Visual Studio Extension for the Microsoft Help Viewer. To be used with Visual Studio 2010

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by WangZiyuan | September 12 2012

I think it must be better than H3 viewer which make my vs2010 to crack on Win XP.

by 任真 | June 23 2012

it works!! Thanks a lot!

However when I try to use the "Search" box in this tool ,it occurs a bug and result a crach .It said helpLibAgent.exe has a problem and has to close ,and the the page show the "HTTP 500" message. what it happened?

by ChuckOp | April 19 2011

Very disappointed. When launching from the Help menu, a message saying:

Microsoft Visual Studio
Exception has been thrown by the target of an invocation.

Is presented. Have not been able to find a workaround.

by Dzmuh | February 12 2011

by Vadim Milichev | January 27 2011

Could not use it at all.
Pressing "Help Viewer Keyword Index" causes:

Microsoft Visual Studio
Exception has been thrown by the target of an invocation.

by MDoeven | January 06 2011

Great. When I updated a week ago, I couldn't find the help index window. I really cannot understand why it has been removed. Using two screens, the help index was always available.

Thanks for giving that window back. Actually one of the first extensions I ever needed.

by MichaelBate | November 05 2010

Great extension, addresses a major problem with VS2010.

BUT I don't see anyplace where I can report a bug.

Frequently when I start up VS, I get a notification of an exception in the Help Viewer Keyword index tab. It doesn't let me copy and paste this message. I could take a screenshot if the developer is interested.

Michael Bate

by dirtroadracing | June 30 2010

by Hermann Seib | June 07 2010

It would be really great if it was coupled with the F1 key; at the moment, context-sensitive help can't be coupled with this extension (unless I'm missing something that should be more obvious).

While H3Viewer makes the "Help Experience" in VS2010 a little bit less painful, I'd prefer to get help in an _internal_ viewer; switching between applications for no apparent reason at all drives me nuts.

by ____Sam____ | May 19 2010

This is great. Provides exactly what I wanted. Integrated index and shows help within IDE. It has some small bugs, but nothing too worrisome.

by Drazen Zoric | April 30 2010

Ryan you are GOD!
Thanks a lot on embedded help with TOC like in VS2008!

by Fabian Schmied | April 28 2010

This is perfect! Thank you so much, Ryan. Installed and set embedded VS browser usage - neat :-)

by Martin Richter | April 27 2010

First step in a better future... ;)

by Maximilian Haru Raditya | April 25 2010

by snakealpha | April 22 2010

What a nice extension it is.With its help I feel it is possible for me to put up with the new Help Viewer of Visual Studio 2010.

Please excuse my poor English T_T

by Pavel Minaev [MSFT] | April 20 2010

Just epic. Don't like the external browser viewer, mainly because I prefer the index list to not scroll when I scroll the page contents. This handles that nicely, and, all in all, just looks better.

by Greg Duncan | April 16 2010


Source code available anywhere (to help us learn the Help Viewer API, etc)?

by e.e. _ | April 16 2010

Smashing, fabulous addition. I was a heavy user of the index in the old system and found its absense quite a step backwards. This nicely fills the gap.

by Skywing-vL | April 15 2010

Definitely a lifesaver for those used to the old style VS help system. Index + integrated browser was exactly what I was looking for.

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  • How to Install
    2 Posts | Last post February 10, 2011
    • For those unsure of how to install a VS Extension please see..
      Bloody great extension Ryan thanks for making this available so soon after RTM.
    • Hi!
      This seems not to work with VS 2010 Express.
      The installation of the .vsix displays "This extension is not installed on any of the products currently installed" (translated from french).
      And, directly in VS, HelpViewer is not listed in the online Extension Manager.
      I tried to paste the .vsix file in my VS appdata directory too, but it is not recognized.
      Any idea ? Is the extension compatible with the Express versions ?
  • Bugs
    8 Posts | Last post November 10, 2010
    • Let me know if you find any bugs, and i'll get to them as soon as i can.
    • This extension makes a lot better. Thanks for creating it. I had posted yesterday on the channel9 forums about how awful the new help system is.
      After installing your extension I had a few issues remaining. Search is still a bit wonky (not too sure what you can do about that), and pressing F1 in the test editor bypasses the your extension completely. TOC sometimes begins appearing in the help contents even though I have it turned off in the extension.
    • F1 calls are still going to be serviced by the HelpLibAgent, and not by this VS Extension.  This extension was basicaly to provide an integrated Keyword Index.
      I'm curious, is your issue with the new help system the lack of an index, related to the TOC, or something else?
      I'm part of the team that's responsible for the help viewer, so here's your chance to provide direct feedback :)
    • Personally, I greatly dislike the fact that the tree on the left scrolls with the rest of the page. I keep having to press Home to get back to top once reading to the end of the article to navigate elsewhere.
      The inability to properly resize the tree is also annoying. It took a while to discover the sizer button in the first place, and then to figure out that you're supposed to just click it (and not drag it). Even then, a proper solution that'd let me drag it to get precisely the width I want would be much preferred.
      I also liked the old-style index with its find-as-you-type functionality, because it lets you start with something that "might be right", and immediately see the actual options that are available.
      Note how all three points are taken care of by your extension, however :)
    • > I'm part of the team that's responsible for the help viewer, 
      > so here's your chance to provide direct feedback :) 
      * When the Help Library Agent starts it pops up a balloon tooltip telling me that it's started. I also need to manually stop it when I'm done using help
      * I can't resize the divider between the contents "tree" and the document on the right
      * I can't view "nearby" content pages via the list on the left. I get sibling nodes and parent nodes, but not children. I also cannot "explore" nearby content pages - it requires a large amount of clicking and I can never get a clear view of all of the content options available to me on a subject.
      * There is no index
      * Search is not very good - only 10 items are shown per page. There is no way to know what the contents an article is - no mention of the platform in the search results - ATL? C  ? .NET? 
      * There is no way to switch to .NET 3.5 or 2.0 content.
      * The Help Settings window does not match the Visual Studio 2010 visual experience. The text on it is blurry (WPF issues?). It has a "Settings" link on the top right - "Settings for Settings"? The sub pages show "Cancel", which is confusing since it returns to the previous page rather than cancelling the dialog. Selecting "Check for Updates" does not give me an option to only update a subset of the content - I'm forced to download all 1192 MB.
      There are some good things - the dreaded "merging help indexes" is gone and there is now a way to update offline content... very nice. 
      All I really want is something similar to Document Explorer - a standalone app, no web server (ie/ use an async puggable protocol such as ms-help), a Contents and Index "isolated" from the document so that it doesn't "reset" change position when selecting a document, and favorites/bookmarks. That's it. 
      The first time I showed VS2010's help to a coworker he said "Ohhhh.. it's just like Java!". Trust me, it wasn't a compliment! Everyone I know is still using VS2008's help.
    • constructor points to 404 file not found page.
      When I use the index to navigate to "CountdownEvent" it shows some entries for about.., all members, constructor, methods, properties.  If I click on "constructor" it opens a help page with a 404 error.  The URL is this:
    • I've found a 'logic bomb' in external viewer code. If it's set to use the internal viewer it's fine, but using an external viewer (Firefox in my case) opens a new window for every topic that's highlighted. So scrolling down the topic list by holding down the down-arrow key attempted to open 15 or so separate Firefox windows - it then crashed both VS and Firefox. Note, this is particularly the case when Firefox is not initially loaded - it seems that the 'open window' messages get queued, but focus stays on the index or ToC allowing more messages to queue up.
      On the plus side the index implementation is actually better than the 'missing' one; brilliant work, thanks.
    • TOC doesn't work for me: on clicking any item there, a 404 error page is displayed (help is in local mode, the URLs are all , VS internal and external browser give exactly the same results).
      The problem is that 
  • Exception has been thrown by the target of an invocation.
    1 Posts | Last post September 27, 2010
    • I hit an error dialog with "Exception has been thrown by the target of an invocation."
  • Unable to browse with keyboard
    2 Posts | Last post August 19, 2010
    • Hello Rob
      Thank you for H3Viewer.
      There's a disappointing problem with keyboard shortcuts. Really impossible to browse mainly with keyboard.
      When the focus is on a frame control e.g. Contens tab, there's no way to browse page backward and forward and to scroll the help page.
      When the focus is in the page (let's click on page), some shortcuts are not working: Ctrl-Left, Ctrl-Right. And Ctrl-N opens the IE, not a new tab.
      As well there's no way to switch focus from the frame to the help page not touching the mouse. 
      The IE browser control cause such problem in most applications. A possible solution would be to overlap the page by a transparent window and pass through all mouse events, reverting the focus to the frame every time.
      Important shortcuts would be functional at any state of the focus:
      	Ctrl-Up,Down – page scrolling.
      	Alt-Left,Right – backward, forward
      	Tab – move to next link on page
      	Enter – open link
      	Ctrl-Tab, CtrlShift-Tab – next/previous help tab.
      	Alt-Up,Down – next/previous topic (in TOC order)
      P.S. I hate to jerk the hand from keyboard to mouse. Don't you?
    • Missed. Moderator please delete the thread
  • Wish List
    11 Posts | Last post June 16, 2010
    • Persistence now works great thanks Ryan.
      Wish list for the future :-)
      * TOC Tab - with full TOC
      * Ctrl+Click items (or Search button) to open in new page tab (IDE).
      * Shift+Click items (or Search button) to open in default browser. 
      * Would rather standard Ctrl+Shift click than the target check box option (open in IDE by default).
    • Those are good suggestions Rob.  I'll add them to the list.
    • Ryan, do you have an actual EXE associated with this extension? If you did then we could make the Agent registry item point to your viewer.. HelpViewerProgID=<ViewerPath> and then you could direct all F1 help calls to open inside the VS IDE (or in def browser according to your options). That would please some developers I think.
    • There actually isn't an extension, it's just a tool window that runs in proc with devenv.exe so we're sort of stuck.
    • Another wish list
      * Requires at least 3 characters before refresh the index;
      * Delay refreshing the index while user is typing;
      * Dock the HelpViewer at left of the embedded browser, or vice versa (if possible)
      Thanks, Ryan, this extension is awesome;
      Maybe you can use pipes to create communication with an external EXE and handles F1 call.  
    • I do actual have a slight delay for faster typers (albeit very small delay), but i can increase it.  perhaps i'll add the min number of characters to a config file/reg key. Is there a reason other than perf why you'd want a minimun set?
      As for dockable left of the browser, you should already be able to do this. Just grab the title bar and move it over.
    • 1. F1 should also open internal VS-Browser when the option is set in HelpViewerKeywordIndex.
      2. Missing full TOC
    • Love it- especially the standalone viewer. Only thing I miss from the browser is Ctrl scrollwheel to zoom content in/out.
    • I too would like to see an option to redirect F1 keypresses to the integrated VS web browser.
    • Any chance of adding another option besides "Use my default browser" and "Use the embedded VS browser"? I'd love to invoke H3Viewer instead!
    • finally got around to adding the TOC, and i cleaned up some encoding issues, so download the latest to get it..    I'm also doing some investigation around getting F1 to pop into the IDE browser as wel.  Stay tuned.
  • Cannot get this to work correctly
    4 Posts | Last post May 04, 2010
    • I've tried installing this three separate times over the last week... each time the extension doesn't work and I get the same error (visible on the index tab):
      "Unable to connect to remote server: Help Agent unavailable, attempting to restart"
      I've tried running as Administrator (I don't do this normally), doesn't help. If I attempt to search for a specific term through the extension's UI, I see that the extension is attempting to connect to but apparently nothing is listening there.
      This sounds like a great extension... help?
    • That message usually occurs when the Help Agent isn't running.  Can you confirm that you've set your help settings to 'Local' vs. 'Online'?  Via the IDE, Help-->Manage Help Settings.  This will launch the Help Library Manager where you can choose online or offline help.  
      Also, what happens when you just hit F1?
    • I'm getting the exact same thing. I've verified that my help settings are set to 'local', and when I hit F1, it brings up help in IE at  I also see the Help Library Agent icon in the task bar.  Any help would be appreciated, as I've gone back to VS2008 for documentation; the 2010 help system is horrible.
    • John Can you get any offlnie topic to render via the browser?  what happens when you try to use the extension.  Also, are you using VS RTM?
  • Code snippets formatting
    7 Posts | Last post May 03, 2010
    • When "Display TOC in page" option is turned off (and why would I want it on, when there's the index toolwindow?), code snippets in pages get mangled. For example, here's the first VB snippet from String.ToString as it should look (with TOC enabled):
        Public Overridable Function ToString As String
        Dim instance As Object
        Dim returnValue As String
        returnValue = instance.ToString()
      Here's the same one with "TOC disabled" (which, so far as I can see, just adds "&embedded=True" to the URL:
        PublicOverridableFunction ToString AsString
        Dim instance AsObjectDim returnValue AsString
        returnValue = instance.ToString()
      As you can see, the keywords are all jammed together. It also does this to line breaks occasionally.
    • interesting.  Yep all the TOC selection does is add a query string param that the help runtime evaluates.  It appears that the resulting HTML is mangled in few cases (the transformation is done through via the core help code) when the TOC is left out.  I'll look into that one
    • Paul O'Rear and I also got reports that some users saw code snippets with words jammed together. However on our PCs (any browser) we could not reproduce the problem. If I did a "view source" on the page I could not see a reason why the words would be jammedtogether in code snippets. Very simple text formatting. Pavel I wonder if your "view source" shows correct text or words jammedtogether?
    • "View source" doesn't quite help here, because the original page source doesn't contain syntax highlighting - just plain text code snippets within <pre>. It seems that highlighting is done by JavaScript dynamically once the page is loaded, and it is that which messes up formatting. I tried it with Opera's source viewer (which shows the source corresponding to the current updated DOM, rather than originally downloaded one), and that one shows the <span> elements for keywords jammed together in the source (whereas in the correct version, they are separated by spaces, a single space between each closing </span> and the following opening <span>).
      This doesn't seem to be browser-specific, either - IE8, Firefox and Opera all show this problem.
    • One thing of note is that H3Viewer somehow avoids this problem. Though, looking at its URL field, it doens't use "embedded=True" - not sure how it gets rid of TOC in content pane.
    • That's interesting because I embed the IE component in the H3Viewer window. You would think it would show the same problem as IE8.
      Re: Show\hide embedded TOC... I actually inject JavaScript into each page to hide the TOC. So when you Hide the TOC in H3Viewer I make that DIV or Span section invisible, and the "
    • @Rob: that would explain it - the layout problem only appears if one uses "
  • What is the meaning of "Display TOC in page"
    1 Posts | Last post April 27, 2010
    • I am using C++ nearly all the time. 
      I can see no different behaviour when using the option "Display TOC in page".
      What is the meaning of this flag!
  • F1 still opens an external Viwer window
    1 Posts | Last post April 27, 2010
    • I would like that all help is shown inside of VS?
      I can the option "Use the embedded VS browser" but pressing F1 in a source window still opens an external browser.
      Is there a way to chnage that.
  • Incorrect default viewer
    3 Posts | Last post April 20, 2010
    • Thanks so much for this tool - it looks great! I just did a quick test and had the "Use my default viewer" box checked and it brought up my selection in Google Chrome instead of IE (which is my default viewer).
      Has anyone else seen this? 
    • Hi Katy,
      It appears that Chrome maintains control over the reg key for HTTP even when IE is set to default.
      I bet that yours says chrome.exe.
    • Actually, this is my fault.  I was doing determining the default browser very poorly.  this is fixed in the latest version.
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