This isn't about the woeful help facilities in most "modern" software. That's another rant for another day. With the advent of Desktop Search as a core operating system feature for Vista, I've been asking some pointed questions. Without saying more than that, I'd like to conduct an unscientific straw poll (what other kind is there?) about your usage of reference material. I get to observe a new development shop every couple of weeks (such is the life of a consultant), so I've already gathered lots of anecdotal evidence by observation, but I'd like to hear from a much broader audience. Were I a program manager for something, I'd make every effort for the poll to have some sort of statistical validity, but I'm not – I'm just curious.
There are several different reference libraries that we publish via subscription and downloadable updates: MSDN, TechNet, Books Online, ephemeral SDKs out the wazoo, etc. They're pretty good in each niche. In my opinion, they're much better and cheaper than the alternatives that you can beg, borrow or steal for other competing products (when such documentation can be had at all). But I wonder what fraction of the developer communities actually bothers to install them and keep them up to date?
- If you're a developer who uses Visual Studio (any version), do you install and use the MSDN Library?
- If you're a subscriber, do you install the updates that you get in the mail?
- If you're a SQL Server developer or DBA (any version), do you install and use Books Online? (It's included with the tools unless you do an advanced setup specifically omit it.)
- The reference libraries are updated pretty regularly. Did you know that?
- Did you update all the systems that you have them installed on?
- Do the reference libraries work the way that you wish they would?
- If you don't use these reference materials to answer your day to day questions about usage, syntax, etc, how do you find those answers?
Well, you know what they say about curiosity and the cat. Good thing that I'm a dog person, eh?