Value of ToC and Index in HTML or help?

Subject: Value of ToC and Index in HTML or help?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 27 Mar 2000 09:21:29 -0500

Joh G wondered <<... how important an Index and a Table of Contents (ToC)
are for HTML help?>>

Let's put it this way: in all the software I currently use, I've yet to
reliably find topics solely using the "find" function. Even following the
TOC hierarchy rarely works. On the assumption that designers of online help
are not completely incompetent, my conclusion is that these two approaches
to finding information work only when you're looking for simple topics. When
your information needs get more complex, there's no substitute for a
manually generated index created by someone who understands how people look
for information.

<<How can I create a "real" HTML ToC and Index?>>

A table of contents is easy: group the topics you've created into logical
groups that show the document structure (hierarchy) clearly. That structure
is unlikely to be clear from the help file itself unless you've specifically
created a browse sequence that creates this structure for the reader, and if
you have done this, then you've already done 90% of the work required to
generate the TOC. For an index, there's no substitute for examining each
topic carefully, applying a series of appropriate keywords in your help
authoring software, and compiling an index. If those tools won't do the job
for you, have a look at something like HTMLindexer
( and see whether it meets your needs. But
you're still going to have to invest some skull sweat creating a good index.
No way around that given current technology.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

Hofstadter's Law: The time and effort required to complete a project are
always more than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's

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