How do you find the information you need?

Exchange Server TechNet TOCIf you've installed Exchange Server, there's a really good (ok, near 99.999%) chance at some point you've needed to look at the documentation to figure out how to do something. It's a big product. There's a lot of stuff you can do with it. But when you need to look something up - how do you do that? I'm interested in how you find information that you need to complete a task. My goal is to use information I gather from your feedback to help us as we think about the documentation experience in the next version of Exchange. The rest of this post me firing questions at you. 🙂 It'd be really great if you could let me know your thoughts.

When you need to find information on how to do something or how something works, what's your first step?

  • Do you go to the Exchange Server TechNet Library and follow the table of contents (TOC - pictured right) to the node you need?
  • Do you use search? When you use search, do you go for a help topic in the product documentation on TechNet or do you go for the community blog, forum, etc? If you don't go for the product documentation, why is that?

When you look at the product documentation in TechNet, how important is the TOC to you? Do you use it? If you do, how does it help you to find the information you need?

If you arrive at a topic on TechNet from a search query, and that topic doesn't have the information you're looking for, what do you do next?

  • Do you click around in the TOC
  • Use the More Resources panel on the right-hand side of the page
  • Back out to the search query and try another search result?

How long do you stay in the documentation looking for the right answer before you back out to the search query?

  • Immediately
  • After clicking around a bit
  • Never (meaning you then use the TOC to find the relevant topic)?

We do have anonymous, generalized, site usage information that gives us some insight into some of these questions, but I'm really interested in how you find content, whether you find the TOC useful, and how often you use it. Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts.


Comments (7)

  1. Depends on the goal:

    Troubleshooting / Syntax etc: Most of the times I end up TechNet – or anywhere for that matter – is after I queried Google for keywords (sorry, Bing doesn't do a proper job in this case). Customers and technicians follow the same path.

    Reading / Planning: For unknown topics, I might browse through the topics for a decent overview.

    Official Statements: When verifying support stances etc I sometimes use the search option on the MS or Technet site.

  2. Brent Tuggle says:

    Use search first, if that doesn't have the desired result, I tend to click around the toc.  I then may search again, or fall back to google/bing, trying MS official results before falling back to blogs etc.

  3. Andrew Mazz says:

    I do rely on the TOC a lot.  I was very dissapointed when Microsoft stop making the TechNet library available for offline download to TechNet subscribers – Bring back the download 🙂


  4. Tony Redmond says:

    I typically search with pretty precise terms (such as the name of a cmdlet), but I suspect that I am an untypical user in that respect. It would be good if the "More Resources" pointed to additional sites outside Microsoft that illustrated the real-world use of cmdlets (for example) or provided a more in-depth discussion of a topic. I know that it's hard to keep this stuff up to date and you'd probably be worried about how Microsoft might be perceived to stand over the quality of the contributions, but I think it would help to knit together the overall body of knowledge that's available about Exchange.

  5. BrianR says:

    I download the CHM help file to my PC and keep multiple version of it. Then I search and find the content I want from inside of the locally installed help file. Don't tend to use TechNet unless away from my PC as I find the autoscrolling of the left hand menu to the bottom in IE annoying, as you cannot move down a topic without scrolling the menu up first. Fix the navigation and I'll probably use it more.

    Please keep the CHM file download option as its useful to have when traveling, but maybe make the TechNet site support HTML5 offline use as well.

  6. John Cook says:

    I search direct or use the chm. Although the chm is useful,

    I would like to see the help for these products

    made available in word or pdf etc so they can

    be used on other platforms.


  7. Serkan Varoglu says:

    I use search if I can not get the result I am looking for, I then go around TOC to find a similar subject. If still not satisfied, I usually search Technet forums, blogs and search engines.

    In addition, I would appreciate documentation with more examples; sometimes examples do not reflect possible scenarios.

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