Help Viewer 2.0 + Visual Studio 11/Windows 8 Developer Preview

I've been rather quiet lately - but for good reason! (We've been really busy!)

Hopefully, by now, you've been hearing a lot of buzz about what is coming in Windows 8 and some great developer experiences coming in Visual Studio 11. Lots of this has been demo'd at the //build conference this week.

You can view the //build conference keynotes here:

You can even download the Windows 8/Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview bits here:

Jeff Braaten from my organization has done a nice summary of some of the new things you can expect from Help Viewer 2.0 on Third Blog from the Sun.

Some highlights:

  • Switch from online to offline and back with a simple menu option in the VS IDE
  • Help Content management and updates now built directly in the Help Viewer (no need to re-launch viewer, etc.)
  • No more tray app
  • Lots of performance improvements
  • Advanced Search operators - title: and code: (these are a personal favorite!)
  • The Visual Studio Help runtime is now the Windows 8 Help runtime!

Just to be really clear about that last point - it is the Help runtime from Help Viewer 2.0 that is in Windows 8 and not the viewer itself. Windows has their own Help experience that they drove off the work we've done on the help runtime. So while this is not the ".chm killer" so to speak, it is good progress.

There are many other features that have been getting baked into Help Viewer 2.0 that will more clearly come online as we get closer to Beta and RTM. Some are true innovations in Help experiences in my (not so humble) opinion. Jeff aludes to some of these as filtering features in his post. Others will particularly light up a number of Visual Studio Industry Partner (VSIP) and localization scenarios. Stay tuned as we move towards Beta and RTM for more details.

As always - let us know what you think!

Comments (10)

  1. Geoff Knoll says:

    How do you plan to better support third parties help locally? One issue we run into with our customers is them wanting to leave their help viewer in online mode to take advantage of your online content, but want our help locally.  They are consistently having to change from local to online.  Granted the switch in the IDE will be nice, but a way that third parties can call the viewer with either online or local would be so much nicer. 🙂

    Other then that, everything sounds good; waiting on a machine right now to install the bits so I can play around with them.

  2. Thanks Geoff – you'll see! 🙂

  3. Steve Goodman says:

    What is the command line installer engineers can use to install the help?

  4. Ethan Zhu says:

    I have installed Visual Studio 11 Developer Preview, and Help Viewer 2.0 was working at the beginning, but one day suddenly I found that the Help Agent was not shown in the icon tray and not found in Program FilesMicrosoft Help Viewerv2.0

    I have tried both repair, and uninstalled Help Viewer then repair, but Help Agent was still missing

    Can somebody help to tell me how to correctly reinstall the help viewer 2.0? Thanks

  5. @Steve – thanks for your question! I hope the info I sent separately has helped.

    @Ethan – VS 11 does not use an Help Agent tray app. That was removed for VS 11. Was there something specific from the Agent that you were looking for? VS 11 talks to the new Help Viewer directly rather than through the ms-xhelp:/// protocol.

  6. @Paul thank you

    My exact problem is

    When I do "Use Local Help", there is always "Srcript Error" Messagebox pop up with the error message '"addToCollapsibleControlSet" is undefined'

    And I have to click "Yes" many times to see the help page

    and the icons on the page are not showing with red crosses

    The problem is still not solved after trying "repair" and "repair after uninstall the help Viewer"

    Can you advise that how to solve this problem? Thanks in advance

  7. @Ethan – can you please try uninstalling and reinstalling the content?

  8. Help viewer 2.0 cannot be pinned to the Windows Taskbar and my MS Connect issue on this was closed with "By Design".

    Could you explain the rationale behind that design decision?

    I pinned and launched v1.0 that way and use it all the time when I want to look at things. v2.0 really disrupts that flow.

    I opened a uservoice issue request to fix this issue but in the meantime can anyone offer a workaround?…/3078675-allow-help-viewer-2-0-to-be-pinnable-to-the-taskba

  9. Malcolm Dickson MSFT says:


    In HV 1.0 the Help exe falls back to assume a VS catalog.  For Help Viewer 2.0, the content store is structured differently so that we could support the idea of dropping in vendor specific content stores.  There is a bit more to this story in that the HV 2.0 uses the same Help runtime codebase that is in Windows8.  We made some changes to the content store folder structure for Win8 to support an easier drop in of vendor or product specific content.  

    As you can see from the Help Viewer launching parameters below, a catalog name needs to be included.  This tells the Help Viewer which catalog set of content to load.  A pinned Help Viewer 2.0 exe would not contain the catalog parameter – hence the Help Viewer would not have any content context – would not know which catalog to load.  We decided not to code a fallback because the Viewer supports other non-VS products (non-VS catalogs) that are built on top of the VS ISO Shell.

    "C:Program Files (x86)Microsoft Help Viewerv2.0HlpViewer.exe" /catalogName VisualStudio11 /helpQuery method=f1&query=msdnstart /launchingApp Microsoft,VisualStudio,11.0 /sku 3000

  10. @Malcolm Dickson: Thank you for the explanation!

    I can create a desktop shortcut with the command line you show and that does much of what I need.  

    I cannot pin that either but I should have enough information to make my own tiny .exe which simply launches HV with the parameters I need and can pin that.

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