Microsoft has changed the way that SQL Server 2005 Books Online (BOL) works. Now, after you search a topic in BOL, you can also search Internet sources. Figure 1 shows the dialog box that appears after you install SQL Server 2005. By default, Use local Help as primary source is selected.This option lets you search the Internet when help isn't available locally.

If you want to specify which external help sources to search, from the Options toolbar menu, select Help, Online.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) content is one of the sources that BOL automatically searches, along with many third-party sites that are part of Codezone. I should point out that you can find a lot of great content that isn't part of Codezone or the default third-party search options for BOL. For example, SQL Server Magazine's online content isn't part of the search mechanism.

To be honest, BOL confused me a bit at first. However, BOL is a handy tool once you get the hang of it. If you're searching online and local content, the trick is to look at the pane on the right side of your screen to see the groups of displayed results. I'm sure many people will love having the ability to do integrated searches, and in principle, I think the idea makes a tremendous amount of sense.The sites that are integrated into BOL are all high-quality sites.

However, I still prefer to search for SQL Server information locally on the Microsoft Web site, then use a search engine (e.g., Google) to perform a more comprehensive search. Google also provides the added advantage of searching content on my local machine and various email threads in addition to doing a comprehensive search of sites that aren't part of the default third-party searches in BOL. But sometimes it's hard to sift and sort through Google's pages of results.