RE. AVI files in Winhelp?

Subject: RE. AVI files in Winhelp?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 4 Oct 2001 08:59:49 -0400

Michelle asked: <<Is it a good idea to place buttons in help topics to
trigger AVI files ?>>

It can be. The trick is to use multimedia where sound and moving images are
the most effective way to communicate; for example, it's impossible to talk
about the glory of Beethoven's "Pastorale" unless you actually include a
sound clip, and equally impossible to describe the amazing convolutions a
plant goes through as it bursts from its seed without showing a time-lapse
animation. One of my favorite anecdotes was a study reported by Jared Spool,
in which the software developer used "talking heads" video in the online
help to explain various concepts. Although users loved the new interface and
rated it much more helpful than conventional help systems, they also
performed much worse than users who only had access to the conventional help
files. A sobering finding to my way of looking at things.

<<What problems may be encountered if I do ?>>

File size is a particular problem if you also plan to put the Help files on
the Web at some future date. Hardware incompatibilities are another biggie;
not everyone has speakers, or a graphics card fast enough to make the video
play smoothly and clearly. Worse, if they set their monitor to a resolution
(pixels or color depth) different from the one you chose for your video, the
results can be appallingly bad unless you force them to switch to your
choice of resolution. You'll also have to ensure that the right video
software (e.g., Windows Media Player) is present on the computer; forcing
users to install such software is generally a bad idea, particularly if
they're working in a corporate environment in which the computer staff
forbid you to install new software. Last but not least, picking AVI means
that you're confining yourself to Windows; that may be appropriate for some
products, but most really important products run on multiple platforms.

<<How do other people include multimedia materal in their help files ? >>

I don't. <g> Why? Mostly because I haven't yet found a situation in which it
added enough value to justify the time spent creating it. Where I do need to
display the equivalent of animation, I use "sequential animation": a series
of illustrations showing enough of the various stages in a process that the
overall flow becomes clear.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca
"User's advocate" online monthly at

"Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot; others transform a
yellow spot into the sun."- -Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)


Planning to attend IPCC 01, October 24-27 in Santa Fe? Sign up by
October 3 and get a substantial discount! Program information,
online registration, and more on

Your monthly sponsorship message here reaches more than
5000 technical writers, providing 2,500,000+ monthly impressions.
Contact Eric (ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com) for details and availability.

You are currently subscribed to techwr-l as: archive -at- raycomm -dot- com
To unsubscribe send a blank email to leave-techwr-l-obscured -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Send administrative questions to ejray -at- raycomm -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Previous by Author: Re. How to document multiple user roles?
Next by Author: RE. User questionnaire?
Previous by Thread: RE: Re. How to document multiple user roles?
Next by Thread: Another Framemaker Question! HELP!!!

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads

Sponsored Ads