Documentation departments are often faced with the challenge of quickly distributing high-quality versions of printed documentation via the company Intranet, the World Wide Web, or CD-ROM. Adobe Acrobat is a simple, cost-effective way to publish documentation for a variety of media and requires little time or technical expertise to produce professional-looking results. Technical writers and web developers can easily use Adobe Acrobat to create portable document format (PDF) files from printed documentation. They can then add links and bookmarks, create an index, produce simple interactive forms, and add multimedia components to their documents.
I’ve used Adobe Community Help when trying to get answers regarding Creative Suite products. I like the emphasis on searching and the integration of results that aren’t within Adobe’s domain. I think Adobe Community Help is a great example of what help can be: pulling answers and information together from various sources and formats and then showing context in search results.
Software documentation such as Help systems and user guides may be the best method of helping your customers to use your software effectively. However, one or more of these alternatives may be a better solution.
A person usually expects another person to behave according to accepted norms, but how does a person respond to a message that violates his/her expectations? One theory dealing with violations of expectations is Burgeon and Hale's (1) nonverbal expectancy-violations theory. This theory posits that, under certain circumstances, violations of social norms and expectations may be an effective strategy for communicators to achieve the intended communication purpose. Although the expectancy-violations theory focuses on expectations for nonverbal behavior, such as gaze and conversational distance (2), I believe that this theory can also apply to expectations for humancomputer interaction.
Since the very first Australasian Online Documentation Conference in Melbourne in 1998, the conference has developed a reputation as the premier event for technical writers, help developers, Web authors and documentation developers from Australia and New Zealand. Our speaker list reads like a Who's Who of documentation, as we strive to ensure that experts in techniques and technologies are available to share their knowledge and expertise. The conference is also a great place to network with other documentation professionals.
Caterpillar is dramatically changing the way technical, product support information is authored. Book paradigms have been replaced by the more granular Information Element (IE) approach. The new integrated environment utilizes Unix based, TCP/IP connected, ECALS compliant tools on multi-tasking author workstations. Research data, in-process work approved IE's and relational indices are distributed to work group servers. Application software tools include a graphics editor and an interactive, context sensitive, SGML text editor. The environment is managed by a robust file management system that provides file tracking, revision control, workflow sensitive tool launching, burden planning and management reporting capabilities.
The first time you create a Windows Help file can be very confusing. This paper should help reduce confusion by explaining the basic WinHelp concepts and components, and then walking you through the procedure.
A browse sequence enables users to navigate through a series of help topics in the sequence established by the help author. Although often omitted from help systems, the browse sequence is useful and will become essential as print documentation diminishes. Effective design options for a browse sequence include multiple segments, rings, branching, and the use of a browse button to take the user to the first topic in the current segment of the browse sequence.
When I gave my own UIE Virtual Seminar last year on Navigation, I got a question from one of the attendees. He said that it was a requirement at his company that the user be able to get to any screen in the product (and there were 1,000+) with no more than 2 clicks. I enjoyed the challenge of thinking about how I'd do it. At the time, I was imagining a massive Site Map of the application, but now I think that perhaps another way to satisfy that requirement would be to implement the kind of searching that Apple has.
Web knowledge bases offer an excellent platform for delivering technical documentation and customer support information. They also represent an area of great opportunity for technical communicators to expand their skills, satisfy their customers, and create value for their employers or clients. This session explores the components of a web knowledge base and the tasks involved in planning and building one.
This presentation describes a strategy to meet a last-minute enterprise demand for online help for a software application program. We established design standards for writing online help, developed a process for gaining consensus from the project team on the content of the online help, and wrote the online help. We accomplished this in less than four months-a task that originally seemed impossible.
A panel of industry experts provides an overview of the CD-ROM publishing process--and its business issues--for technical communicators who are responsible for John Gale implementing CD-ROM publishing in their organizations. The panelists will discuss how to gain the benefits of reduced manufacturing warehousing and distribution costs, without degrading documentation quality.
There are many significant benefits to releasing documentation on CD ROM rather than on hardcopy including cost savings, storage capacity, and the ability to implement search and retrieval functionality. To determine whether or not you should go to CD ROM, it is advisable to survey your users and to get approval from the folks in "corporate." Once you decide to pursue CD ROM, you need to determine the platform requirements and feature set of the search and retrieval software. You will then be able to choose from a variety of products, and ask the selected vendor to produce a prototype for you.
During March and April 2003, Cherryleaf carried out an online survey into the current trends in technical communication. One of the questions we asked was: Do the online user assistance documents produced by your organization contain the following advanced capabilities?
Providing timely information to diverse users on different platforms can challenge any document delivery system; however, the World Wide Web provides an effective solution for some applications. While the Web presents some extra problems and challenges that other media do not, the results justify the resources required. This paper describes and evaluates an implementation of Computing and Information Services documentation on the World Wide Web.
This paper describes some common types of help topic and when to use each. Different applications require different mixes of help topics. Choose the topic types that are appropriate for the application you are documenting.
COMPAQ QuickFind is a CD-ROM database of COMPAQ product information. Available by subscription, QuickFind offers full-text search-and-retrieval functions and full-color graphics in a 350-megabyte database. QuickFind incorporates hard-copy information into an electronic format. The QuickFind editorial process (converting hard- copy information to searchable files) is the key to creating a valuable, centralized support tool for COMPAQ dealers, customers, and internal personnel.
Recently, there was a lively discussion on the Help Authoring Tools and Techniques (HATT) mailing list about the relative compactness and efficiency of the HTML code produced by various Help authoring tools. As a result of these discussions, several industry consultants decided to collaborate on a project to compare the HTML, CSS, and CHM files produced by a variety of Help authoring tools.
The web allows us to easily provide updated documentation to our users, but why stop there? There is more to making users successful quickly than just providing documentation. By creating a complete "Answer Station" that is accessible from the application or product, we can not only direct users to that updated documentation, but we can also provide information about technical support, consulting, training, sales, etc. This paper discusses writing a proposal for an Answer Station, determining content, working with other departments to gather information, designing the site, making that design work with an existing corporate website, dealing with tool issues, and finally, going live.
This article is for software developers who have never implemented context-sensitive help. It explains the concepts and the basic types of context-sensitive help. A demonstration application with context-sensitive help is available.
Big producers of equipment and systems of all branches often have piled up enormous volumes of product documentation in various formats on different media over long periods. How does one deal with that in the Internet age? How will brochure-like product catalogs be converted to type-specific clickable web pages, and printed price lists to present-day worldwide retrievable tables? Experiences with a large converting project show the process to achieve such document management.
We are currently in the second phase of development of a large Windows online help system. This paper reviews the major decisions we had to make during the first phase of the project, and lists some project evaluation results that have helped us plan for subsequent phases.
This workshop provides hands-on experience in preparing and using online documentation as well as setting up and maintaining an online library.
Want to provide your users with state-of-the art HTML Help but don't want to force them to install Internet Explorer (which is required to run compiled HTML Help files)? In this article we show you how to create context-sensitive Help that displays a topic from a .CHM file if IE is installed on the user's system, and displays the equivalent topic from a .HLP file if IE isn't installed.
It is possible to create good, efficient, easy-to-maintain HTML Help systems - and it really isn't that difficult. The bad news is that if you're not sure exactly what settings need to be made, you will find creating modular HTML Help systems very frustrating. Read this article and avoid being frustrated.