A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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RoboHelp is a Help authoring tool (HAT) created by the eHelp Corporation and now owned by Adobe Systems. The software is used by technical writers to create computer help files (documentation) in various formats.



Accessible Context-Sensitive Help with Unobtrusive DOM Scripting

This article demonstrates two methods of calling context-sensitive help in a web form: the Field Help Method and Form Help Method, in which unobtrusive DOM/JavaScript is employed to achieve the desired result. It also serves to illustrate the separation of the Structure and Behavior layers of a web page. Graceful degradation is employed to make sure that the help information is accessible if JavaScript is disabled or not available in a user agent.

Palinkas, Frank M. Opera (2008). Articles>Web Design>Standards>Help


Adding Screenshots in Help Topics

Here are a few tips for adding screenshots to your help topics.

HelpScribe (2009). Articles>Documentation>Help>Screen Captures


Adobe Community Help and AIR Help: A Disconnect?

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.

Minson, Benjamin. Gryphon Mountain (2010). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Adobe RoboHelp: Synonyms Made Easy

Here is an example of how Search could fail. Your company Help System, a Policies guide, includes a topic concerned with contraband substances in the office. The word contraband is contained within the topic so the word will be found if users search for that specific term. However, a user who is curious about contraband substances might elect to search the Help System using another word, such as illicit. Because the word illicit isn't in the Help System, the Search will fail. There are a couple of ways to fix the problem. One way would be to add Search terms to the properties of individual topics. Another way, which I'll cover here, is to use RoboHelp's Advanced Settings for Localization to create a synonym (illicit) for contraband.

Siegel, Kevin A. I Came, I Saw, I Learned (2012). Articles>Documentation>Software>Adobe RoboHelp


Alternatives to Software Documentation

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.

Unwalla, Mike. TechScribe (2007). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Analyzing Your Deliverables: Developing the Optimal Documentation Library

Web 2.0 includes: wikis, podcasts, blogs, widgets/gadgets, social networks … and combinations of all the above. Not everyone contributes equally – Creators (18%), Critics (25%), Spectators (48%). But all are important.

Bleiel, Nicky. SlideShare (2007). Presentations>Content Management>Documentation>Help


The Anatomy of a Help File: An Iterative Approach

This article presents an approach to Help file design that focuses on creating a task-centered user experience and accommodates an iterative development strategy. This methodology allows the introduction of user assistance into early test phases--not only getting earlier validation for its accuracy, but also supporting quality assurance testing by serving as the test scripts for interactions with the user interface. This approach can also be a self-contained strategy--that is, one that allows an iterative approach to user assistance development even if the rest of product development operates on a waterfall model.

Hughes, Michael A. UXmatters (2007). Articles>Documentation>Methods>Help


Anticipatory Search in Context-Sensitive Help

What if online help could be configured to be context-sensitive in a different way than usual? What if, when the user launches the help system, instead of opening to some assigned help topic, it instead runs a preprogrammed search on keywords assigned to that topic?

Minson, Benjamin. Gryphon Mountain (2010). Articles>Documentation>Help>Search


Asking for Help is a Productivity Tool

I know some people see asking questions as a sign of weakness or insecurity (and believe others will view them that way), and that asking questions can produce answers we don’t want to hear. Both of those possible results pale in comparison to the potential good that just sitting down and asking questions can produce.

Meloni, Julie. Prof Hacker (2010). Articles>Collaboration>Help>Project Management


Asking for Help is a Productivity Tool

I know some people see asking questions as a sign of weakness or insecurity (and believe others will view them that way), and that asking questions can produce answers we don’t want to hear. Both of those possible results pale in comparison to the potential good that just sitting down and asking questions can produce.

Meloni, Julie. Chronicle of Higher Education (2010). Articles>Collaboration>Help


Auswahl eines Help Authoring Tools

Checkliste der wichtigsten Kriterien für die Auswahl eines Tools zum Erstellen von Software-Dokumentation (Handbücher, Online-Hilfen) - sog. Help Authoring Tools, kurz HAT. Viele Help Authoring Tools können Benutzerhandbücher und Online-Hilfen aus einer gemeinsamen Textquelle heraus generieren (sog. Single Source Publishing).

Achtelig, Marc. indoition engineering. (German) Articles>TC>Software>Help


Auswahl eines Screen Capture Tools

Screenshots oder Screencaptures). Benötigt werden Screenshots in allen Formen von Software-Dokumentation, z.B. für Handbücher, Online-Hilfen, interaktive Demos und Tutorials, aber auch für Webseiten oder Broschüren.

Achtelig, Marc. indoition engineering. (German) Articles>TC>Help>Screen Captures


Authoring for Electronic Delivery   (PDF)

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.

Hudson, Dave. STC Proceedings (1993). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Automating Development Tasks for a Large-Scale Help System

Although tools like eHelp's® RoboHELP® Classic can speed up and streamline the process of creating help topics, there are still many repetitive tasks needed to build a WinHelp system that supports a large, integrated application. This article summarizes one of the techniques that Fredrickson Communications used to automate the process of developing online help topics. Once the underlying structure and macros were in place, we were able to generate hundreds of help topics at the rate 15-20 per minute.

Lindsay, Bill. Frederickson Communications (2002). Design>Documentation>Single Sourcing>Adobe RoboHelp


Basic WinHelp for Beginners   (PDF)

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.

Van Sant, Carol J. STC Proceedings (1996). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Beyond Software Manuals and On-line Help: Interactive Help

Software user guides have traditionally provided assistance when the user requested help. Context-sensitivity enabled help systems to predict the most appropriate topic to present. For Windows applications, the move from Microsoft WinHelp to the new Microsoft HTML Help format allows user instructions to be presented in the same window as the application. This offers technical authors some extraordinary opportunities to provide intelligent, predictive, interactive help without the user having to request it. In this paper, we will explore one of the first such interactive help systems (for the Archivist e-mail archiving software), and see where the technology is moving.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2003). Articles>Documentation>Interaction Design>Help


The Blurring of the Lines Between the Web and the Desktop

The line between the desktop and the Web is slowly eroding. There’s more and more integration and interoperation between desktop and Web applications (not to mention mobile apps, too). And that has implications for technical writers.

Nesbitt, Scott. DMN Communications (2010). Articles>TC>Online>Help


Bringing Help to the Forefront: Strategies to Increase the Usability of Your Software User Assistance and Your Product   (PDF)   (members only)

Makes the case for embedded help as one of the most effective ways to integrate help within an interface. Although it can be difficult, Bleiel illustrates a way to “elegantly implement and map embedded help.”

Bleiel, Nicoletta A. Intercom (2009). Articles>Documentation>Help>Usability


Browse Sequence in Online Help   (PDF)

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.

Farkas, David K. and Bruce R. Gibbs. STC Proceedings (1994). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Browse vs. Search in Application Navigation

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.

Rivers, Hagan. User interface Engineering (2010). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Building Accessible Static Navigation with C.S.S. and Microsoft Visual Studio 2005: A Help Authoring Guide

There are times when we need to build a navigation tree stucture to accomodate a small document collection. There is no need to have this nav list expand or contract, so employing a Behavior layer (unobtrusive DOM/JavaScript) is not appropriate.

Palinkas, Frank M. helpware.net (2009). Articles>Web Design>CSS>Help


Building Documentation into the Interface   (PDF)

As documentation is more and more built directly into the interface, and as technical communicators move into interface design and usability, it is important to have a theoretical framework within which to make decisions about what kind of information will be conveyed at any moment. We can build on basic principles of cognitive psychology to help us make these decisions. We start from a question: Why should users be aware of the difference between interface and documentation when all they want is to get something done?

Quesenbery, Whitney. STC Proceedings (1998). Articles>Documentation>User Interface>Help


"By the Way, We Also Want Online Help"   (PDF)

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.

Davis, Herbert S. and Meryl Natchez. STC Proceedings (1994). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Calling Accessible Context-Sensitive Help with Unobtrusive DOM/JavaScript: A Help Authoring Guide

This Fast Track tutorial demonstrates two methods to call Context-Sensitive Help in a Web Form. We'll discover how Unobtrusive DOM/JavaScript achieves the desired result in calling Context-Sensitive help, and demonstrate how to keep the Structure, Presentation, and Behavior layers of a web page completely separate from one another ensuring good practice with current web standards and accessibility rules.

Palinkas, Frank M. helpware.net (2009). Articles>Web Design>Documentation>Help


Can Collaboration Help Redefine Usability?   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

There are countless usability blogs, message boards and listservers. But to my knowledge, no one has attempted to integrate all this information into a single, collaborative knowledge space. I believe that creating such a knowledge space would be of immense benefit to the usability profession and would be a wonderful platform on which to refine our understanding of social computing and knowledge management.

Kreitzberg, Charles B. Journal of Usability Studies (2006). Articles>Collaboration>Usability>Help



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