Slicing Books Online

With all of the content in Books Online arranged into a single table-of-contents, it’s sometimes difficult to find information that “spans” topics. For instance, if you want to find out about general security topics, you’ll find they are spread across many sections of Books Online. Although we try to make this layout as clear as possible, sometimes information fragmentation is unavoidable. Here’s how I deal with it, at least on the DExplorer connected client. (I use a different strategy on the web, one that I’ll blog about later).

The first strategy I use is to look in the table of contents for the “parent” topic. If it’s in an obvious place, I mark that using the favorites feature in Books Online. After I read that topic, I look at the bottom of the page for the “See Also links. These are arranged by category, so I follow those links. If I like the topic, I add it to the Favorites again. I then use the Search feature, making sure that I use the filters that I’ve blogged about before. I also type in the words I know into the “Index” tab. I then add the topics I like to the Favorites that I’m building. After a while, I have the makings of a complete book of my own.

Books Online has some slicing and dicing of its own. Check out the very first topic for a listing in Books Online for a “Category” view of the information. You can also click on the “Getting Started with SQL Server 2005 Books Online” topic for yet another slice of the content. Need more? From the very first page of Books Online, click the “Audiences and InfoCenters” item. Those are two more slices of Books Online that automatically categorize everything for you.

Links and URLS
Books Online uses links and Uniform Resource Locator (URL) strings in the URL bar at the top of the DExplorer, or main help client. you can save those in the "favorites" area and even export them to others.

Using the Filters
This is one of the most overlooked strategies in information retrieval in Books Online. When you first enter Books Online, look at the top of the "Contents" tab. You're able to set all kinds of filters there, so you only see what you want in the Table of Contents (TOC). There's another filter in the Search Area, which limits the results of the search. It's all quite handy.

Using the Index
The next tab in the DExplorer help client is the Index. Type in all or part of a word and the topics jump to the top. If there are more than one topic that satisfies the word or phrase, you'll see another pane at the bottom listing the related topics.

Across the top of the help client are lots of buttons - hover over them to see what they do. You'll find "How Do I" topics, the Search feature, and even an entry into the community to ask a question.

There's more - I'll cover other strategies later.

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