RE: TOC article in INTERCOM -- things that made me go "HUH??"

Subject: RE: TOC article in INTERCOM -- things that made me go "HUH??"
From: jgarison -at- ide -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2002 11:58:11 -0500

IMHO, I think most TOCs in online help are unusable, unused, and a waste of

I have a 900-topic HTML-based Help file for an enterprise-wide application.
If I were to construct a typical expand/collapse TOC, it will be in excess
of 15 FEET long (at 5 lines/inch). When viewed in a six-inch tall window, it
is essentially useless.

I have replaced our TOC with a search engine, good organization, and
relevant links on each page. In almost 2 years, no one has complained.

When I presented this approach at WinWriters' Help Technology Update
Conference in August, I expected to get some grief about it. I got none.

Included in my presentation was this quote from Jared Spool, principal and
founder of User Interface Engineering (

"In 15 years of testing help systems, not one test subject has used the

Let the TOC wars begin!


John Garison
Documentation Manager
IDe, Concord, MA
jgarison -at- ide -dot- com

>>-----Original Message-----
David Downing writes:

>>I just read the article "Designing a Table of Contents" in
>>the November 2002 INTERCOM, and discovered a few things
>>that gave me pause.


>>Are my ideas about the TOC somewhat parochial or what?

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