Friday, March 02, 2007

Hang on, help is on its way 

I have been given permission from CodeGear to blog about some of the new features in the soon to be released Delphi 2007 for Win32, code named Spacely. It seemed like as good an excuse as any to wake this normally sleepy blog from its usual slumber.

One of the major complaints with Delphi 2006 was the quality of the online help shipped with the product. I know personally that I find locating the information I require in the D2006 help to be a lot more cumbersome than in Delphi versions 7 and below.

For instance, when looking up the help for a particular class, often related symbols are listed in the help but with no hyperlink, forcing you to search for that symbol individually as you peruse down the chain of responsibility for the class. And another pet peeve is how all symbols for a class are listed strictly in alphabetical order, rather than also being limited by scope.

Thankfully, CodeGear have acknowledged this as a major issue, and have been taking significant steps to improve the situation. I am glad to say that the D2007 help has improved tremendously in this regard. As a little teaser, below I've attached screenshots showing the summary for the TCollectionItem class, along with details of all members. As a comparison, I've also included a screenshot of the same information from the D2006 help. For the benefit for readers who have not seen the D2006 help, these screenshots preceed the D2007 ones in each example (and are not covered in a big Beta version disclaimer :-)). A larger version of each of the below screenshots can be shown by clicking on them.

You'll note in the above screenshot that the class heirarchy is rendered in a graphical fashion. It is also important to note that each of the individual boxes representing a class in the inheritance tree is hyperlinked to the help summary for the class being shown.

In the above shot, you can clearly see that the members for the TCollectionItem class are grouped by visibility level. These sections can also be collapsed and expanded, as evidenced by the public methods section being collapsed in the screenshot. There is also additional information shown about each symbol in the class, such as whether it is a virtual method.

Now, I don't expect a 100% perfect help system in their first attempt to resolve all the issues in the previous version, but it certainly seems that significant strides have been made in this area. So it seems the Little River Band were right, and Help is on its way :-)

Thanks for the feedback. The guys have been telling me how important help was since I got involved. Delphi has so much power, I guess a little help is required. So yes, Help is on its way.
Thanks for taking the time to stop by my humble blog, Ben.

I am a firm believer in not necessary knowing everything, but having the ability to find the information you don't know. And to achieve this, one of the tools in a developers arsenal should be a comprehensive and easy to navigate reference for their chosen development environment. Sadly this this one area where Delphi has suffered since moving to the Galileo based IDE, so it is great to see that this situation has been vastly improved for D2007.

Kudos to the documentation and IDE help integration teams for such a step up in quality!
Thanks for a great information. Screenshots looks great. I hope that additional code smples will be added to the help!

Hmmm, looks very much like the help that comes with Visual Studio. Is the D2007 help system utilising the new "Sandcastle" stuff from MS?
Yes yes I think is Ms help staff
Good article, good advice as always. This site has another collection of essential Delphi tutorials aimed more at advanced business applications..using encryption, Excel and Word COM.

A great resource:

Delphi Tutorials
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