MSDN Library is a library of official technical documentation content intended for developers developing for Microsoft Windows. MSDN stands for the Microsoft Developer Network. The MSDN Library documents the APIs that ship with Microsoft products and also includes sample code, technical articles, and other programming information. It is available free on the web and on CDs and DVDs for paid MSDN subscribers. Initially, the disc version was only available as part of an MSDN subscription and was released on a quarterly basis (January, April, July and October). However, in recent times (2006 and later), it can be freely downloaded from the Microsoft Download Center in the form of ISO images and the CD/DVD releases are no longer published quarterly. Instead, its release schedule is now aligned with major software releases (major Visual Studio release, major Windows release or service packs), (up to Visual Studio 2008).
Since May 2006, Microsoft has also started producing a community CD version of the MSDN Library freely available for download as ISO images on its Download Center which contains only updated content. The community distribution of the MSDN Library is aimed at developers in countries where broadband Internet connections are not readily available.
Visual Studio Express edition integrates only with the MSDN Express Library which is a subset of the full MSDN Library, although either MSDN edition can be freely downloaded and installed standalone.
In Visual Studio 2010 MSDN Library is replaced with the new Help System which is installed as a part of the Visual Studio 2010 installation. The Help Library Manager application is used to install Help Content books covering selected topics.
Integration with Visual Studio
Each edition of MSDN Library can only be accessed with one help viewer (Microsoft Document Explorer or other help viewer), which is integrated with the then current single version or sometimes two versions of Visual Studio. In addition, each new version of Visual Studio does not integrate with an earlier version of MSDN. A compatible MSDN Library is released with each new version of Visual Studio and included on the Visual Studio DVD. As newer versions of Visual Studio are released, newer editions of the MSDN Library do not integrate with older Visual Studio versions and do not even include old/obsolete documentation for deprecated or discontinued products. MSDN Library versions can be installed side-by-side, that is, both the older as well as the newer version of the MSDN Library can co-exist.
- The October 2001 MSDN Library was the last version to include documentation for and integrate with Visual Studio 6.0.
- The January 2003 MSDN Library was the last version to include documentation for and integrate with Visual Studio .NET (2002).
- The January 2006 MSDN Library was the last version to include documentation for and integrate with Visual Studio .NET 2003.
- The April 2007 MSDN Library was the last version to include documentation for and integrate with Visual Studio 2005 (Service Pack 1).
- The January 2008 version and later include documentation for and integrate with Visual Studio 2008.
- The October 2008 version and later include documentation for and integrate with Visual Studio 2008 SP1.
- MSDN Library Disc editions also now free
- MSDN Library for Visual Studio 2005 Service Pack 1
- MSDN Library for Visual Studio 2008
- Microsoft Developer Documentation and Help System Forums
- MSDN Community Distribution
- Last MSDN Library version for Visual Studio 6.0
- Last MSDN Library version for Visual Studio .NET
- MSDN Library for Visual Studio 2008 SP1