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It's just documentation - right? Well, there's actually a bit more to it than that. Of course, we update the content of Books Online all the time, as I've mentioned before. But we've also innovated in the way that we present and deliver the content. I asked Bryan, a friend that works here with me, to let me share this list:
INCLUDEs in Help topicsINCLUDEs make it possible to include the entire contents of one or more topics (usually How To or reference topics) inside expand/collapse areas in a topic.First implemented: SQL Server 2000 Books Online RTM
Feedback system in Help topicsThis system allows customers to rate and send written feedback on a local Help topic. The subject line of the mail contains information about the topic, deliverable type, and release – much more information than in similar systems available at the time. (The feedback link was also available in MSDN Online until 2005.) This system, which has been modified somewhat over the years, is still used in most deliverables today.First implemented: SQL Server 2000 Books Online RTM
Date stamp in updated Help topicsA date stamp is added to all topics updated in a "doc refresh" so that customers can identify them.First implemented: SQL Server 2000 Books Online "Doc Refresh 1"
Books Online updates on Download CenterAn update of Books Online is packaged into an MSI so that customers can download and install it. Updates are available in all languages. (This was a significant work item at the time, because SQL Server 2000 shipped pre-Windows Installer.) Today, we post many deliverables and updates to the Download Center.First implemented: SQL Server 2000 Books Online "Doc Refresh 1"
Integration of feedback systemDescription: This system monitors incoming feedback mail, creates a bug for each item, and assigns it to the appropriate owner for triage. The features in this system have evolved over time – for example, in the early days, each bug had to be manually reviewed and assigned to the appropriate owner.First implemented: after SQL Server 2000 Books Online RTM
Customization of Codezone search provider in DExplore Help viewerDescription: The Codezone search provider in DExplore originally exposed a fixed set of community partners, many of which were not targeted toward SQL Server customers. SQL Server worked with VS to make this list customizable. As a result, SQL Server 2005 returns results only from a SQL Server subset of community partners. First implemented: Visual Studio 2005/SQL Server 2005 RTM
New search algorithm option in DExplore Help viewerDescription: The search algorithm implemented in the Help viewer was problematic in a number of ways. SQL Server raised and escalated the issue. In the end, an option for a different search algorithm was added to the Help UI, and SQL Server made it the default.First implemented: Visual Studio 2005/SQL Server 2005 RTM
Software Quality Measurement data on local Help topic hitsInformation about local Help topic hits is captured by SQM, which allows us to see for the first time the distribution of local Help topic usage within Books Online and other documentation. SQL Server was instrumental in getting this data added to SQM, advocating for the feature and providing resources to test the implementation.First implemented: Visual Studio 2005/SQL Server 2005 RTM
Create separate redistributable MSI for Books OnlineSQL Server 2005 Setup was modified to allow Books Online updates out-of-band from the rest of the product. This design makes it possible to ship more frequent updates and maintain a separate schedule from the rest of the product team.First implemented: SQL Server 2005 RTM
Technology search filtersThe VS2005 release of DExplore supports filtered searches. Most of the filters used in Visual Studio 2005 and MSDN include a very large number of topics – SQL Server chose to implement somewhat more granular filters by technology and language.First implemented: SQL Server 2005 RTM
InfoCenter pagesInfoCenter pages are portals into a particular technology from the perspective of a particular role. They were developed for the SQL Server 2005 release.First implemented: SQL Server 2005 RTM
Change History tables and rollup topicsChange History tables make it possible for customers to see which topics have been updated in a particular release. Rollup topics provide links to all updated topics for a particular release. Both of these features were implemented for the first SQL Server 2005 doc refresh.First implemented: SQL Server 2005 Doc Refresh 1
Content Type search filtersContent Type search filters make it possible for customers to narrow search results to conceptual or programming reference topics. This can greatly improve the search experience in many cases.First implemented: SQL Server 2005 Doc Refresh 4
Windows Live Search macroThis search macro provides customers with a way to do a scoped search from Windows Live that includes only SQL Server 2005 topics in search results.First implemented: March 2007
Books Online in Microsoft UpdateYukon Books Online now appears in Microsoft Update as an optional update. This exposes the updates to a larger set of customers. First implemented: May 2007
More to come...
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