How to add help for ActivityDesigners?

Topics: User Forum
Jan 6, 2014 at 10:35 AM

in our current WF4-project we make heavy use of custom activities. Now we'd like to add online help in order to guide the users. Using XML-documentation located in the interaction logic-file does not work, as pressing F1 will only open "Developing Applications with the Workflow Designer" (online:,d=hv.2%29.aspx). In comparison with pressing F1 while having selected a default activity, like Sequence, the appropriate help (see,d=hv.2%29.aspx) is displayed.

How can I achieve this behavior? I suppose it's working somehow by using conceptual content, but I'm unable to find out how to add the link between the designer and help itself.

Jan 6, 2014 at 8:22 PM
I don't know anything about Workflow so I can't offer anything specific. If you are creating the designer or the entities that are used with it, there may be a property you can set to define the help ID that Visual Studio uses to find the help topic. If you are using a built-in designer, that may not be possible. The XML comments used to generate help topics can be found from code if you highlight a member name and hit F1 but a designer doesn't really have a similar interface for that to happen.

Jan 7, 2014 at 12:24 PM
Ok, I found out how to do that and thought it might be a good idea to share it. Here's what I did:

First I've enabled the debugging of the online help within Visual Studio. Following the instructions at this page I've added the required registry key (short transcription just in case the link is dead in the future):

Navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\VisualStudio\11.0\Dynamic Help and add the value "Display Debug Output in Retail" = "YES".
The open Visual Studio (in my case 2012) and select Help->Debug Help Context. This will open a side pane in which you can see the current keywords.

Et voilá: for workflow designers the keyword the system is looking for is the activityname itself + ".UI". Usingthat as an F-Index keyword provides the needed entries in the help file.

So everything is working now as expected. Maybe this is something you should add to the help pages of Sandcastle itself?

Best regards and happy coding!

Marked as answer by EWoodruff on 1/7/2014 at 8:24 AM
Jan 7, 2014 at 4:24 PM
Thanks for the info. I'll see about adding it to the SHFB help file too.