Dynamics NAV and Help: A new world

With Dynamics NAV 2017, we bring user assistance and developer docs to new platforms that makes updates and collaboration far easier than ever before. In this blog post, we'll explain what this move means to you, and we'll invite you to join us in our travel towards a new world.

Developer and IT-pro documentation

With Dynamics NAV 2017, we have moved the developer and IT-pro content to a new location in MSDN:


This is the only location for the content, because we removed cside.chm from the development environment. As a result, it will be easy for you to get the latest version of the content because it's online only.

The content is written in GitHub-flavored MarkDown in a GitHub repo based on Open Source Software. We are still making the final changes, but very soon this blog post will be updated with a link to our coming public GitHub repo. This means that you will be able to contribute to our content, such as suggesting new code examples, or making clarifications in our content.

Dynamics NAV 2017 is one of the first Microsoft products to go live on this platform, so this is new to all of us. But you can see how it will work (almost) on the equally new docs.microsoft.com site.

The downside of being one of the first products on a new platform is that the platform is still evolving. As a result, we are not able to publish the Help for our Windows PowerShell cmdlets online yet. But you still have access to Help for the cmdlets and their parameters using the Get-Help command in the Administration shell or the Development Shell.  Update: We were not able to publish the Help for our Windows PowerShell cmdlets at launch, but now they are available online: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/dynamics-nav/windows-powershell-cmdlets-for-microsoft-dynamics-nav.

Redefining user assistance

In Dynamics NAV 2017, we introduce a new format for Help with an emphasis on 3 layers of user assistance:

  • Get Started
    The user interface is (as close as possible to) self-explanatory.
    This is why you'll notice changes in many page objects and the introduction of new setup guides.
  • Get Unblocked
    Embedded user assistance ("tooltips") to answer most questions.
    This is why many page objects now contain tooltip text.
  • Learn More
    Conceptual topics on Help Server describe scenarios, workflows, and capabilities.
    This is why we removed the existing Help Server content from the product media to create a reasonably clean slate.

All three layers are work in process, but Dynamics NAV 2017 provides us with a platform that we will build on that we will build on in the coming releases. But let's dig deeper into the here-and-now.

Help Server

Since Dynamics NAV 2013 R2, we've received feedback about Help Server and the pros and cons of this lightweight web site and the many thousands of topics that Microsoft shipped on the DVD in each release. For each language, Help Server contained more than 20,000 topics, the vast majority of which did not contain any changes from version to version.

It has been challenging for us to maintain this large library, and we've been told by some of you that you really didn't enjoy the rather cumbersome work of modifying the HTML files - especially since we didn't provide you with any tools but did provide you with very complex HTML that our internal tooling generated.

We have now moved to a new toolset for creating Learn More content that results in far prettier HTML files. You can see this new format in the new, smaller CAB files on the DVD for the RTM version of Dynamics NAV 2017, such as help-en-US.cab. This new toolset is based on Open Source Software and GitHub-flavored MarkDown. The HTML files are generated using DocFx, which results in far cleaner HTML. More about the new toolset in a later blog post.

But where are the docs?

The DVD contains only the new content that we have written using our new toolset. We had planned to provide you with two sets of Help: the new, smaller CAB files with the new content, plus the legacy Help. For technical reasons, this was not possible to do (long story that ends well eventually). So we chose to give you the new Help content on the DVD, and then give you the big packages of rebranded legacy Help later. Some of you disagree with our choice, and we recognize that. But while you wait for us to make the rebranded legacy docs available to you, think about this:

  • If you're upgrading existing customers (or if you are an existing customer), then you already have the content from the Dynamics NAV 2016 DVD. And your current Help Server contains that plus any customizations, even.
  • Depending on your implementation, the Microsoft content for large areas of the application hasn't really changed from one version of Dynamics NAV to the next, as some of you have pointed out in the past.

In other words, most of you can just upgrade to Dynamics NAV 2017 and start using it in your daily work as before. Customizations and add-ons on Help Server are the same as before, unless you choose to convert your user assistance to go the same way as we have: Tooltips and a reduced number of conceptual topics on Help Server.

Update: You can download packages of HTML files for Help Server that contains the Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017 Classic Help. The download consists of 45 CAB files with the content from the Dynamics NAV  2016 DVD rebranded to Dynamics NAV 2017. There are CAB files with the W1 application Help translated into each of the supported languages plus the local functionality for the country/region where that language is spoken. There are also CAB files with local functionality in English. We have chosen to make this a single download so each of you can choose exactly the files that you need. For more information, see Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017 Classic Help Download.

A new world of collaboration

All of this is work in process, and we will publish updates to MSDN frequently, and we'll publish our GitHub repos so that we can collaborate with you on the content. We in the NAV UA team truly look forward to this new world, and we hope that many of you will join us.

In this new world, we use Open Source Software, which means that you can choose to use the same tools as we do: Visual Studio Code, Atom, and DocFx. And you'll be able to fork our coming public application repo and make your customizations in your copy of our source files. You'll be notified if we publish updates, and GitHub will help you merge our changes into your content.

All of this work-in-process is confusing to some and slows down others - we recognize that, and we are working hard on making things simpler for you going forward. More about this in a few weeks, we expect.


Best regards

The NAV User Assistance team


Blog post updated on December 2nd 2016 with link to Windows PowerShell cmdlet documentation online. Also updated on December 5th with link to download of the rebranded legacy Help.

Comments (33)

  1. “and then give you the big packages of rebranded legacy Help later” have you planned a delivery date ?

  2. Quick1034 says:


    New customers does not have Navision 2016 installed. They need the helpfiles.
    Please provide them.

  3. navteam says:

    The blog post has been updated with a link to the download of the rebranded legacy Help.

  4. Giedrius says:

    It would be really useful, if you could create a new post if there is an important update (like publishing NAV 2017 Classic Help) to the contents of the old one, instead of modifying the original post.
    This way all we RSS subscribers would see that something has changed.

  5. Kasper Dan Jensen says:

    How can we re-enable contextual help in the development enviroment – directly when doing AL code.
    Currently all F1 is redirected to a generic url on MSDN 🙁

    1. Ivan Đorđević says:

      Same thing here. Have you manage to resolve it? If yes, can you please update?

      1. navteam says:

        We’re unable to provide contextual Help calls from C/SIDE to MSDN, and that is indeed a big change from before. We’re considering moving the content to another site where we can scope the Search functionality to just the NAV docs, so would that be helpful?

  6. Ivan says:

    This is really bad.
    Firstly you create a lie by copying a few help files, so it looks like the help is available.
    But as a matter of fact, it is just a fake thing, as help is not available at all.
    Secondly you try to sell it as an improvement.
    What was the problem to admit, there is no help, as we did not manage to finish it on time.
    Use NAV 2016 or even better deploy NAV 2016 files with NAV 2017 installation.
    But no you guys decided to make our life a misery.
    So now I have to install NAV 2017 and after that NAV 2016 help server so I can deploy the help files.

    1. navteam says:

      Hi Ivan,
      We’re sorry to hear that you think we’re lying to you. We’ve had some technical problems here, but we’ve tried to be as transparent about this as we could. For your information, you do not need to install a NAV 2016 Help Server. You can get the files you need from this download instead: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=54315
      Essentially, get the package that you need, unpack it, and copy the files to the relevant Help Server instance – just like you’ve been used to when you are adding your own Help files.

  7. Fred says:

    As already stated is the link between the development client and the help ruined. It just always opens the same standard page. But if you search from there you not only get all non-NAV stuff, but also help pages for older NAV versions.

    Furthermore does it seem that the new online help pages don’t have a version tag for NAV2017 any more. This means you cannot add NAV2017 in your search to get the right result.
    And if this is going to be the default policy for future versions it is impossible to distinguish the help for the various versions. While statements can change, added or be removed in new version.

    1. Pallea says:

      Fred, 99% of the changes of NAV 2016 and NAV 2017 propertiy-wise and more are the same, so I simply don’t get it that you consider it a problem that there’s no versiontag saying 2017, and searching is quite easy. Could you please give an exact example where you have af problem to understand it?


      1. Fred says:

        Pallea, I don’t think you understand my concerns.

        Regarding the NAV2017 tagging, I was referring to the future versions NAV2018, NAV2019 etc.. It’s important to know which statements were released in which versions. Especially when you are backporting stuff. Furthermore are statements sometimes revoked and changed. In other words you want relevant information for your version you are working on.

        And regarding the searching. When I search for properties or statements, I also get C# or ASP.NET results. And since I cannot search for a specific version, I also get results for older NAV versions. As already stated these may not be up to date.

  8. Panha DOM says:

    Dear NAV Team,

    I have downloaded Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2017 Classic Help from the link you provided but it doesn’t work with Chart Account part, it not redirect to the exact page, it always show the welcome page, pls kindly provide the completed help files, thanks

    Best Regards,
    Panha DOM

    1. navteam says:

      Hello Panha,
      Have you verified that your language folder for the Help Server website includes the files that give context-sensitive Help, such as N_1.htm. These files are part of the download packages with the legacy Help.

      1. Panha DOM says:

        Dear NAV Team,

        I have put in to folder DynamicsNAV100Help\help\en, but it seem the Help files for Chart Account part doesn’t existed, F1 in another part is no problem, pls kindly help, thanks

  9. Kevin says:

    “More about the new toolset in a later blog post.”
    “All of this is work in process, and we will publish updates to MSDN frequently,”
    “More about this in a few weeks, we expect.”
    Half a year later: nothing.

    1. Blackdiamond says:

      I will appericate a lot if someone will make a video on how to install/update/modify Help Server NAV 2017. It seems like that you need to be a Microsoft genius to understand how this new Help Server NAV 2017 works. Microsoft can you please tell us step by step, pictures or by a video e.g. how to….. so we who are still concern can solve this great functionality and move forward to other amazing projects in NAV 2017. Thanks

  10. Michiel says:

    What is the status of the new help that is going to be available?
    What is the timeframe that we can expect this to be released?

  11. Todd Scott says:

    How about an answer to when you will have 2017 NAV help?

  12. Lars Westman says:

    What tools are we supposed to use to write help content for ISV solutions in order to pass the CfMD test? And how are we suppose to reuse that work when moving to D365? It’s a big challenge to fulfill the CfMD requirement on help files at the same time as the methods for working with help content are chaning.

    1. navteam says:

      For earlier versions of Dynamics NAV and for future versions, our guidance is essentially the same: Provide the right level of assistance that your users need for your particular solution.
      In earlier versions, Microsoft provided a very rich but also very fragmented Help story that many of you then customized and extended for your users. From Dynamics NAV 2017 and going forward, Microsoft provides a different experience with the beginnings of an embedded user assistance (the Get Started and Get Unblocked described in the blog post) with additional information provided on Help Server.
      You can reuse whatever material you already have, and you can choose to move in the same direction as we are towards a simpler doc set on Help Server. As for tooling, we find that working in MarkDown and then generate HTML files using DocFx works well for our purposes. You can read more at https://github.com/MicrosoftDocs/nav-content for on-prem and here for Dynamics 365: https://github.com/MicrosoftDocs/dynamics365smb-docs

  13. Mads says:

    What about NAV 2018? I can only find classic help files download for NAV 2017 on MSDN. Will files for 2018 be made available, or how do we get fieldhelp working on NAV 2018? Thank you?

    1. navteam says:

      Hej Mads,
      For Dynamics NAV 2018, we continue the path of delivering embedded user assistance as tooltips, supplemented by conceptual descriptions of capabilities in Learn More articles. Microsoft will not deliver field-level HTML files for Dynamics NAV 2018 or any later version.

      What is missing in Dynamics NAV 2018 is the context-sensitive links to the Learn More articles. This feature is still pending, we’re sorry to say.

      1. Mads says:

        It makes sense not to keep updating field help, since context help should give the whole picture and provide best help.
        By context sensitive links, would that be an experience like: Pressing F1 on customer card and/or list, and then help navigates to a customer help page?

        Will you please put an update out when context sensitive help is released, and maybe put it on Yammer group, and/or make a new post on the team blog about it, thanks.

        1. navteam says:

          Yep, we’ll announce updates and guidance here on the blog.

          1. Hi,
            In case I’ve missed it: have updates and guidance on the subject of context sensitive help already been made/posted?

  14. shabnam says:

    hi, i have question, can be used negative numbers in the BOM section?

  15. Marcelo Borges says:

    Hello, it’s good to read about all this, but I was wondering, is there any chance we will have Contextual help back?

    I understand that Tooltips are here to help replace some of it, but hovering over columns don’t quite work, so it’s kinda hard to find contextual help on any “List” page.

    Prior to NAV 2017, I would always instruct my users to hit F1 on any field they wanted to learn more about. Now, I can tell them to hover over to get the tool tip, but it’s challenging when it’s a list-page.

    Any ideas/suggestions/working in progress for this kind of help?


  16. EBotha says:


    We are running Nav 2018, and we have an issue with the help. For some reason when we open a page, without clicking anywhere, click F1, the browser navigates to ..main.aspx?lang=en&content=madeira-get-started.html. When we go back to Nav, click on the page, the browser navigates to ..main.aspx?lang=en&content=N_11205251.htm (custom help). It seems as though the ‘page detail’ is not being picked up when clicking F1 without touching the page. Becuase of this we are failing our CfMD Test. Could someone confirm that they are experiencing the same issue?

    1. navteam says:

      Unfortunately, the mechanism that provides context-sensitive links between the user interface (=pages) and the Help does not work for Dynamics NAV 2017 and Dynamics NAV 2018.

      1. So how and when do you plan to solve this? I am facing the Help server issue right now and I somehow can’t believe that I have to manually copy all the help server files from 2016 everytime I install 2018!

        1. navteam says:

          For Dynamics NAV 2017 and Dynamics NAV 2018, the solution remains to use the legacy format for context-sensitive Help. This is not a particular nice experience, but you do not have to repeat the steps each time you deploy NAV. Simply build yourself a CAB file with the HTML files you need, and then use that each time you set up a Help Server instance. You can see an example of how that would work in the CAB files on the product DVD for both NAV 2017 and NAV 2018. You can also get a subset of the HTML files from our GitHub repo here: https://github.com/MicrosoftDocs/nav-content/tree/live/dynamics-nav-app/pages

          A member of our team will be hosting a session at Directions this season, talking about extending and customizing the user assistance for Dynamics 365 Business Central, which as you know gets an on-premises deployment option that serves as a successor to Dynamics NAV. Here, you will learn about a different approach to context-sensitive Help links, but for technical reasons, this method will not be backported to Dynamics NAV 2017 and Dynamics NAV 2018.

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