Recently I've been looking at various extensibility possibilities of Visual Studio 2008. After having successfully done a proof of concept I have thought, that ideally, I would never want to have to leave my development IDE while working on a SharePoint solution. Preferably I would like to have all the tools I need and all the shortcuts inside Visual Studio and run them with one single click. Wouldn't the life be great?
Just today I have stumbled upon a great feature inside Visual Studio. I've been working with the IDE for a couple of years now, but haven't really used it. I haven't even read about it, to be honest. It's called Dynamic Help.
What Dynamic Help does is it is supposed to display links to help topics to subject depending on the context of your work. For example: imagine that you're working on a Master Page and you would automatically get a list of related resources, like how to create a Minimal Master Page and how to complete the most common customization tasks: all in one place and without leaving the Visual Studio. Sounds great, doesn't it?
The Dynamic Help can be activated either using the Help > Dynamic Help menu or CTRL+F1, D (for the Visual C# 2005 keymapping). Unfortunately out of the box, the dynamic help doesn't do much.
Looking at the customization possibilities of the Dynamic Help, I have found out, that you can easily provide your own lists with links and attach them to various context attributes. That is when I decided to start a new project: Visual Studio 2008 Dynamic Help for Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 developers.
My idea is to create a full contextual map of SharePoint, to keep us - SharePoint developers - developing as long as possible without having to leave Visual Studio. Yet, because SharePoint is really huge, I'm not able to do it on my own. I need your help, your ideas and your feedback. What are the items that you're missing, have you found any useful resources on the Internet which should be, in your opinion, included in the Dynamic Help? Let me know. It would be great to create (two)weekly releases containing the latest resources and your feedback. My SharePoint specialization areas are Web Content Management (WCM) and structured and repeatable deployment, so I will do my best to cover these two subjects.
Meanwhile, I present the first release of the Imtech Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Dynamic Help. It is absolutely free and you can use it without any restrictions.
Download: Imtech Microsoft Windows SharePoint Services 3.0 Dynamic Help (107KB)
...and let me know what you think of it!
The latest version will be available @ </go/wssdynamichelp> and the latest release notes @ </go/aboutwssdynamichelp>.