Stack OverflowIs the "loband" version of MSDN preferable?
[+109] [24] Frank Krueger
[2009-04-15 21:48:21]
[ .net visual-studio msdn ]

I don't know about you, but for me MSDN online walks the narrow line between "unusable" and "painful". Every click leads to a page of 1 line of human content and 500 lines of auto-gen garbage, a reload of the table of contents, code examples in 8 languages, mouse overs begging for attention. It was so bad that I had started writing my own documentation browser [1]!

Today, I discovered the "loband" version of the site. It's incredible in that they threw away everything that made MSDN impossible to use. It's fast. Unobtrusive. The TOC works. And there are no mouse-overs!

Some blog posts describing the move:

Here's an example of how much better it is: XElement in ridiculous form [2], and XElement in loband form [3]. There is also a link to persist low bandwidth view.

Who else prefers the "loband" version of MSDN?

Should this be the default presentation of MSDN content?

(1) Yes - closed as not a real question. - Mehrdad Afshari
(3) Haha. No sense of humor Mehrdad? It's marked as subjective. Relax. - Frank Krueger
Very interesting though. - avakar
(1) Who cares if its not a real question? If it can save one poor programmer from having to suffer through that monstrosity of a website its served a bigger purpose than any other question on SO. - Brandon
added real question - anon - mquander
(1) Booo, might not be a real question but its interesting.. as for lo-band version.. wa-wa-wee-wa! - meandmycode
I agree that it's interesting, but it's not a question... better to submit this to Digg, reddit, etc. - Daniel Lew
Sorry, how is "How do do you see this change of direction on MS's part affecting your own Web development?" not a question? - anon
I'll try real hard not to pick interesting title from now on. Replaced with Neil's question. Now would you all please reopen this so that people can stop suffering around the world??? - Frank Krueger
@Frank you are the hero of the day... week... maybe year... we're in a recession, so you're in the running! - Gavin Miller
@LFSR I guess MS deserves credit :-), but they didn't do a very good job of advertising! I was just worried that the "company men" were going to keep this thing closed! - Frank Krueger
(1) @Frank - A good product is only as good as its visibility; that's why there's marketers... clearly Microsoft's failed. Although does that surprise anyone? :P - Gavin Miller
Well, I stuck my big bazoo in and changed things around. I think it's a better formulation of this question and will lead to a better discussion. I'd really like to keep this question from being closed as I think it's a valid and valuable topic. If someone else has a better formulation, go for it. - Wedge
@Wedge I like the change. Thanks for the clear questions. - Frank Krueger
(1) @Frank while I'm still on my standpoint that "it's not a question," it's funny since wherever it's mentioned in SO (I remember, it has been mentioned in an answer before), people get excited (incl. me). Seems like "broadband" MSDN site sucks big time :) - Mehrdad Afshari
@Mehrdad in life we can either follow rules blindly or think through the ideas behind the rules and act on our own accord. I realize I didn't word this properly as a question, but you could have edited and improved it instead of closing it. You have stated yourself that the information is valuable. - Frank Krueger
(1) @Frank: Agreed. I thought this loband thing is mentioned elsewhere and is effectively duplicate. When I saw the community is still unaware of its existence I tried to upvote (and saw I'm out of daily votes). - Mehrdad Afshari
The place for this is a blog post. - thenduks
I don't see how this is a good Stack Overflow question. This is like asking "Is the "mobile" version of <random language website> preferable?" - Unknown
@null/@thenduks yes we're bending the rules a bit (no more than the "as a programmer, what's your favorite ..." questions), but I think this public service announcement was worth it. I'll take all the blame, I'll go in the Time Out Room, or the Penalty Box or whatever Jeff is calling it. - Frank Krueger
If the Courier font makes your eyes bleed, here's a Greasemonkey script to fix it - mcjabberz
[+31] [2009-04-15 21:52:18] anon [ACCEPTED]

Microsoft finally discover ... HTML?

I've been waiting for that discovery since the first version of .NET. - Frank Krueger
And thanks for the new title! - Frank Krueger
[+8] [2009-04-16 00:07:45] Blorgbeard

Wow, I like it. But there's no language filter?

(7) yeah, it kills me to have to see all the and c++ code samples... why can't you just set a global flag, and have it remember - Nathan Reed
(4) lets provide some feedback on the site. - user15071
[+6] [2009-04-16 00:54:21] James Aguilar

Another low bandwidth site I've been using that has been very helpful is the wikipedia mobile site. Loads up a lot faster than the main site, and is arguably more beautiful. There are some formatting issues from an ordinary browser though (FFox 3 on Linux):

[+5] [2009-04-15 21:53:35] Ionuț G. Stan

Wow, that's great!

[+4] [2009-04-16 09:34:58] Jan Zich

As many above have said, after all these years MSDN has become finally usable, and also but by the way it finally works fine on iPhone/iPod now. Just some little details:

  • I think it would be better if the content took the entire width of the page (i.e. no margins). I realize that it's a graphic element, but I don't think it would look so bad without them.

  • Also, I think it would be better if the section titles in the left column were not shortened. I realize that some of them may be long. It would need some experimenting. How bad could it be if was wrapped? Would it make sense to shorten but make it longer? What about some browser built-in text trimming and a fluid layout?

These are really small details, and even without them, the low bandwidth version is a great progress. It's also a beta – so some things may change.

[+3] [2009-04-15 21:57:53] Frank Schwieterman

How do you search the low-bandwidth version?

from tfinniga's comments:

Use google. But then when you get to a page, hit the loband bookmarklet

(4) They're working on it. See this thead:… - Frank Krueger
(2) Use google. But then when you get to a page, hit the loband bookmarklet. - tfinniga
[+3] [2009-04-16 00:36:48] ShaunLMason

Wow, I am a big fan of the low-bandwidth version.

The current site is a perfect example of KISS gone wrong.

(1) Well, KISS not followed, really... - Michael Petrotta
Very true. Good catch on the distinction. - ShaunLMason
[+2] [2009-04-16 01:00:04] ChristopherWright

I've been using the lo-band version exclusively since I found the link. I recommend it to everyone. All they need is language filtering and I'll be happy.

[+2] [2009-04-15 21:55:38] Tormod Fjeldskår

I find the loband version especially handy when using pages on MSDN as references; anybody can view the page, regardless of browser and bandwidth.

[+2] [2009-04-16 07:42:37] Chris S

I like it but it needs a way of filtering out other languages, as I don't care about the C++/VB/JScript examples (which add a great deal to the page size).

And also the font size should be 1em, Microsoft seem to love dictating the font size to you.

For a decent site search of MSDN, bookmark the below (the editor won't let me make it a link):

javascript:q=""+(window.getSelection?window.getSelection():document.getSelection?document.getSelection():document.selection.createRange().text);if(!q)q=prompt("Search terms [leave selection and box blank to list all pages] ...").replace(/\s\+/g,"%252B");if(q!=null)location=""+q.replace(/\s+/g,"+")+"+site:"+location.hostname;void(0);

[+1] [2009-04-16 03:31:55] Ray Hidayat

Ah, interesting. I use the complete installer of the MSDN library so I have it on my hard drive, which makes it go fast generally, and you can still have the table of contents and everything. I think this "full install" setup would be my first choice, but it's quite a large download. If I didn't have the full install, I'd probably use the loband version, although I can't be sure. The main trouble I've had is Google Chrome seems to not be able to read certain pages of MSDN without squashing it all horizontally.

I usually use a local copy also. But I find that even the local version is plagued by mouse overs and WAY too much autogen content. At least we got rid of the mouse overs. :-) - Frank Krueger
[+1] [2009-04-16 07:37:36] Jox

Microsoft going Google's way - minimalistic :)

like it

[+1] [2009-04-15 22:31:44] Michael Todd

I greatly prefer the low bandwidth version. Much cleaner and faster loading.

[+1] [2009-04-16 08:43:11] majkinetor

I set lowband as permanent.

[+1] [2010-01-04 19:29:43] Kyralessa

I guess it happened after this question was posted, but there's now a "Lightweight Beta" view of MSDN which is even better than the script-free version:

  • Much cleaner tree in the left pane
  • Still can be filtered by language and .NET version
  • Nicer font

Here's the announcement about it. [1]


I disagree. Microsoft desperately needs to hire graphic designers with taste. It looks like Rainbow Bright vomited on the thing. And what's with the ridiculous font? - Frank Krueger
[0] [2009-04-16 01:40:21] Darren Kopp

hmm, my 50Mb internet seems to handle both versions without problem. maybe ditch the dialup?

Agreed. Also, the hiband TOC doesn't reload on every page for me. It's in a frame. - Portman
The TOC is often redundant and takes up too much real estate. <3 dialup, 56k rulz - Lunatik
(1) I'm on a 20mbit line, and the regular version is still painfully slow. - jalf
might be your browser that is painfully slow, rather than the content. i can render the full version FASTER than loband in chrome on 10Mb connection at work. - Darren Kopp
Latency Darren, latency. 5000 miles away in the UK all those secondary requests for CSS/JS/images add up. The last time I looked in detail they don't use caching headers sensibly so even a request followed by a 304: Not Modified takes and appreciable time when all added up. - Duncan Smart
That's a big internet you have there Darren ;-) - MPritch
[0] [2009-04-16 07:57:06] 13ren

Loband is 4 times faster than the hiband version, for me (2 secs vs 8 secs). It also looks a look cleaner and easier to use.

[0] [2009-04-16 08:23:39] Luis Abreu

+1 for the lowband version...much quicker than the "normal" version. Should it be the default? hum...I'd say no, but I'd vote for having a link that would let people know that there's a version which loads quicker (something along the lines of the basic html link you see when you use gmail)

[0] [2009-04-16 14:06:55] Ryan Emerle

Why is it beta? Seems it should be a pretty straight-forward conversion..

This is a testament to the "less is more" philosophy..

[0] [2009-04-16 14:24:27] jalf

Oh... my... god.

They've made MSDN work? I never thought I'd see the day. Thank you for enlightening me. +1 to you!

I can't see why anyone would ever prefer the old version. It's uglier, harder to use, have popups obstructing your view if you dare move your mouse to the wrong area of the screen. And it's always been ridiculously slow, even on fast connections.

[0] [2009-04-16 15:53:58] tpdi

I have Javascript turned off by default, so for me the "highband" version loads as quickly as the "loband", and is essentially the same except that the highband has a larger useless right panel.

[0] [2009-06-10 22:12:22] Chris Barr

I can middle-click scroll now!

[0] [2009-09-22 13:14:54] Robert Massa

Here is a greasemonkey script [1] which adds search to the MSDN loband site.

Just installed it, doesn't work. Sorry :/


[-1] [2009-04-16 01:23:48] Reuben

Can't use this version.. Need the pain.. Have to use use the old version. Cannot quit. Good find though.