Help is updating to reflect your recent changes

I recently encountered this lovely dialog box while debugging something in Microsoft Visual Studio 2005. Visual Studio is an Integrated Development Environment (IDE) for Microsoft’s programming languages. In the 2005 version, when one is debugging and encounters an unhandled exception, Visual Studio will pop up a (not so) helpful context box that looks similar to the above image.

Since we have many exceptions that bubble up from our functions, they often have InnerExceptions that are wrapped inside of the current exception. Because the inner exception is usually where the important information about what actually went wrong is kept, I clicked on the prominent “Check the InnerException property for more information” link, expecting the InnerException to then be displayed.

But, instead of the InnerException, I was greeted with this dialog box:

Help is updating to reflect your recent changes

Well this is interesting. Apparently I have made recent changes to something that requires help to update itself. But, I didn’t want to go to help! I wanted to view the InnerException!

Too bad.

Notice that there is no “Cancel” button there? This is also very interesting because the “several minutes” that it is talking about was really 15-20 minutes. During this time, of course, Visual Studio was locked in an unusuable state.

Eventually, when help finishes doing whatever it is doing, a help page is displayed:

This is obviously not very helpful as it doesn’t tell me anything about what is wrong with my application, and I didn’t even want to be here in the first place! I just wasted 20 minutes out of my day!

Some things that are wrong with this:

  • The exception helper dialog box is unclear. It leads me to believe that clicking on a certain link will display the inner exception and does not indicate that it will instead display a help file. (I really needed to click the smaller link below under Actions titled “View Detail…”)
  • I had not made any recent changes. I had been programming or debugging for the last few hours, not making changes related to help files. This was really confusing. The accusatory tone (“your recent changes”) didn’t help matters either.
  • I did not want to be where I was, and there was no way out. The update dialog box had no “Cancel” button, no “Back” button, no “STOP RIGHT NOW AND LET ME OUT” option. To top it off, it used one of those “Infinite Progress Bars.” You know, the ones that don’t actually fill up as time goes on, but keep cycling back and forth.
  • I could not work during this process. Visual Studio was locked behind this dialog box, and because there was no way out, I could not continue working until it finished.
  • The help file was not helpful. Exceptions represent errors that occur during application execution? Seriously? This is ridiculous. I already know this, and it does not help me figure out what actually happened to my application.

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10 Responses to “Help is updating to reflect your recent changes”

  1. Nathan says:

    I can totally empathize. I’ve been getting the same dialog in a different context. Why does it take so long to show what is basically an indexed web page?

    What you said about the help file not being helpful is very true as well. Gone are the days of quick concise help. I hate it too when you press F1 when you have code selected and it brings you to a page that explains that “=” is an assignment operator. Well, duh.

  2. Jim says:

    This is the one dialog box that makes me swear at Microsoft more than any others. F-U Microsoft! I ACCIDENTALLY clicked “help” when I was inspecting a variable in the debugger. ARRRGGGHHH! Now I get to sit and wait 20 minutes because some bozo at Microsoft doesn’t understand how to create a decent help system. Is it really that hard? No, but apparently there’s a group of programmers at Microsoft who don’t know how to do it.

  3. Jim says:

    Oh look! You can’t kill the process either! It just restarts!!! F*** YOU whoever at Microsoft worked on this “feature”. You’re an idiot.

  4. Ramesh says:

    How the hell can such a thing be named “Help”. How pissed off would I feel to have pressed the F1 button instead of 1 while coding and I have to wait for 20 minutes! The previous two times it happened I tried to kill it but it wont end without my VS session. This time I tried to search for a way to get rid of it ending up here.

    Microsoft Ass**les!

  5. steve says:

    This has started happening to me recently but not when actually wanting help, when I close visual studio. If I have more than 1 copy of VS open it does the same for each. It does this every time I close VS now, even tho I’ve let it complete a couple of times. I can’t remember if I uninstalled or installed something that might have affected it, probably did lol

  6. Jeff says:

    OMG this has to be the bane of every M$ developer. And the darkest fear of accidentally hitting F1 during development (always at the least opportune time, of course) has caused me to modify my Environment and REMOVE THE F1 shortcut key. If you haven’t tried this, check it: Tools->Options->Environment->Keyboard. Enter “help” in the “Show commands containing” editbox. Choose Help.F1Help from the listbox then click the “Remove” button. Click OK and never worry about accidentally hitting F1 again (at least until the next time you install VS).

  7. Jeff says:

    I should also add to my prior post that after eliminating the help(less) hotkey and subsequently lowering my blood pressure, I only launch Help externally once and just let it run in the background. I am free to use Visual Studio while the idiotic Help system updates itself for no apparent reason other than to waste CPU cycles and exercise the hard drive heads.

  8. Nathan B says:

    Dear MSFT:
    What Visual Studio really needs is some dialog boxes of an “Are you really sure you want to open help, I mean, why don’t you just google it?” nature, so we can avoid the wasted productivity incurred when we are trying to hit F2.

    From MSFT:
    *** REJECTED ***

  9. Daniel says:

    Guess what, i accidentally pressed F1 and suddenly had very much time to surf the web in search of a way to kill the help monster. I think I might have done it: i went to task mananger, edited the properties of dexplore.exe to require Adminstrator privileges and killed the process, hoping that if VS restarts the dexplore I could just deny the restart. The result was, that dexplore was not restarted automatically, and F1 didn’t start it either. Removing the Administrator requirement off dexplore.exe restores the “normal” behavior.

  10. Nathan says:

    Daniel says:
    …. August 8, 2010 at 1:21 pm
    Guess what, i accidentally pressed F1 and suddenly had very much time to surf the web in search of a way to kill the help monster. I think I might have done it: i went to task mananger, edited the properties of dexplore.exe to require Adminstrator privileges and killed the process, hoping that if VS restarts the dexplore I could just deny the restart. The result was, that dexplore was not restarted automatically, and F1 didn’t start it either. Removing the Administrator requirement off dexplore.exe restores the “normal” behavior. ….

    Thanks Daniel! Worked for me!

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