RE: Suggestions welcome for this brief online help sample

Subject: RE: Suggestions welcome for this brief online help sample
From: "Claire Conant" <Claire -dot- Conant -at- digeo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 3 Nov 2005 09:37:28 -0800


One of the guidelines I follow is trying, whenever possible, to keep
numbered steps to around seven or so. You have 10 steps here. You could
combine some of them. For example, steps 2 and 3:

2. Type the new widget name in the text box, and then click Enter.
3. When the color dialog box opens, click your choice of color from the
Basic or Custom colors, or from the Color matrix.
4. To save a, and then click OK.

I was taught to combine steps so the follow the user's natural actions
and pauses. I also use a comma preceding the "and then" - making sure it

"Do this, and then do this."

For information that is actually not an action the user performs, but
information about that part of the step, I keep it with the step, but
format it as a separate paragraph immediately following the step,
indented to align with the body text of the step. (hard to show in plain
text here.)

When documenting software, our group follows the Microsoft Manual of

Hope this helps.
Claire Conant
Technical Editor.

Please forgive the widget example; however, I'm
working on help screens for unreleased software.

To add a widget

1. Click Define A New Widget.
2. Type the new widget name in the text box.
3. Click Enter.
4. A Color dialog box opens.
5. Click the color of your choice from the Basic
colors, Custom colors, or the Color matrix.
6. To save a color to the Custom colors, click Add to
Custom Colors.
7. Click OK.
8. The new widget is now displayed in the list box
preceded by the assigned color.
9. By default, the new widget is active.
10. To deactivate the widget, click on the name and
clear the Active check box.

First, the customer does want "Click OK" in there.
(They use non-standard interfaces where there are OK
and DONE buttons.)

Steps 4, 8, and 9 are not procedures that the user has
to perform. Should they be considered steps or
possibly notes?

Steps 6 and 10 are optional. Is this the approach you
would take?

I've been using the Microsoft Manual of Style for
Technical Publications as a guide. Unfortunately, the
section on procedures is very limited. Also, when I
review help screens in different Microsoft programs,
each program is distinctly different (and don't even
use the MSTP standards).

Any pearls of wisdom are welcome!

Thanks in advance,


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