Getting Help in Flex Builder

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When I open the Help Contents in Flex Builder 3, the first thing on the page is Tip! Learn how to filter and reduce your search results by reading "Searching Help." The problem is that on my installation of FB3, this is a dead link. I checked it this week on my husband's installation, and his link is dead as well. I eventually figured out what this page would have told me, but I feel like I was really slowed down in those early months when I had no control over the search results that would flood the results page when I searched for anything. A couple of weeks ago, I found the Flex 2 version of the page, when I no longer needed it.

But I thought I'd share a bit about how my help contexts are set up, because I find that these really cut the amount of time I need to mine relevant information. I have two main contexts that I use most of the time. The first is "How to." This gives me access to the "how to" instructions on most of the topics that I would be working on. I have unchecked AIR for now, since I'm not working in AIR these days.

My second help context is just the Language reference. I find that my pattern is to read the how to for a general overview of how to approach a problem, then I switch to the language reference context for the specific details (like property values and what they do). Sometimes I use the "Find in Language Reference" option on the Help Menu, but I don't like it as well, because it resets my help context.

It seems to me that there are certain search terms that are very difficult to get to in the Language Reference context, because they are inherited by many components. Since the name of the component that is being inherited from occurs early in the documentation for it, it will often appear in the search results before the results for the component itself. So I've learned that there are a few ways around this. If I am searching for List, I type in ListBase. List will actually come up in the search results ahead of ListBase. If I am looking for UIComponent, I click on the first thing that inherits from it and use the link in the "inheritance crumb trail" to go to it. If I am looking for AdvancedDataGridItemRenderer or AdvancedDataGridGroupItemRenderer, I look for AdvancedDataGrid and click the advancedDataGridClasses Summary. This gives the advantage of allowing me to easily get from one class to another.

In the next few weeks, I'm going to try to post a few Tips and Tricks about how I use Flex Builder itself to be as productive as possible, independent of any code I might be using. I'd like to invite you, the readers, to consider these posts to be an invitation to discuss their own tips and tricks by posting comments. Hopefully, we can all trade our best productivity tricks and become more productive together.