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Updatable Help Overview


Updated: March 23, 2012

Applies To: Windows PowerShell 3.0

This document provides a basic introduction to the design and operation of the Windows PowerShell Updatable Help feature. It is designed for module authors and others who deliver Windows PowerShell help topics to users.

Windows PowerShell help topics are an integral part of the Windows PowerShell experience. Like Windows PowerShell modules, help topics are continually updated and improved by the authors and by the contributions of the community of Windows PowerShell users.

The Updatable Help feature, introduced in Windows PowerShell 3.0, ensures that users have the newest versions of help topics at the command prompt, even for built-in Windows PowerShell commands, without downloading new modules or running Windows Update. Updatable Help makes updating simple by providing cmdlets that download the newest versions of help topics from the Internet and install them in the correct subdirectories on the user's local computer. Even users who are behind firewalls can use the new cmdlets to get updated help from an internal file share.

Updatable Help is fully supported by all Windows PowerShell modules in Windows® 8 and Windows Server® 2012, and its features are available to all Windows PowerShell module authors. Updatable Help supports only XML-based help files. It does not support comment-based help.

Updatable Help includes the following features.

  • The Update-Help cmdlet, which determines whether users have the newest help files for a module and, if not, downloads the newest help files from the Internet, unpacks them, and installs them in the correct module subdirectories on the user's computer. Users can use the Get-Help cmdlet to view the newly-installed help topics immediately. They do not need to restart Windows PowerShell.

  • The Save-Help cmdlet, which downloads the newest help files from the Internet and saves them in a file system directory. Users can use the Update-Help cmdlet to get help files from the file system directory, and unpack and install them in the module subdirectories on the user's computer. The Save-Help cmdlet is designed for users who have limited or no Internet access and for enterprises who prefer to limit Internet access.

  • Help for a Module. Help files for a module are managed and delivered as a unit, so users can get all of the help files for the modules they use. Updatable help is supported only for modules, not for Windows PowerShell snap-ins.

  • Version support. Updatable Help uses standard four-position (N1.N2.N3.N4) version numbers. Updatable Help downloads help files when the version number of the help files on the user's computer (or in the Save-Help directory) is lower than the version number of the help files at the Internet location.

  • Multi-language support. Updatable Help supports module help files in multiple UI cultures. Updatable Help file names include standard language codes, such as "en-US" and "ja-JP", and the Update-Help and Save-Help cmdlets place the help files into language-specific subdirectories of the module directory.

  • Auto-generated help. The Get-Help cmdlet displays basic help for commands that do not have help files. The auto-generated help includes the command syntax and aliases, and instructions for using online help and Updatable Help.

  • Enhanced Online help. Easy access to online help no longer requires help files. The Online parameter of the Get-Help cmdlet now gets the URL of an online help topic from the value of the HelpUri property of any command, if it cannot find the online help URL in a help file. You can populate the HelpUri property by adding a HelpUri attribute to the code of cmdlets, functions, and CIM commands, or by using the .Link comment-based help directive in workflows and scripts.

To make our help files updatable, the Windows PowerShell modules in Windows 8 and Windows Server vNext do not come with help files. Users can use Updatable Help to install help files and update them. Authors of other modules can include help files in modules or omit them. Support for Updatable Help is optional, but recommended.