Using help or searching Google?

Scenario: you run into a problem when coding, or in some other way have a question about, or problem with, a certain application. Let us, for the sake of argument, say that you have no colleagues or friends to ask where you are at the moment, nor through e-mail or over IM. What do you do?

  1. Use a programming manual/reference or resort to the help function of the application?
  2. Search Google?

In my case, 9 times out of 10, I search Google. If you’ve encountered a problem, there’s always someone else who has as well; someone who is or has been in the exact spot as you are in right now.

But that’s just me. What do you do?


  • Goulven says:

    Just the same: I head straight on to Google.

    And if I notice that it's unavailable in French I translate it on my weblog (if it's really worth it, and I have the time).

    But that's just me as well… ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • It depends. PHP has an excellent manual, so if it's related to syntax or just something of which I expect to find the answer on the website, I'll go there.

    In any other case, Google is the place to be. According to search history I've used Google almost 2,000 times in the past six months. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  • Martin S. says:

    Google, all the way. At least in most of the cases. Just strike Ctrl+E in Firefox and search.

    But sometimes my SDK:s are very valuable too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • TJ says:

    I have to admit, I go straight to Google most of the time. But this gets superceeded in several cases:

    – For Prototype, I reference Sergio’s great Prototype guide
    – For RoR, I usually stumble between the Ruby api, the Rails api, and a couple cheatsheets.
    – For PHP, I go to google, but usually restrict the seearch to
    – For Java, I always always check either Sun’s online documentation, or my own local copy of it.
    – For Javascript, I go straight to the books. Anything I can’t discover from my Sitepoint library, I have Quirksmode to back me up.

    To generalize: Google can get you a quick answer in nearly all cases, but if I think I can get the best answer quickly, I will go to a trusted source.

    It’s tempting to use google all the time, because it’s such a great resource for quick n’ dirty fixes.

  • Daniel K says:




    in that order

  • I just annoy the hell out of you on MSN, Robert (preferably when you're really, really busy) ๐Ÿ˜‰

    But no, I usually check one of my many bookmarks first. For instance, for CSS bugs I would check Position is Everything first and Google later. and Sitepoint forums are a great source for help too.

  • Jens says:

    10 out of 10 I Google.

  • Rob Kirton says:

    Google evey time.

    If it's good enough for these doctors

    I guess it does me just fine for my diagnosis :0)

    - Rob

  • Sean Fraser says:

    I use Google 50% and Yahoo 50%. Google search results are Popularity first, Authority (Historial significance) second. Yahoo search results are Authority first and Popularity second. [These are the fundamental aspects of each engine.]

    If it's a new subject/issue I am researching, I'll use Google first; Yahoo second. If it's an old subject/issue, I'll use Yahoo; then Google.

    Manuals and Help sources are less than helpful for me.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks for sharing, guys! Great link about the doctors, Rob! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Of course I use Google a lot, but I also have a reference library handy in my office, or if I'm really stuck, I might post a question on a mailing list or head to an IRC channel. If I have a friend who I know has the answer I might get lazy and email or IM them.

    Funny you should pose this question, recently I posted a piece about an advanced crontab file format I was struggling with. The answer, it turned out, was right at my fingertips. You might find it interesting.

  • Anders says:

    8 out of 10 I Google… and then there's always my collegue Jens ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Dave says:

    I use my reference books and the manual. I sometimes use Google, but always find the folk over in the Sitepoint forums extremely helpful, although I often feel more like a lurker than a helper ๐Ÿ™ …

  • Deborah says:

    I visit the Sitepoint forums search the CSS Mailing list archive, visit your site :), visit Roger Johannson's site, or check out the webstandards site. If those fail, I try Google.

  • Robert Nyman says:


    With all respect to references, I've noticed that I use Google more and more often, since it just goes faster (at least compared to offline references).

    Thanks for the link; developing is always like that, right? ๐Ÿ™‚


    Ah, Jens is a talented guy; you keep on listening to him! ๐Ÿ™‚


    Thank you! Any time my humble writings can help someone out, it makes me so happy! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Deborah says:

    I forgot to include the great folk at CommunityMX as well. Wonderful forum.

    Robert, I thank you for all the help over the past couple years. I've shared your site with many of my classmates and instructors.

  • I use google all the time, and the key to get good results is to narrow your search request down to some specific words. I guess that's what all of you do. But sometimes it makes a whole lot of difference if you leave something out or put some extra in. And do you use the code search google is offering?

  • Jens Meiert says:


    Can Help be trusted anyway? "Help" suffers from all the useless crap we've all seen there so far. "Help" rarely seems to help. […]

  • Nick Cowie says:

    Depends on the problem.

    If I am frustrated/annoyed/need a break, I get up from my desk, walk downstairs and go get a relevant technical book. Working in the State Reference Library has advantages.

    Need a quick solution, Google.

    For me out of 10 I would guess: reference books: 3, google: 6, others (online help, forums. friends etc) 1.

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Once again, thanks!


    I know of it, of course, but I Haven't really started using it yet. To me, the regular Google search is almost a 100% sufficient.


    Yes, Help in programs often seems to be a synonym for: "Please waste some time here before you find the solution elsewhere…"


    Working in the State Reference Library has advantages

    Ha, I can imagine!

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Ah, sorry, missed your comment. Don't worry if you feel like a lurker: most people start out like lurkers and then become vital persons in such a place. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Mattias says:

    8 of 10 is google.

  • In 90% of time I search Google first.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Mattias, Flavio,

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Pablo says:

    I google 100% of the times.

    And not only for coding situations.


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