Keeping up with changes to Books Online

Keeping up with new features of SQL Server can be a challenge. What is even more challenging, though, is keeping up with changes to existing features. Re-reading Microsoft books online is tedious and differences between versions are not always easy to find.

I support a PowerShell utility, QS-Config, which handles generating the configuration files necessary for unattended SQL Server installations. Updating this tool is just one example of when I need to regularly look for version specific changes in Books Online. I seek out new command line parameters and review the changes to previous default settings.

Making version comparisons easy

There is a very handy webpage on changedetection.com which will compare two webpages and show you the differences.

When you go to an MSDN webpage, there is always a version selection drop-down box at the top of the page. These links have the same base URL but with the version number at the end.

BOL-version-select

Once you have navigated to the webpage, simply fill in the URLs for the two versions and click compare pages. Be sure to pay attention to which URL you are putting into the original text box and which goes in the new text box.

compare-pages-fields

Once the page loads, all that you have to do it scroll down the page looking for line-outs and highlights to understand what has changed. In my example, there are a some differences such as new warnings, new features, and changes.

New warnings

New information will be displayed with yellow highlighted text. This is why the placement of your URLs in the homepage is important. It determines the direction in time that you are looking.

Books online compare new warning

New features & changes

Deletions are indicated by a line-out and stay in-line. You can see the changes to the page mixed in with the matching content.

Books online compare new features

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