MSDN Instant Answers


Wanted to point out a great new feature that the MSDN team has just made available when searching in the MSDN library. The feature is dubbed “Instant Answers”.

Try this out. Go to msdn.microsoft.com, then click the library tab ( or go directly there by clicking this link ). Now, type “Hashtable” in the search text box. You should see something like this as the first entry in the results:

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The main thing I like about this is the quick access to the source code. Notice to the right of the C# and VB code, there is a little icon. Go ahead and click that. That will bring up a “text” window in the middle of your browser, allowing you to select that code, copy, and paste into your code. Very nice!

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This is a new approach to search results within MSDN, and the amount of content that is ready for this new format is limited, but I think these folks are really doing a great job to make the content as accessible as possible.

What do you think? What do you like about it? Anything you’d change?

Cameron

Comments (11)

  1. Klaus says:

    if this will be done for the complete .NET framework documentation it will be a great step forward for the MSDN library. Currently i prefer to use the local library installed with Visual Studio or Google because the search results of the online MSDN library are too unspecific (but maybe i'm just not be able to guess the right keywords)

  2. Joe White says:

    Very nice! Simple overview, and it gives all the basics: namespace, assembly, C# and VB declarations. I'm skeptical of "common methods/properties", though — four methods will never be enough to give the flavor of an entire class, and who's to define what's common? Perhaps an overview of the constructors would be more valuable.

    Since this is tied in with search, the one big thing I'd like added is… a better search. I'd like to be able to search for "wpf control" (without quotes) and get the docs for the WPF version of System.Windows.Controls.Control, or "silverlight control" and get the docs for the Silverlight version of System.Windows.Controls.Control. Neither of those will currently bring up the actual docs for the Control class — in fact, including the word "wpf" or "silverlight" actually ensures that the class docs won't appear in the search results. I can search for "control", but that will get the WinForms and WebForms stuff mixed in too. The new search will bring up instant search for "listbox", but it's the WinForms version, with no apparent way to get the WPF version instead (the WPF version is in the search results, but there's no instant-search result for it).

  3. Awesome feedback Joe! Thanks for that. I'm passing this right along to the MSDN team…

  4. Iwanna says:

    A "copy snippet to clipboard" button.

  5. Ted says:

    We also prefer a locally installed copy of MSDN.

  6. Ted says:

    I search help

    1. intellisense
    2. google usenet groups – narrows scope to .net language groups, no ads, no registration, no removed pages…

    3. F1 – local msdn

    4. Msdn on the web

    5. The web

    It would really help to see the output from sample code in text format.  Many of the .net examples show how to call a framework method but do not show the output.

  7. bblake says:

    It would be more useful if the naming were a consistent fully qualified name.  For example, when you search Hashtable, it comes up "Hashtable Class".  If you type instead File, it comes up "System.IO.File" or dictionary comes back with "System.Collections.Generic.Dictionary".  Other classes do not return anything all except general search results.  For example, type in console or foreach or directory and only generic search results come back.  If they can make this consistent, THEN it will be useful.  As it is, it's usefulness is limited.

  8. RayStevens says:

    Ther is NO SEARCH TEXT BOX ANYWHERE on the MSDN Libray page so it doesn't work at all!!!

  9. Ray Stevens says:

    Sorry for the last comment. I was on the "ScriptFree" version of the MSDN page; no wonder the Library page seemed so useless and frustrating to me. Maybe you should have the ScriptFree version fixed so it is the "AlmostScriptFree" version so it has all the needed functionality and might even be somewhat usefull.

  10. Moutasem al-awa says:

    This is a must have feature and different frameworks are offering the same, One of the best examples is JQuery documentation where you have usage example for everything.

    Thanks and keep it up

  11. Nocturns2 says:

    I think it's terrific!!

    Thank you!