We want to make Help all you need

Jason Chlus

On the Visual Studio team, we aspire to deliver higher satisfaction across all areas of Visual Studio with greater awareness, connectivity, and productivity. With this in mind, we’ve been investigating the age-old “Help Menu”. This is just the start of a series of experiments we’re trying, and we want your (ahem) help to improve it. This change aims to connect you to resources that will better unlock Visual Studiodocs, getting started material, our social media, Developer Community, and your subscription information. 

The new help menu in Visual Studio 2019 version16.11 (Download Here) 

Before vs After

Image Picture1  >  Image Picture2

As you can see, we have added lots of resources. Here is a list of how you can connect with the Visual Studio team: 

  • We want to hear from you! Use Send Feedback to let us know what features you want to see! 
  • Join Us on Social Media to connect with the Visual Studio team and chat! 

We also added resources to help you get started with Visual Studio. We think that this will also help existing Visual Studio users learn some new tricks: 

  • Watch the Tips and Tricks videos on how to take your Visual Studio skills to the next level. 
  • Get Started with helpful videos and trainings to bring you up to speed on how to master Visual Studio. 
  • Utilize the Keyboard Shortcut Reference documentation page to figure out what keyboard shortcuts are essential to you and learn some new ones too! 
  • Do not miss new features that can impact your workflow by staying up to date with Release Notes. 
  • Get excited about what is coming to Visual Studio with the Roadmap and learn how you can be a part of that plan! 

Lastly, I want to emphasize the My Subscription flyout. Most users who’ve purchased Visual Studio Professional or Enterprise (or have had it purchased by their organization) have a Visual Studio subscription. If you have a Visual Studio subscription you may not know about the broad collection of additional benefits that are included! This menu item will give you access to: 

  • The subscriber portal to start using all of the subscription benefits included for free with your subscription. Offers change based on your subscription type, but here are a couple examples of what you might be missing out on: 
    • Up to 6 months of Pluralsight courses where you can find hundreds of courses around C#, ASP.NET, Azure, Angular, React, and more. 
  • Product Keys to assist with offline installs, and to unlock all the products you require. 

I’d encourage you to visit the Subscriber portal on a regular basis to stay up to date with your Visual Studio subscription. If you don’t have a Visual Studio subscription, check out our free Dev Essentials program. 

We would like to thank everyone who provided feedback on Developer Community and Twitter for helping us design these improvements. 

We’re planning more experiments on helping you find useful resources. We look forward to learning from you what you want to see in the product. If you have a suggestion, please leave your comments on this Developer Community Ticket. We look forward to hearing from you and learning more!


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  • Michael Taylor 0

    Sorry but this is a step backwards in my opinion. Imagine that you have just arrived in a foreign country and are trying to find your way around. There is a sign with a large set of options on it. The first option is about getting directions. The rest of the options are related to checking your travel account, reading about recent updates to the station, privacy policies and the weather outside. All useful information unto themselves but to someone just needing help it is completely overwhelming.

    In my opinion the goal of the help menu should be to be as small as possible so the focus is on exactly what the help menu is for – help. Anything that you might want to add to that menu should at best be a submenu. For example My Subscription and Register Visual Studio are competing to me. If I have a subscription I don’t need to register. If I register I might or might not have a subscription. Wouldn’t a simple submenu that combines them be better?

    Same with all that new stuff in the middle – check for updates, release notes. If I just installed VS for the very first time I have the latest version and if I’ve never used VS before I don’t care about the release notes either. Why is this taking up 3+ menu items rather than just being consolidated or in a submenu?

    So I believe this is a radical step backwards as someone who teaches people new to VS. It is overwhelming to someone who just needs help.

  • Joe Woodbury 0

    Why does a one-time action–“Register Visual Studio”–take up residence in a menu?

    • Jason ChlusMicrosoft employee 0

      Hi Joe, Thanks for your feedback. This is on our radar to get fixed and remove this item from users that are already registered. This will be getting fixed soon in one of the upcoming updates to the Help Menu.

  • cs 0

    More focus should be on making it easier to acquire and consume help.

    Offline help needs improvement for these obvious reasons.

    * lack of access to the internet
    * to reduce bandwidth usage
    * to stop wasted developer time acquiring/organizing offline help (often repeated by different developers)
    * to allow “reading” off device (i.e. printed)

    But docs.microsoft.com makes that difficult:

    * only “pdf” versions of a “docset” that docs have chosen to be “Download PDF” are able to be quickly downloaded for offline
    – for anything else you have to manually go through each node and “print” that nodes page…a time consuming process

    * it’s not possible to go to any “folder/group” in the tree and print or download its children
    e.g. If I want to read up on the “NET CLI” (https://docs.microsoft.com/en-gb/dotnet/core/tools/) and get ALL the collection of “pages” related to that section I can’t quickly

    * it would be nice if a “download” of a “set of pages” could be done as separate entities i.e. 1 file per “page” rather than one big PDF – i.e. use the “filename/filesystem” as a “cheap” way to index pages

    * provide the ability to “download” topics/pages as .MD files instead (after all that’s the source of the help in github after all) – so that someone can use an .MD viewer to read it instead.

    * the formatting of the pdf is suboptimal i.e.
    – you get a huge “Contents” preamble, but no page numbers/references are used…thus a physically printed copy is impossible to navigate
    – the formatting makes paper printing wasteful e.g. lots of wasted space, and “section titles” are to big, and also use a “filled blue background”…which means lots of wasted ink / paper
    – it assumes/relies on being a digital pdf for navigation (i.e. click on item in contents to navigate to it)….there is no “index” at the bottom like a “book”.

    Acquiring help:

    * reduce developer time wasted (in various ways) i.e.
    – multiple developers downloading the same help all the time
    * provide the ability to snapshot offline sets of help documentation in an efficient/repeatable way e.g. via scripting
    * “Download PDF” assigns a “guid” as the filename….so the first thing one has to do is choose one’s own scheme / way of naming the help that has just been downloaded……causes inconsistency and possible duplication of download


    * needs improvement….relies too much on “the web” as the indexer……..it’s too noisey, and not focussed enough…..and as PDF’s relies on the PDF viewer…..which is too basic
    * if one has installed certain Workloads in Visual Studio then ALL searching should be specific to only those workloads and/or temporarily focus to specific workloads.

    The problem with docs.microsoft.com is that it can change at any time, it’s possible to for links to die, that entire doc sets are “archived” or not even be archived – people like stability. Look back at what happened with the old MSDN docs sites and the old Microsoft Blogs sites – whole “important” articles lost or hard to find/discover now, and “comments” lost, and whole sections “archived” off.

    • Ian Marteens 0

      I totally agree.

  • Larry Smith 0

    For me, I would like to see better integration of the code analysis “Errors, Warnings, Messages” codes. All to often they are not linked to any actual Help content, but take you to a web search result of the code. I’m now forced to read various (contrary, incorrect, or speculation on what caused the analyzer to produce the code) old and out of date responses.

    If it was deemed important enough for a rule to be created for an analyzer then the code rule author (team) should also be required to produce the companion help artifact that should be delivered along with the rule.

    This is important for two reasons. First it shows that you have concrete evidence and a solution for the rule. Secondly its provides a quick intentional response to a developer to keep them on track.

    Can’t say how may times these search results have wasted 20-30 minutes and did not provide a adequate resolution. (Not to mention that brilliant glimpse of an idea I did have 30 minutes ago has now completly vanished.)

    • Jason ChlusMicrosoft employee 0

      This is being considered in the next experiment. Great feedback Larry, Thanks

  • JesperTreetop 0

    On the one hand I fully agree with what you intend to accomplish, to make it easier to get a handle on some things, where the tutorials are and so on, to enumerate the concrete actions you might want to take or questions you may have. Being able to jump to the subscription sites is spot on, for example.

    But on the other hand – Visual Studio is an enormous program that has completely different, both overlapping and distinct, use cases, technologies and “workloads”. Maybe you want to toggle C++ optimization settings. Maybe you want to deploy a database project. Maybe you want to edit a resource or an icon. Maybe you want to find a .NET library. Maybe you want to learn what C++ coroutines or F# lambdas are, how to map a computed column in Entiry Framework Core, how to install a Python package, how to set up Webpack or Parcel or a React build step, learn XAML markup extensions.

    Some of these are from different planets. Some of these have help living entirely and primarily inside the Visual Studio ecosystem, some entirely outside. Going to Get Started in the Help menu, what am I even going to get? Help on Visual Studio, the skeletal IDE? Help on the installed workloads/technologies?

    Just like Visual Studio lets many of these things be possible to coordinate, it should let documentation and help fit right in in a connected way too. This is a deep and wide problem, but it could start with your own technologies. There are symbols inside or connected to NuGet packages; why should we not be able to link proper API documentation too? As in the literature, not just the XML documentation comments that always seem to stop at “this is what this parameter or method does”, which is like trying to make sense of a forest by looking through a straw.

    Microsoft gave up on local help a few years back, deferring to the online help, and I think that’s a shame. The online help is much improved and loads faster than it used to, so it’s not terrible, but it could be a much better help than it currently is. It could be reactive to what you’re doing, what you have set Visual Studio up to do.

  • Jorge Morales Vidal 0

    Hi Jason,
    This is a really good change for the Help menu; however I wonder if any possible new change coming for the menu will be available for VS 2022 or VS 2019 as well. I’m planning to update to version 2022 next year, so I hope any new change is still available for VS 2019.

    Thanks for your hard work, guys!

    • Jason ChlusMicrosoft employee 0

      Hi Jorge, VS 2019 is now in a finalized state and future updates to the Help Menu will only be available on VS 2022.

  • John B 0

    It’s even more cluttered, but I appreciate the help menu attention. Suggest:

    – Move Send Feedback, Explore Feature Requests, and social media into the existing “send feedback” dropdown in the main UI. Remove them from the Help menu.
    – Move updates, release notes, roadmap into a submenu.
    – Move Tech Support, service status, performance manager into a submenu.
    – Rename performance manager to “performance diagnostics”.
    – Move subscription, registration, and privacy into the user’s avatar dropdown in the main UI. Remove them from the Help menu.

    • Jason ChlusMicrosoft employee 0

      Thanks for this feedback 🙂

  • Rudolf Jan Heijink 0

    If I need any help, I usually type my question in a search engine, which in most cases leads me to StackOverflow. In general this works better than the official Microsoft documentation. It would be very helpful to provide more usage examples and explain concepts used better. I think my main problem is that I tend to fall into some reference section, which does not explain why a feature is there (in most cases it concerns .Net classes). Sometimes I see a number of alternatives and it may be very hard to make the best choice. Or, in other cases the documentation leads me to application types I do not use which adds a lot to the confusion. You cannot solve this with a menu.

    I appreciate the effort tough and I am aware how hard it is to provide proper documentation.

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