(This is related to "Advanced Syntax Ideas" but not quite the same.)

I don't know how many links I add to docs in one day of posting, but it's a lot. I've made this somewhat easier with "smart bookmarks" or whatever you want to call them so that if I open a new tab and type

msdn system.diagnostics.process

it goes to the right URL. I can then cut and paste that URL back into SO.

However, there are a few things wrong with this:

  • It means I have to set up the bookmark on all my browsers, and other people don't get the same benefit
  • That doesn't always work - for example, generics muck it up
  • It's a somewhat clumsy workflow
  • It only works for MSDN and JavaDoc (I have a similar one there, although I don't tend to use it as much)

Links to documentation are good. I think we should encourage them. I propose that we make the "add link" button smarter, so that the server can work out what you mean (ideally with a preview - that would be handy for normal links too).

Basically a radio button saying whether you want a "normal" link, MSDN, JavaDoc, and whatever the equivalent is for other technologies. Type in the relevant URL or name, and the server will resolve it (which means we can put appropriate smarts in to handle generics etc) and the browser can preview it. I haven't mocked this up, but I'd be happy to if anyone's interested. (I haven't used Balsamiq Mocks yet, but it looks fun :)

The preview side of things may be hard due to iframe busting etc - I'm not sure. Just fetching the page title would be a good start, to be honest.

Just like my suggestion for the "close as duplicate" workflow, this is about keeping the workflow all on one page where possible.

Oh, and I'd be very happy to work on the bit of code which determined the right MSDN link: I've already done some of that as a prototype. (You can fetch the DHTML served on the left hand side and walk the tree - with caching, of course.) Now adding Intellisense to that would be even sweeter, but perhaps a step too far :)

  • 1
    I can see the beads of sweat on Jeff's forehead when he reads this :) Nice idea so. Commented Jul 2, 2009 at 7:17
  • MSDN, Javadoc, perl doc, ...there's a ton of destinations. Commented Jun 7, 2010 at 20:30
  • 1
    I'm somehow surprise that this feature request didn't got more attention. I would find this very handy, since I'm linking to official documentation in nearly all my answer.
    – HoLyVieR
    Commented Oct 7, 2010 at 3:35
  • @alex: I thought I recognized your name, but I couldn't remember where I saw it... then I went to your site. Sorry, wrong person! Commented Oct 7, 2010 at 4:09

4 Answers 4


I agree that having some form of automatic links would be really useful.

This would especially be useful for those questions where you need to answer quickly.


I agree it'd be very convenient, however won't you have to maintain the links for all major versions?

The default would be the latest release, for sure, but many questions may be specific to earlier versions.

And the doc URLs could change, for example only Oracle knows for how long sun.com javadoc URLs will still be redirected.

So I have voted +1 for this, but I think it'll take continuous work to maintain the links.

(UPDATE) Every nontrivial technology has its own set of documentation and definite guide/tutorial. It'd serve the whole community well if this can be done for every technology tag, and I think the community will gratefully maintain the links till the end of time.

For example I only dare to answer Java/Swing and mercurial questions on SO (St. Skeet: git is much, much better), and many of my Swing answers contain links to Sun's Swing tutorial, while many of my hg answers contain links to docs on hg site or BoS's definite guide.

  • As you say, I think the community would be happy to help. I suspect some sort of plugin system would be required... but hopefully people in each community would be happy to write those and keep them up to date. Of course, in an ideal world, when the links changed those changes would be reflected across SO - but let's learn to walk before we try to run :)
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Oct 7, 2010 at 6:53
  • My eyes... they are failing me... did St. Skeet just... paraphrased... me??!! There's gotta be a badge for that! I'm running to the nearest lottery booth before my luck runs out... Commented Oct 7, 2010 at 13:18

Type in the relevant URL or name, and the server will resolve it

Why does it have to be server side? This could easily be done entirely client side without having to change the markdown syntax.

It wouldn't be hard to write a Greasemonkey script to do it, and if it worked well it might then get brought into stackoverflow proper. That's how the tag manager started out.

  • There's potentially quite a lot of resolution to do - several requests to resolve System.Collections.Generic.List<T>.Add for example. That can be very easily cached on the server side, instead of doing 5 requests and a bunch of JavaScript work on the client side.
    – Jon Skeet
    Commented Jul 2, 2009 at 13:33
  • The Greasemonkey script could always make one request to a server that does all that and caches it. I'd rather have this client side where I can see the link it's going to insert instead of trusting it's going to do the right thing when I submit it.
    – Sam Hasler
    Commented Jul 6, 2009 at 15:53
  • 2
    The advantage I could see of doing it server-side would be easier correction when links change / break (cough MSDN cough hack sputter)
    – Shog9
    Commented Oct 7, 2010 at 3:27

I've made a user-script that inserts links for you in an auto-complete like fashion. It spawned from this idea: Autocomplete/autoinsert links to API docs (or similar publically available docs)

The user-script is listed in StackApps: duckduckstack - The StackExchange API Doc Autocompleter

Hope this helps you to link in documentation for common apis (as I tend to do this often myself).

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