and needs a radical overhaul.

One solution…. Develop the Book view.

  1. Slice up MSDN Library into books (same as a real library) – At the moment we have more a sea of single topics loosely held in context by links and an enormous TOC. The UX would be much enhanced and by a book view.
  2. The nightly build should generate a .mshc file for every MSDN library book, and make them all available for download (by web and HLM).
    Many users are currently frustrated that only a small proportion of MSDN Library is available offline. The download should be available from the online book cover page (a more logical place for some than Help Library Manager app).
    Also generate a PDF of the book for printing and devices without Help Viewer. Personally I don’t think I have a use for building my own PDFs from selected individual pages.
  3. Allow the user to scope down to the Book level (TOC/Index/Search just for a particular book — Online or Offline). More natural. Easier to find content in the book. Less clutter.
  4. The high-level view of MSDN Library should be more book oriented (like a real library or Amazon) with color coded mock up book cover panels. Scope down to get TOC/Index experience of today.
  5. Discontinue the old complex “filtering” idea of VS 200x local help… and filtering on strange boundaries such as “Concepts”. Complex tagging of individual pages was never fully successful.
    Just keep it simple. Stick to Books with nice logical boundaries.
    I just want to easily find and scope down to a logical book. I can find everything easily from there (concepts, HowTos, API Ref etc), as long as it is properly organized and sign posted.
  6. Group related books into “book stacks” (like a predefined book shelf). I should also be able to scope down to the book stack level. And I should be able to defined my own stack (book shelf).
  7. The Online/Offline experience should be similar and tightly linked. The offline viewer: At any time I should be able to update my “MSDN book list” to match the online list. I should be able to get a nice visual representation of all the MSDN books [Books I don’t have yet as ghosted; Books with updates available clearly marked; Book covers color coded by technology].

As a developer I typically spend my whole day inside one reference book (online or offline).
I don’t want to see other books (unless I choose to scope up or do a wider Bing search).

The current experience is OK. But I suggest it could be much better by adding a book view.

Thanks

Rob

 

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VS 2010 Help … Thoughts

иконографияикониJust jotting down some thoughts. VS 2010 SP1 Help is much improved but there is still much to do. Here are some thought that came out in the forums today…

 

So you may not know that with the VS 2011 SP1 release they brought back the standalone viewer (full TOC, full Index, favs etc).

The RTM help received such a flood of bad reviews that, to the credit of the help team, they quickly reinstated the standard viewer app.

The browser based help idea just didn’t go down well with customers.

 

Moving forward..

There is still work to do with the SP1 viewer. These problems remain…

  • A help system of this size must have filtering.
    My idea is… Nothing too complicated. Just tag all pages of each book with the bookName, Locale and Version.
    At the moment we take a new book, rip out all the pages and throw them in to the huge soup of single pages. Not a great experience,
  • They need to reorganize the book version tagging and TOC Sync.
    At the moment when you search you find 6 versions of the same thing.
    But the TOC only has VS 2010 related help so a TOC Sync wont always work.
  • Books you download often parent into another book. If that other book does not exist it wont show in the master TOC.
    They need a way to dynamically add orphaned books to the TOC.
  • Rich media. HTML is able to host rich content but currently VS 2010 help blocks Flash, video, links to PDF … everything.
    We need a safe way to register local media associated with a help book (like Adobe do with Flash).
    The easiest way is to register media associated with your help during install when elevated in admin mode.
  • The help registration signing system is over the top and duplication.
    Windows already has a way to securely install components. We install, we get challenged, we except the challenge and installation continues in an elevated (admin) context. To reinvent another layer of protection is just annoying & confusing to developers and customers.
    One challenge is enough in installing content.

I think the MS standard help configuration still works well. Most companies creating help today offer TOC, Index & Bookmarking system and customers are happy.

CHMs work but we need a new help system which

  1. supports Unicode
  2. is scalable
  3. is open with a rich API (so we can embed help in apps and do background lookups etc).

The VS 2010 help actually ticks all these boxes. But the help system still needs to mature (ie. see top list above).

I am so wrapped with #3 the open API side of HV 1.x. If you haven’t tried our H3Viewer yet then please do so. It was very straight forward to build this alternate viewer using the new VS 2010 help engine.

With the web, we have to rely on search.. But the web is broken in to web sites and these can be searched independently (filtering) and often have their own navigation systems (filtering). At the moment MSDN is (as I said) mostly a large soup of single pages (with only some TOC structure holding them in relationship).

Rob

 

Posted in Microsoft, MS Help 3.x | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Move or Reset your VS 2010 help Library

???? ?????Help Viewer 1.x (VS 2010 help) does not yet officially support moving your local help library, however it’s easy to do (if you are comfortable tweaking the registry and editing files in the protected area of your hard disk… Which most developers are).

Read the article:

Enjoy
Rob

Posted in MS Help, MS Help Viewer | Comments Off

Visual Studio SP1 Help rant

Did you know that VS 2010 Service Pack 1 is now available and has a brand new help viewer?

<rant>

There were a lot of angry responses to the VS 2010 RTM help. In particular the way it displayed help in a browser and did not provide a full TOC, full Index or bookmark support.

I think everyone was quite taken aback by the huge negative response to the RTM help.  Not many people know this, but the help team were well on track to delivering a full traditional Help Viewer experience. It was quite late in development when someone made the suggestion to deliver help in the browser.  The idea was appealing. There had been complaints in the past that documentation was locked into Microsoft technology (eg. in HTML Help we had only one viewer which was built around the Internet Explorer browser and ActiveX). So I can see how this idea of “an Open Help Platform” would look attractive. The mistake was introducing a radical change during the final stage of the project, without talking to their customers.

Please show the help team some love.  I’m sure they will remember this painful lesson for some time to come.

</rant>

OK enough ranting.  The Service Pack 1 is now out and does deliver several improvements that customers were asking for:

  • A dedicated viewer done in C# and WPF.
  • Full TOC.
  • Full Index.
  • Full bookmark support.
  • Fast and responsive. Accurate F1.

The following are on the radar and should be fixed in the next wave

  • F1 help for C++ projects (currently not so accurate I hear).
  • Content filtering (MS know this is important to customers but tell them again anyway).

Also we have these improvements

  • Faster merge times than DExplore.
  • Merge no longer locks up Visual Studio as it did in DExplore (VS 2002/2003/2005/2008).
  • Help application is independent of Visual Studio. This will become important as we move forward.
  • A Help SDK. All past MS Help systems were closed to programmers.
  • Alternative viewers. I’ve published H3Viewer which offers some extra features. I’m sure in time there will be more.

Please try VS SP1 help and see what you think.
IMHO the help team have done a great job in responding to feedback. And filters I know are still high up on the To Do list.

If you still have concerns about help. The help team are very open to receiving direct feedback.
They do respond to all serious posts to their blogs. You can leave a public comment under
an appropriate blog entry or click the link that says “Email me”.

Rob (moving forward)

 

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VS SP1 and new Help Viewer, are now available

Hi all
In case you missed it….

VS SP1 is now available for download from MSDN Subscriber downloads and tomorrow as a public download. VS SP1 contains the new VS local Help Viewer. So no more browser based help. No more testing in all browser for compatibility.
http://thirdblogfromthesun.com/2011/03/new-local-help-viewer-available-in-visual-studio-2010-sp1/

Side Note: The latest H3Viewer.exe is compatible with the new help system and still contains several extra features.

Rob

Posted in MS Help, MS Help Viewer | Tagged , , | Comments Off

Say No to GM in Australia

Steve Marsh, a WA organic grower, says: “GM canola can’t be contained. We rely on the premium for GM-free organic food and we need Farmer Protection laws. We want compensation for lost premiums and cancelled certification.”

Kevin Willmott, a Victorian farmer who grew GM canola this year, says: “I’ve got 100 tonnes of GM canola that germinated in the pods when it was still green. GM is the problem because my conventional canola was fine. We’ll never grow GM again.”

Monsanto wants to make Australia the first country to develop and grow GM wheat – our daily bread and pasta. It recently acquired 20% of WA’s public breeding program for this purpose. Gene Ethics is working hard to stop industry and government research, development and promotion of GM crops and animals, particularly wheat. Your generous financial support will help to oppose the GM companies and their backers that use shaky science to sell shonky products.

Please donate to Gene Ethics, now:
Posted in GM Food | Comments Off

New Help Viewer for VS 2010

кухненско обзавежданеMicrosoft announced today plans to address issues with VS 2010 offline help viewer.

Jeff Bratten’s blog articles tells you all about it.

As part of the announcement Paul O’Rear has provided a video tour of a new offline help viewer due to be released with VS 2010 SP1.

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www.KayeHarrison.com

Just finished building a web site for Australian singer, songwriter Kaye Harrison. Kaye is a great talent, and great ambassador for God.

www.kayeharrison.com/

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How to fix MSDN Help

My hobby horse

The worst thing about MSDN help is it’s so freak’n big. Search brings up useless stuff from everywhere, and so does the Index. Only the TOC allows you to explore just a specific area.  That’s why users love the TOC.

For years MS have tried to apply the Google search experience to MS Help without much success. Users are still unhappy. Why? Simple… With a web search you are exploring a gigantic universe (similar to MSDN). Search results deliver some possibilities and you eventually end up in a smaller universe called a website. A book library is a similar experience.

With a website (or book) you are in a closed system where navigation, search, index (whatever the site gives you) allows you to quickly find things in a limited scope. But with MSDN you never escape this large freak’n big universe … search, Index and TOC are always full scope. Users need to be able to shrink the world down.

MSDN Library “online” has the same problem. For example: If I go to say UI Guidelines section of MSDN  Library I’m in the area I want to be in. Yet to my great frustration… I can’t search just that area or book.  Imagine a traditional library. After using search to find the book you want, you sit down and enjoy the smaller world of that book. But with MSDN you can never change scope. Only the TOC gives you some brief relief.

Imagine if the web had no logical boundaries. No websites. Just millions of pages. That’s the horrible experience we get from MSDN.

If MS followed the web or library experience (and not so much the Google experience), then MSDN would be a great experience.  MS Help 2 was heading in the right direction with filters, but despite several attempts to rework the tags the system just never worked to any ones satisfaction.

In the web we can scope down to the website level. In MSDN we also need to be able to scope down to the book level. To easily flip between full MSDN and a book experience. Not by using millions of topic level tags (as in MS Help 2). Just tag your books, and let the pages inherit those tags.

It really is that simple. No more playing with tag clouds, lets get this right.

As much as the help team think they can solve this problem using data logic and tagging (like sorting different sized marbles), all they really need to do is let us find the relevant book. Then it’s up to the MS word-smiths to craft easy to navigate books.

Question 8.

How about ‘location’ or some other type of general content grouping metadata — for example that a certain result comes from the Visual C# documentation, or from the Windows SDK. Do you find that sort of additional data when viewing search results useful?

No.

Question 9.

How important is the ability to scope search results based on topic types, or code language?

We don’t want complicated tagging. We never get this right. You already have content organized into books — Just let me see the book boundaries in the help and let me narrow my scope to one or more books.

Summary

Help is really simple. I want to find a book. Then scope down and explore just that book or related books. MSDN has quickly grown into a monster and there is no easy mechanism to scope down to just a book. Forget filters. Let me see the books in MSDN and create book shelves that I can live in without seeing the other irrelevent 99% of MSDN.

Posted in Microsoft, MS Help | Tagged , | 2 Comments

FAR 5.1 Now Available

We are pleased to release FAR 5.1

This is a minor update. It fixes some small annoying problems such as buttons not repainting (disappearing) when the Alt key is pressed.

BTW I’ve also uploaded 5.1 to Visual Studio Gallery.

It would help us  a lot if you could go to the FAR VS Gallery page and leave a rating and\or a review. Thanks in advance.

Thanks for supporting FAR

Rob

Posted in Announcements, MS Help | Tagged | Comments Off

Helpware need You

In 2009  Microsoft launch the Visual Studio Gallery, where the community could upload & download tools and extensions for Visual Studio. VS 2010 even has a built-in gallery viewer. VS Gallery is already a great success.

Visual Studio Gallery

Being all VS related products, we’ve added all our Helpware tools to the VS Gallery.

If you use a Helpware product it would be a great help if you could rate and\or review the products on the VS Gallery site. Many thanks to those who have already helped out!

Also, we are trying to translate the GUI of our free app H3Viewer (for viewing VS 2010 help). It’s not a big job (200 short strings). If you can help translate to a language we would be very grateful (free FAR HTML 5 licenses are on offer).

Thanks in advance.
Rob

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Health and the Hookworm

This year there has been a lot interest in using hookworms to boost the immune system and fix everything from severe allergies to MS. One clinic claims that  everyone of their MS patients are in remission. The thinking is that in the west we have over done it with hygiene and our immune systems need a little more dirt to stay challenged and healthy. A small does of 20-70 hook worms seems to provide that challenge.

Here are a collection of interviews and articles from the ABC (Australian TV and Radio)

ABC – Philip Adams (mp3)

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/latenightlive/stories/2010/2883972.htm

ABC – Science Show – Parasites by RadioLab (mp3)

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/latenightlive/stories/2010/2883972.htm

ABC – Catalyst (video)

http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/2823795.htm

ABC  (article)

http://abc.gov.au/science/articles/2001/11/02/406170.htm

CBS TV (video)

http://wcbstv.com/watercooler/hookworm.treatment.therapy.2.1015550.html

Discover Magazine (article)

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2009/07/22/are-hookworms-the-next-claritin/

Philip Adams radio Interview with Jasper Lawrence (AIT)

http://www.abc.net.au/rn/latenightlive/stories/2010/2883972.htm

Some Links:

Companies offering Helminth Therapy

WormTherapy have a slightly different approach than AIT.  Start off on 25 worm dose (since most of the worlds population are infected by 25-50 worms. And having too many worms will leach out too many nutrients).  Both guarantee infection for 3 years.

User blogs

More Information

Australia & Hookworm

http://iceh.uws.edu.au/fact_sheets/FS_hookworm.html — Australia’s northern problem seems to be dog hookworm. Unwormed dogs in northern communities infecting the soil. There are some studies around looking at using canine worm for treatment.

TSO — Trichuris Suis Ova (pig whipworm eggs).  Biomonde (Asia) will mail TSO at 220 Euro a single dose.
You need a dose every 2 weeks so a course of 10 doses (20 weeks) will cost > AU$3,000. Very expensive!

TTO – Human whipworm is used by AIT. TTO lasts much longer than TSO, about 18 months, as opposed to 2 weeks for TSO.

General Info

Neither hookworm nor whipworm proliferate within the host, nor are they infectious in any real sense of the world in a country where either shoes or toilets are routinely used.

Hookworm live on average for five years, therefore the dosing interval is on average five years. For whipworm, which is indicated for ulcerative colitis, it is two years.

Posted in Health | Tagged , , | Comments Off

FAR 5: Automate the adding of NavScript.js

To refresh the memory. NavScript.JS can be used to add a link to the top of web pages. The link  reopens the navigation pane in uncompressed help. It wont show in a CHM or when the nav pane is open.

I’ve just extended an old post on using NavScript.JS with FAR Uncompressed Help topics.
You can easily insert the script into HTML files using the $R$[..] command in FAR Adv Find and Replace.
I’ve just added some instructions on how to automate this using FAR Batch mode.

If you haven’t used NavScript.JS then best to show an example. Open the FAR web help and immediately close the nav pane. You will see a link appear at the top of the topic page to reopen the nav pane.

Rob

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MS Touch Pack for Windows 7 Now Available

For a while now we early adopters of multi-touch have been watching as newer Touch Screens were released with this thing call MS Touch Pack containing cool touch applications… And wondering how to get our excited little hands on it. Wonder no more. If you have Win 7 Multi Touch the Touch Pack is now available for download.

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VS 2010 Help Power Toy

Lots of things happening at the moment.
VS 2010 was released on 12th April, along with the new VS 2010 Help Viewer.
For those using VS 2010, Ryan Linton (MS Help Team) has just released a cool VS Extension that provides Help, Index and Search right inside the VS IDE.
http://mshcmigrate.helpmvp.com/news/helpviewerkeywordindexvs2010ext

Lots of things happening at the moment.

VS 2010 was released on 12th April, along with the new VS 2010 Help Viewer.
And Office 2010 RTM should be available on MSDN and Technet in just a few days.

For those using VS 2010, Ryan Linton (MS Help Team) has just released a cool VS Extension that provides Help, Index and Search right inside the VS IDE.

Posted in MS Help 3.x | Tagged , | Comments Off

Helpware news

Updates to mshcMigrate & H3Viewer. And FAR HTML 5 finally released.

http://mshcmigrate.helpmvp.com/news/mshcmigrateb41h3viewerb22farhtml5

Rob

Posted in Announcements, MS Help 3.x | Comments Off

Help 3 Report From Seattle Visit

Back from the MVP Summit in Seattle where we spent 3 days with the Microsoft help team in charge of MS Help Viewer 1.0. Here’s a report of some things I picked up on Help 3.

http://mshcmigrate.helpmvp.com/news/helpnews

Also updated API documentation with latest info from Microsoft

http://helpware.net/mshelp3/intro.htm#Links

Rob

Posted in MS Help 3.x | Comments Off

Updates Available

The following updates are available…

  • FAR HTML 5.0.0.728
    Build 728 fixes a problem reading/writing Unicode files where sometimes a trailing junk character was added to the file.
  • mshcMigrate build 36
    Fixes same problem as above.

We strongly recommend that all FAR 5 users and mshcMigrate users update ASAP.

Posted in Announcements, MS Help 3.x | Comments Off

VS 2010 RC now available

VS 2010 RC release is now available via MSDN subscriber downloads, and publicly available around the 10th of Feb.

So for those stuck on Beta 2 Help this is your chance to get something stable and release quality.

Please, anything you find in the RC that does not go well with mshcMigrate or H3Viewer please contact me (here or directly via robertc at helpware dot net)

Cheers
Rob

Posted in MS Help 3.x | Tagged , | Comments Off

Good Press for MS Help Viewer – Part 2

Hi all,
Posted again into Brian Harry’s blogмебель в болгарии and CC’d here.

-

David, if you are using Beta 2 (although I suspect you are a partner on LCTP3), then I can well understand your frustration. Maybe my needs are different. I just want the correct help to open in a timely manner when I press F1 in the VS IDE. A 10 secs wait is unacceptable. It wont be 10 seconds in the next release. My response…

DExplore… c++ code, a decade old (they probably use VS 6 or a VS 7.0 Beta when they started the project). From what I understand it has had numerous band-aids and rework applied to it over it’s life time, yet the majority of developers are still frustrated by it and find Google better. And with good reason: Inaccurate F1 results; Long merge delays that lock up VS UI; Difficult to integrate into; A crazy search page; A proprietary file format and no 3rd party redistribution locks out developers; I’m very happy to see the back end of it!

DExplore F1 & search are so poor that most of us now rely on Index and TOC as the primary means of accessing help. MS stats confirm — Typical access usage is now: Index 48%, TOC 25%, F1 17%, Search 10%. :-(

So it’s easy to understand why users are frustrated and angry over losing both the Index and TOC. Well there is loband TOC which is great for users at the end of the line in China but I personally don’t find it helpful in the context of offline help. You can see my motivation for writing H3Viewer. So the help team recognised that more band-aids on DExplore was not the solution. It was time to bite the bullet and rewrite even if that meant taking a step backwards before moving forward again. With DExplore there was no more moving forward (in fact things were moving backwards).

It may take a while to mature but this new system has a future I think where DExplore was going no where. MS Help Viewer has a good foundation (please wait for the RC or RTM before judging it) and has the potential to become the next general help platform (replacing HTML help). As a general platform the UI will probably be very different. We so desperately need something that will handle large document sets, allows us to write in Unicode, and give developers a rich API (required in an age where UI and UA are blending more and more).

Is this helpful? We live our days in programs like VS and invest a lot of time in them. Change hurts. We are all watching hoping for a good outcome. Brian this is your territory — Have I got the history right? Thanks for allowing me to response.

Re: H3Viewer. I welcome any feedback people care to give please email me. I need feedback. Just remember that the slow access speed (long delays) are due to the current Beta 2 (really Alpha) help engine. The RC release is fast.

Rob
MS Help MVP
www.helpware.net

Posted in MS Help 3.x | Comments Off

Good Press for MS Help Viewer

David, Help Agent is the help engine, so we need to wait until that loads into memory before any help calls can be made. So it is Asynchronous operation once it actually loads and is running.

In the past, new help content would lockup VS for minutes as it installed/merged. This wont happen now. But I take your point that you had to wait for several seconds for F1 help to respond first time.
Agent is a .NET app and so we get that customary long delay as the .NET Framework is loaded into memory the first time. But after that Agent will respond quickly. Currently the Beta 2 release is very unstable (beta 2 for VS, but more like Alpha code for Help Viewer). Be assured that you will see a huge improvement in the RC and RTM releases.
I’m using a pre-RC build and I no longer get Agent crashes. If I manually kill off Agent using the tray icon, Agent reloads and services my request within just a second or two (since framework is now loaded in memory). And once Agent is running I can fire off several help API calls in fast succession (I’m building a full TOC on the fly) and get all responses within 200-300 msec.  Given this help collection of some half million topics that’s quite impressive. And my Win7 test machine is a very old PC.
Another comment is that if your default browser is IE or FireFox… These browser can load very slowly for me. I use Chrome and get a much better experience. Once the browser is loaded it’s faster of course.
Also there will be alternative viewers you can use (as Brain was saying). If you haven’t tried it yet.. please try my H3Viewer.exe — this is basically a DExplore style Help Viewer with full TOC and Index. I can set this as the default VS 2010 and MS HV viewer. I just did a test then
1. Open VS 2010 (default viewer = Chrome). Time for F1 to complete 1.3 seconds.
2. Open VS 2010 (default viewer = H3Viewer customer viewer). Time for F1 to complete .8 of a second.
But it all depends on whether software has been recently loaded. If Chrome was not run today it would takes 3 seconds to load the F1 topic. And if help Agent has not been loaded today then add several more seconds for .NET Framework to load.
Can I just make a general comment (not directed at anyone here). It’s great how everyone has offered fantastic feedback. But please be gentle. The first release of help was basically Alpha. This team started to form only 24 months ago and I think what they have done a remarkable job so far.  The API is the best we have ever seen in a help system. The ability to find and display a topic, from a catalog of half a million topics in less than a second is remarkable.
As Brian was saying this wont be a fully featured release. Please don’t expect it to be totally mature for the 1.0 release. 24 months is just not enough time to ramp up a new team, try out various designs, and deliver something with all the bells and whistles. PLEASE BE PATIENT WITH THE TEAM. They are working around the clock to finish this project. From what I have seen so far it’s outstanding work. The RTM will be even better.
IMHO they have been very smart, in that they spent a lot of time designing a kick-arse engine and API (getting the base system right). A lot of people are complaining about losing features. But hey use another viewer. I did my H2Viewer in under a week and it’s almost as powerful as DExplorer. It will all get there in the end. BTW Great to see posters in Brian’s blog know how to post their opinions without be rude about it.  Nice!! I know the help team have all this great feedback. It’s probably more effective without the bad language and death threats :-)
Rob
MS Help MVP
helpware.net

Hi all,
Just posted this to Brian Harry’s blog and thought I’d post here as well.

David, Help Agent is the help engine, so we need to wait until that loads into memory before any help calls can be made. So it is Asynchronous operation once it actually loads and is running.

In the past, new help content would lockup VS for minutes as it installed/merged. This wont happen now. But I take your point that you had to wait for several seconds for F1 help to respond first time.

Agent is a .NET app and so we get that customary long delay as the .NET Framework is loaded into memory the first time. But after that Agent will respond quickly. Currently the Beta 2 release is very unstable (beta 2 for VS, but more like Alpha code for Help Viewer). Be assured that you will see a huge improvement in the RC and RTM releases.

I’m using a pre-RC build and I no longer get Agent crashes. If I manually kill off Agent using the tray icon, Agent reloads and services my request within just a second or two (since framework is now loaded in memory). And once Agent is running I can fire off several help API calls in fast succession (I’m building a full TOC on the fly) and get all responses within 200-300 msec.  Given this help catalog has some half million topics that’s quite impressive. And my Win7 test machine is very old and slow.

Another comment is that if your default browser is IE or FireFox… These browser can load very slowly for me. I use Chrome and get a much better experience. Once the browser is loaded it’s faster of course.

Also there will be alternative viewers you can use (as Brain was saying). If you haven’t tried it yet.. please try my H3Viewer.exe — this is basically a DExplore style Help Viewer with full TOC and Index. I can set this as the default VS 2010 and MS HV viewer. I just did a test then

1. Open VS 2010 (default viewer = Chrome). Time for F1 to complete 1.3 seconds.

2. Open VS 2010 (default viewer = H3Viewer customer viewer). Time for F1 to complete .8 of a second.

But it all depends on whether software has been recently loaded. If Chrome was not run today it would takes 3 seconds to load the F1 topic. And if help Agent has not been loaded today then add several more seconds for .NET Framework to load.

Can I just make a general comment (not directed at anyone here). It’s great how everyone has offered fantastic feedback. But please be gentle. The first release of help was basically Alpha. This team started to form only 24 months ago and I think what they have done an outstanding job so far.  The API is the best we have ever seen in a help system. The ability to find and display a topic, from a catalog of half a million topics in less than a second is remarkable.

As Brian was saying this wont be a fully featured release. Please don’t expect it to be totally mature for the 1.0 release. 24 months is just not enough time to ramp up a new team, try out various designs, and deliver something with all the bells and whistles. PLEASE BE PATIENT WITH THE TEAM. They are working around the clock to finish this project. From what I have seen so far it’s outstanding work. The RTM will be even better.

IMHO they have been very smart, in that they spent a lot of time designing a kick-arse engine and API (getting the base system right). A lot of people are complaining about losing features. But hey use another viewer. I did my H3Viewer in under a week and it’s almost as powerful as DExplorer. It will all get there in the end. BTW Great to see posters in Brian’s blog know how to post their opinions without being rude about it.  Nice!! I know the help team have noted all this great feedback. It’s probably more effective without the bad language and death threats :-)

Rob
MS Help MVP
www.helpware.net

Posted in MS Help 3.x | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Latest Multi-Touch Screens for Windows 7

Well it was only a mater of time. The next wave of Windows 7 compatible touch screens are here. Great to see the larger machines as well as standalone monitors getting multi-touch. Good for developers.

ACER Computers

http://us.acer.com/showrooms/touch/touchscreen.html

Acer Aspire 5738

Acer Aspire 5738

The Aspire 5738 with 15″ screen (1366 x 768), 500GB Drive and Win7 multi-touch.
The 5738DG models is 3D. Put on you polarized glasses and watch movies and games in 3D.

Aspire Z5610

Aspire Z5610

The Aspire Z5610 with All-in-one design, 320GB HD, 23″ HD multi-touch screen, built in speaker system.

Aspire 1820PT

Aspire 1820PT

The Aspire 1820PT. A convertible (Tablet PC), multi-touch, 11.6″ (1366 x 768 or 1024 x 600) display. Hard disks 160/250/320/500 GB.

Acer TouchScreen display - T230H

Acer TouchScreen display – T230H

Acer TouchScreen display T230H. 58cm (23”) Wide, 16:9 Full HD, Touch, 2ms, 80’000:1, DVI + HDMI, Speakers, MPRII, Black, Height Adjustment, EURO/UK cables, EMEA, adaptive contrast management.

Nice looking display. I’ve just ordered a T230 for myself.

SONY VIAO

Sony VAIO L

Sony VAIO L

Yes there is also a the Sony VAIO L all-in-one series as well.

DELL

Dell now have an all-in-one touch screen as well as a standalone touch screen.

DELL Studio One

DELL Studio One

DELL Studio One.

DellTM  SX2210T 21.5W

Dell SX2210T 21.5″W

Dell SX2210T 21.5″W Multi-Touch Monitor with Webcam

See older posts for other models

Posted in Microsoft, MS Technology, Windows | Tagged | 1 Comment

Signing Help Viewer 1.0 Files

I’ve been having some interesting conversation re MS making us sign help files in Help Viewer 1.0 (Help 3).

So Microsoft’s augments for Signing Help

  • User and Vendor can be certain that help files are not tampered with or corrupted.
  • User can be certain that the help is from a trusted source.
  • In the future Help Viewer 1.x will be everywhere.
    It needs to be secure (unlike CHMs which have the ability to ShellExecute anything).
  • Downloading content from the web (in the future) needs to be secure.

I don’t have a problem with signing Help or reduce the size of attack surfaces. But you can’t force vendors to sign. It’s costly for small companies (> $300 /yr). And signing is not trivial. It takes a lot of time to work through signing.

We are running a Poll on signing in our Help3 Yahoo discussion group. Members are major companies who integrate into VS help. The Poll shows clearly that most companies don’t sign and wont be signing help in the short term.

Windows already has a working security model. Whenever you install something (using an installer) you get challenged with a security warning. Once the user accepts, the install is elevated to Admin mode. There are no more challenges after that point. But currently Help Library Manager challenges you a second time and event blocks silent install if unsigned.

Currently the Help Library Manager wont allow your Installer to install/uninstall/update help unless it is signed. This is unacceptable. The Microsoft future vision of all vendors signing content is fantasy. Certificates are currently too expensive and too much trouble.  It’s a different story for large corporations. However the majority of software companies are small and run very lean. For example Helpware (this site) there is no way we can afford to buy certificates.

Interesting how Adobe corp is handling security on Flash applications. So this is content that can be download from the web and put anywhere on the hard disk. Flash apps have access to your whole hard disk.  So when you run a Flash app you are “always” challenged with a security warning. To disable this security message you need to enter some path information for your app in a protected folder of Windows. This is good since only elevated installers can added this information. Or the user can add the info by hand. Either way the user is challenged using the same security model Windows uses for all executables.

What should Help Viewer 1.x be doing?

  • Work within the existing Windows security model. If there has already been a security challenge, and the install has been elevated, then that should be good enough. Help Viewer 1.0 should not go and challenge again.
  • For unsecured environments (XP OS, or UAC turned off) HLM should always challenge (but not stop unsigned content from installing). There is nothing else on the Windows platform that actually blocks installers from installing unsigned content (Challenge yes. Block no).
  • Do it like Adobe. Help Library Manager always challenges but to remove the challenge on a help file, your installer must write the help file path to a HKLM protected registry location. So the user is guaranteed to see a security message.
  • Signing is good. But should be optional like everywhere else in Windows.
  • There is currently no install/uninstall/update solution for installers dealing with unsigned help. Maybe 10% of companies sign. That leaves 90% of companies currently without an install solution. All these companies  can do currently is give text instructions to the customer explaining the manual steps involved to add/remove help.
  • Help Viewer 1.0 is not like CHMs. The security risks are different. First up all help must be registered through Help Library Manager, which has the option to challenge.
  • Downloading – Again this is not like CHMs. HLM requires elevated privileges to install all help, that’s enough. If you want more then go for the HKLM registration idea.
  • For old systems such as XP or where UAC is disabled, HLM should “always” challenge so the user is guaranteed to get a security warning.

Well I’m starting to repeat my self so enough said.

Please add your own comments below.

Rob

Posted in MS Help 3.x | Tagged , , | Comments Off