Document explorer versus useful data

There is a trend in the tools coming out of Microsoft that is driving me nuts and in my opinion significantly hurting productivity.  This trend is the shrinking of the amount of data that appears on the display and requiring more mouse clicks to get there.

For driver writers this trend is most obvious in Document Explorer 8 which is used to display the Vista WDK documentation.   Comparing it to HTML Help Control 5 that was used for Windows Server 2003 SP1 DDK the previous version will show you what I mean. 

On opening the DDK documentation you have two major panes, the pane on the right goes from the toolbar to the bottom of the window, giving you a large amount of information, on my display (1280×1024) about 60 lines or a full page.  When you open the WDK you see an extra pane on the right, called index results that takes away about 12 lines on my display or roughly 20% less useful data.  

Now the second assault on data occurs when you search, with the DDK I get 36 terms on the screen, with the WDK I get 27 or a 25% drop in data.  Worse yet, the search display is now a tabbed window in the data area making toggling between several elements of the search more cumbersome.

Of course index results mentioned previously also make thing more painful, since a large portion of the time you click on a kernel API in the index, instead of seeing the API in the data pane, you see some page about a use of the API, so you have to go down and click the index results to get the API.  As an example go into the Vista DDK documentation, and choose ZwCreateFile in the index, I doubt most of us are looking for TDI Kernel-Mode Client Interactions” when we look up ZwCreateFile but that is what we get.

Microsoft is doing all this at the same time that displays are going to wide screen models with 13% less vertical pixels.  All of this adds up to taking longer to get the information needed to develop or check a driver, making it more likely that the implementation will be rushed and unreliable. 

I don’t blame the WDK documentation group, the tool is a corporate standard.  Perhaps the folks who designed and approved this trend have become so used to Power Point that more that six lines of data at a time is too much for them.   Hopefully, Microsoft will wake up to the problem, at the recent WinHEC a feedback session was asked “How do you search for WDK help?” and the overwhelming answer was Google!


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