Who cares about offline help, anyway?

Silverlight is a web technology, right? So is it reasonable to assume that all of you have access to the web when you are developing your Silverlight applications?

One question we’re trying to answer here at Microsoft is whether anyone will even notice if we stop supporting F1 and Intellisense when you are using Visual Studio to develop Silverlight applications, or stop integrating the Silverlight help collection into the Visual Studio help system.

We’d like to stop guessing and put the question to you; our customers. If you have access to the Silverlight documentation on MSDN, do you really need (on a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is you don’t need at all, 10 is absolutely essential):

Silverlight topics integrated into the Visual Studio help collection?
F1 support for Silverlight?
Intellisense support for Silverlight?

Add your comments here and we’ll compile and report the results here in the coming weeks.


Dawn Wood [MSFT]

Silverlight Documentation Manager

Comments (25)

  1. Purrts says:

    When learning a new technology having help and intellisense on hand is a must.

    I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to online help and MSDN can’t deliver the page for one reason or another.

    By opting for web only help (and/or intellisence if that can be done) would increase the frustration level several notches at least and would be a great way to insure that Silverlight or any developer product would lose interest.

  2. odhan says:

    This is a very important question.

    IMO local help is really important, there’re times when you don’t have a valid Internet connection (for example at customers office it’s hard to get an account to connect, no wifi, no one knows the login etc).

    So, local help is 10++

    On the other hand getting up to date online help is also an important feature about 8/10.

    But, cause there’s a "but" : MSDN help is UNUSABLE because of the left hand tree that takes hours to load ! So you got you help page, you’re happy, but you have to wait and wait to scroll down the page and read the text cause the whole tree is not fully loaded.

    You NEVER read this tree, you DONT need it, but since it is not loaded you CANT access the whole content of the interesting page.

    The most often now, when google give me a link on MSDN I try before ALL OTHERS links NOT being on MSDN before chosing MSDN ones cause I know I will make a nervous breakdown waiting the tree to load before reading what I’m looking for…

    So, PLEASE, I ask to knee, suppress this @§*! tree (or load it in async mode) and perhaps online help will useful !

    thanks in advance taking this request into accound, really.

    (else , thanks also for the big job trying to document all this stuff)

  3. MichaelGG says:

    F1 support – 1 — I don’t recall ever hitting F1 on purpose inside VS

    Offline help – 8 — many times you can’t get online or with a good connection. We use Silverlight for published but restricted (non-public-web-facing) applications, so assuming web = public Internet is invalid.

    IntelliSense – Over 10 — I can’t imagine not having IntelliSense; in fact, I don’t even see how someone could think people would not notice IntelliSense missing. In fact, that’s what I hated most about Blend: no XAML IntelliSense.

  4. BenHayat says:

    Intellisense => 10 Are you kidding me. It’s like a blind man without his cane 😉

    Offline => 5 Offline is fast, but it gets old quickly, when SL is continuously growing.

    Online => 8 I really want to use the online to ensure that I’m getting the latest updates, but somehow, MSDN help is VERY slow while accessing Online. But that would be my choice.

    Hope this helps!


  5. Herthoren says:

    I think that:

    Intellisense – 10

    It’s a must.

    Offline docs – 9

    You seriously never developed without having an active internet connection? I don’t think developing for the web change too much in that sense. What’s when you’re working on train or something? When your ISP crashes you gotta stop developing too?

    Actually I think the documentation is most important when you’re working offline. When you’re online you can find a bunch of good articles on almost any topic you’d have a long time to figure out from docs anyways.

    F1 – 5

    Well, I never used F1 on purpose neither… so far:). Now I see it’s somewhat quicker than opening up msdn and typing in the required name. It’d be good to have it with SL, but without doubt the least important thing out of the three.

  6. marco.chila says:

    I say both. You can not decide for us. Ones will prefers online while others offline.

    Keep the same way that you are doing today with Visual Studio.

    See you.

  7. JoeW says:

    Yes, offline access is still needed – sorry.  On site, on the road – there are many places where there’s no connection.

    I was hoping that we would get a much better help system.  Something more like the Times Reader – where help is always local and automatically synchronized with MSDN online.

    And much much much faster.  I remember when F1 used to get you help in under a second.  

  8. endquote says:

    Wow, I’m surprised this is even being considered.

    Offline help is great whether you’re online or not. It’s faster, easier to search, and the F1 trigger is extremely useful. I’m surprised by those above that haven’t discovered the utility of F1.

    Even if offline help did go away, Intellisense is an absolute must. People have a hard time getting up to speed on the APIs as it is, and taking away the easiest method of discovering the details would be a terrible mistake.

    So, tens on all of it for me.

  9. Jim Lynn says:

    Intellisense – 10 – I hope you were joking about removing this.

    F1 – 8 – not as essential as Intellisense but I use it fairly regularly

    Offline help – 10 – I develop offline sometimes on my laptop so lack of integration into offline MSDN would be a real problem.

  10. MichaelGG says:


    "I’m surprised by those above that haven’t discovered the utility of F1."

    Well I just tried it again (last time on purpose was years ago). 20 seconds, then VS displays its most useless dialog "Delay Notifcation" — the one with the Switch To…, Continue Waiting, and Cancel Operation (greyed out) that does absolutely nothing.

    It’s now been 4 minutes and the "Help Update In Progress" is still running. (Core2 2.4GHz, 7200RPM disk, 2GB RAM). Just for fun, I opened MSDN directly. Load time? About 3 seconds.

    So, perhaps that’s why I’m suspicious of the utility of the F1 key. For the last several years, I cannot remember any time it opened help that was useful (mostly it goes to an error page) or timely (I’ll end up killing the VS process, since it’s now been over 5 minutes). This isn’t specific to this machine; I’ve had it happen on several other (much beefier) machines.

    It’s not like it’s hard to find stuff in MSDN; the index is fast and spot-on, and I usually keep MSDN open ayways. (MSDN Search is another story…)

  11. Shai says:

    Intellisense – 10

    Offline docs – 10  – and should be updated when online.

    F1 – 6

  12. David Anson says:

    8 for some kind of offline access to the docs. Folks just don’t always have fast, reliable internet access. And MSDN can be too broad at times; it’s nice to be able to automatically restrict the scope of the search to just the Silverlight content.

  13. Mark Ingram says:

    Intellisense is a must. It’s the reason I love Visual Studio so much. Without Intellisense I might as well use notepad.

    Offline docs, not so bothered about it. But I would like to keep F1 support, if there are no offline docs, just find the item in the online docs @ msdn.microsoft.com.

    Offline docs are useful when they work though because they are a lot faster than waiting for a page to load.

  14. pete.sykes says:

    Intellisense is one of the great productivity aids in VS.  You should not, under any circumstances, consider reducing its coverage.

    Offline help is also a must for two three main reasons: (a) I often work without an Internet connection; (b) Internet connections fail periodically and (c) speed of access to the Internet (or even of the Internet itself in parts) can frequently be, putting it mildly, sub-optimal.

    Oh, and I use F1 quite a lot.

  15. JRodgers says:

    I like the offline help a lot, that is a 10 for me.

    Intellisense – I agree with some of the previous posters, this should not even be a question!  I am all for it.

    Thanks for the poll.

  16. Daniel Carey says:

    10 – Complete Offline support. The most secure network is the ‘one not plugged in’ (of course that might make it a uni-net). When I’m building/testing sensitive code, my ethernet cable is unplugged. 🙂 Yeah…..there’s at least one like me out here.

    Thanks for taking our feedback.

  17. BobStrogg says:

    I agree entirely with the comments on Intellisense.  It’s the single most critical VS feature for me and saves me huge amounts of time (often meaning I don’t even need the docs).  I’m just going to assume the comment about removing it was a joke 🙂

  18. Rocky Moore says:

    Yep, it is a must!  There are times you just do not have a connection and need the help offline.  Intellisense is a must, I value my time too much to be without it.

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  20. DonBurnett says:

    I cannot believe this is even a question being asked..

  21. tbasallo says:

    VS has F1 support? 😀

    Intellisense is essential and crucial to daily life. In many instances, it IS my help. I’ll scroll through the pop-up and find what I’m looking for.

    My issue with offline support is it can get outdated – especially with SL. Additionally, online (as searching) will also yield various ways to do something with supporting rationale.

    While I haven’t used offline support in a while, it’s only been because I have been connected. I’ve used SQL’s BOL a lot and it proved very handy.

  22. benRollag says:

    Intellisense  – 10 Please don’t even think about taking this away

    Offline docs – 1 I don’t really use it

    F1 Support   – 10 The first thing I use when I have a simple issue

  23. nathanjphillips says:

    I agree with everyone else that Intellisense is the most vital help that the IDE gives us when developing. I’m not so worried about offline docs, but I have started using F1 again recently. It’s not very good and often doesn’t work, but when it does it’s quicker than searching. When F1 doesn’t work I usually close the offline docs and go to Google, often then ending up at the MSDN library online. I have to say I’m confused by the people complaining about the slow loading content navigation tree – I have it collapsed by default and then it doesn’t seem to slow things down.

  24. Tiana says:

    F1 – 10

    Intellisence – 10

    Offline docs – 9

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