NetAdvantage Help Table of Contents Explanation

Tom Puglisi / Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hey, it's me again,

I wanted to spend some time to talk about the NetAdvantage Documentation. When we open up the help, we see this Table of Contents and it seems to overwhelm us due to its size. We have done our best to help organize all of this content in such a way that will make sense. This blog post will help to explain the philosophy behind the Table of Contents (known herein as "TOC"):

 We will use the following online help for this exercise:

Once the Help loads up, observe the TOC on the left hand side of the user interface. The top level nodes consist of:

  •  Getting Started
    • This contains topics that are geared towards someone that may be using NetAdvantage for the first time. Topics include how to add the NetAdvantage tools to your toolbox, how to use the help as well as its conventions, how to get support and several other topics that are a great help to new users to the product. If you have been using NetAdvantage for some time, you can skip reading this section.
  • Windows Forms
    • This of course contains all of the topics that relate to the Windows Forms controls and components.
    • And of course this contains the controls and components that are used for ASP.NET applications.

Wait there's more!

Let's dissect the Windows Forms TOC entry to learn more about the content that you will find. Windows Forms and ASP.NET TOC entries basically contain a similar structure so this example will work for both cases.

  • Welcome, Getting Started, Application Styling, etc
    • These first few nodes that appear directly underneath the Windows Forms TOC entry contain content that is useful to read if you are new to NetAdvantage. You can expect to find information that would help you understand the nature of our products and features. For example the Getting Started topic provides some high level information such as "hey we have these great designers ,so check them out" and "you can right click on a control to get these other cool options".
    • Reading these topics at least once before you start doing any heavy development is a good idea. Imagine if you are a new NetAdvantage customer and you started to build this really large scale application and you did not know of the existence of Quick Designers or Application Styling! Just knowing about these features ahead of time will prevent you from having to build something that already exists OR from having to do something the hard way.
  • Developer's Guide
    • The topics found under this TOC entry is where most developers will be spending their time.
    • What's New - This is the most important node for those developers that can't wait to get their hands on the NEW NetAdvantage version. I know whenever I got my hands on the latest version, I would jump to this section with hopes of reading something along the lines of "Hey, this new property setting will replace those 1000 lines of code that you wrote in your application". Most of the time, that is the case! You can also see the historical list of additions from the previous volumes by simply looking into the Revision History TOC entry.
    • The Toolset - This TOC entry contains topics that represent the different NetAdvantage assets that you get with the installation.
      • Frameworks - This TOC entry contains topics related to any NetAdvantage specific framework libraries. You can expect to find topics on the Infragistics Presentation Layer Framework as well as the Application Styling Framework. These topics discuss how these frameworks operate and how they were designed.
      • Code Libraries - This TOC entry represents any class library that is NOT a control or component. You will find the Excel and Document engines in here. Think about it, if you are building a Win or Web application, you simply use the Excel or Document classes from within your C# code (these are the libraries themselves, NOT the Excel OR document exporter which have their own components for Win and Web).
      • Assemblies - These topics represent any topic related within the scope of the assemblies themselves. Expect to find an extensive list of the controls and their dependent assemblies, a list of the resource keys and their corresponding strings (e.g. The WinGrid has several strings within its rendered surface that cannot really be accessed through property settings. These strings can only be accessed through the Resource Customizer which is discussed in the Assembly Resource Strings TOC entry.)
      • Controls and Components (Bingo!) This is indeed where most developers will be spending their time. This is where you look for WinGrid, WinChart and the rest of your favorite controls and components. WinGridExcelExporter is also in here because it is indeed a component that exists in the Toolbox and you can drag it onto your Form's component tray.
        • WinGrid (or any other control)
          • Understanding WinGrid - I recommend that any developer new to the control should read this. This is where you learn all about what this control does, how it does it and WHY you may want to use this.
          • Getting Started - Think of this as your Hello World app with the control.
          • Using WinGrid - This TOC entry contains lots of child topics that when read will result in a developer that is well versed in the use of the control. Think of these topics as tutorials that step you through typical use case scenarios. These topics should definitely be read so that you can essentially get practice on how to accomplish certain tasks with the control.
          • API Overview - This TOC entry simply jumps you across the Help system directly to the API documentation (Explained in more detail below)

You have just been taken through a tour of the upper portion of the NetAdvantage Help. This is what we like to call the "Developer's Guide". This is a compilation of conceptual, code and walk through topics that are designed to speak to the developer directly with the intention of getting the developer up to speed in the most efficient and painless manner. The "API" documentation on the other hand is accessible through the "API Overview" TOC entry as described above OR it can be accessed directly under the Windows Forms TOC entry. The API Documentation is essentially the Intellisense tooltips that show whenever you are accessing the control properties, methods and or enums. The Documentation team here at Infragistics compiles this information along with an entire database of code snippets and then merges it together to create API documentation that has relevant code snippets to help with understanding the use of a member.

 Now that you have been given a tour of the NetAdvantage Help System I encourage you all to review the Docs whenever you can. The docs can teach you alot about the controls and ensure that you are taking advantage of all these features and functionalities. Trust me, in the past, after building an application, I would go through the Help and say "Hey! I had to build that! I didnt know the product could do that intrinsically!"