New local help viewer available in Visual Studio 2010 SP1

The new local help viewer I’ve been blogging about is now available with Visual Studio 2010 Service Pack 1. MSDN subscribers may download SP1 immediately with general availability on Thursday. Microsoft Help Viewer 1.1 is a dedicated client application that lets you:

  • Navigate the table of contents in a fully expandable tree control
  • Look up topics via keyword index and sync to the table of contents
  • Save favorites
  • View history
  • Use shortcut keys for quick access to features (cheatsheet here)
  • Launch the Help Library Manager from within the viewer


The local viewer requires that your help preference is set to local mode.  Visual Studio continues to provide help in your default browser if your help preference is set to online.

Here are the steps you’ll need to take to set up the SP1 local viewer.

Step 1: Install Visual Studio 2010 SP1

Download Visual Studio 2010 SP1 and follow the installation instructions.

SP1 will upgrade previous versions of the Microsoft Help Viewer to version 1.1 and it will uninstall the Help Viewer Power Tool (if present).  It will not, however, replace any third-party help applications you may have installed.

Step 2: Configure the local Help Viewer

  1. Launch Visual Studio 2010 and select “Manage Help Settings” from the Help menu.
  2. In Help Library Manager, select “Choose online or local help” and set your preferred help experience to “I want to use local help.”
  3. If you have not already downloaded help content, select “Install content from online” in Help Library Manager and choose the content you want locally available.

If you’re currently using a third-party viewer and you wish to switch to the SP1 local viewer, you have several options.  In the specific case of H3Viewer, you can change the default viewer in the Options menu.  Another option is to uninstall the third-party viewer using the Control Panel.  You can do this before or after installing SP1.  Once the third-party viewer is successfully uninstalled, the SP1 viewer automatically becomes the help experience for Visual Studio 2010.

A more advanced option is to remove the registry setting that configures the third-party viewer as the default help viewer.  To do this, you’ll:

  1. Launch Regedit with administrative privileges and browse to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Help\v1.0
  2. If the HelpViewerProgID entry exists, right-click it and delete it

Please remember to backup your registry (or create a System Restore point) before performing this operation.

Providing feedback on this viewer

A key goal of this release is to restore productivity for developers who were skilled at using the Document Explorer while providing a user interface that is more approachable for new customers of Visual Studio.  How did we do?

There are a number of ways you can provide feedback on the local viewer:

Finally, to learn about other changes in SP1, check out Jason Zander’s SP1 announcement post.

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