Re: What Tricks Do You Know for Making Things Easier to Find in a Large help File?

Subject: Re: What Tricks Do You Know for Making Things Easier to Find in a Large help File?
From: "Sandy Harris" <sandyinchina -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2007 10:21:36 +0800

Agnes Starr <zigrocstarr -at- yahoo -dot- com> wrote:

> It is delivered as both Web-based Help and as a CHM.
> We have breadcrumbs, we have tried ...

Got a browsable Table of Contents and a good index,
heavily cross-linked, for starters?

Add redundant entries in your index, so someone who
searches for "storage", or an IBM mainframe person
who looks for "DASD", will be sent to your "hard drive"

If your users have their own specialised language
(whether for nuclear physics or baseball or ...),
put their terms in your index.

If your have things like "error 27981666", make sure
all of those are in your index.

Can you collect data on failed searches? If users
often search for "xyzzy" and don't find it, consider
what you need in doc or index to help them out.

How about a FAQ document, or section, that handles
the most common questions (as defined by searches,
by your tech support, or off the mailing list -- in fact
from anywhere except your marketing dep't giving the
questions they want asked!) letting users bypass the

In some docs, you can use a glossary. Lots of links
to the "frobitz" glossary entry from all over the place.
The entry has both a simple explanation and a link
to the doc section that covers frobitzes in detail.

A permuted index takes a title like "Attack of the
Killer Tomatoes" and gives you entries for all the
keywords. so from that line you get:

attack of the killer tomatoes
attack of the killer tomatoes
... of the killer tomatoes

where the center column is an alphabetic list of

One of these may only be useful if your audience
is partly old Unix users familar with the format
which was once a standard part of Unix docs.
Some people do love them, but many just find
them weird.

On the other hand, they are almost free, easily
generated automatically. Here's an example I did;
a permuted index built from from HTML headers.

My code for that is free, in the FreeSWAN distribution.
It would not win prizes for elegancy, but it did work, at
least for my data :-)

Sandy Harris
Quanzhou, Fujian, China

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What Tricks Do You Know for Making Things Easier to Find in a Large help File?: From: Agnes Starr

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