Microsoft launches new documentation initiative

May 4, 2016 | 15:20

Tags: #msdn #technet

Companies: #microsoft

Microsoft has announced that it is engaging in a major effort to improve the accessibility and approachability of its documentation, launching a new dedicated subdomain:

Announced in a blog post authored by Microsoft's Jeff Sandquist on behalf of the team, is described as a 'preview release' which concentrates on documentation related to the company's enterprise mobility products. The effort extends far beyond this, however, with the overall plan being to migrate all product and service documentation onto the site - with, its creators claim, considerable advantages in accessibility and readability.

'The first thing we did was evaluate our existing content infrastructure TechNet and MSDN. Both sites are built on a 10-15 year-old brittle codebase with an archaic publishing and deployment system that was never designed to run on the cloud,' explained Sandquist. 'We realized that to get the overall experience right we needed to start from scratch; from this effort comes – a new hope for documentation at Microsoft.'

Features of the new site include improved layouts with a larger font size and set content width, improved navigation and subject categorisation, the display of an estimated reading time at the top of each document, shorter article lengths with longer topics split into logical chunks - though Sandquist promises the ability to download a single, larger PDF document for printing or offline access will be coming to the platform soon - and a responsive design. The community is also being invited further into the documentation process: each article has an edit button which provides access to the page source, in the popular Markdown language, to which changes can be made and submitted as a pull request.

Perhaps the biggest change, though, is in the URLs themselves. Where Microsoft's documentation has typically been hidden behind unfriendly machine-generated page names like 'dn646983.aspx,' pages are now given longer but human-readable URLs that offer a clear insight into what's waiting at the end of the link. Thus far, though, Microsoft has not hinted when it plans to begin migrating its vast array of documentation to the new site.
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