Should table of contents be organized by functionality or by menus and context-sensitive help topics?

Subject: Should table of contents be organized by functionality or by menus and context-sensitive help topics?
From: karin -at- kgcreations -dot- com
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Tue, 25 Nov 2008 14:01:14 -0500

Our technical writing team disagrees about how to handle the TOC.
Currently, our product's help file centers on context-sensitive help
and the TOC is based on the software's menus rather than functions or
procedures. These are not general menus like File or View.

To me, using the menu names to organize help makes it hard for someone
who is looking for procedures to find what they need. If you don't
know which feature to use to do something, how would you know where to
look in the TOC? (Okay maybe you would search, but the search isn't
that great either--that's another topic.) A couple of us think the
help TOC should list functions based on what the user needs to do.
It's okay to have context-sensitive topics and menus listed, but not
as the primary structure of the TOC.

The third writer believes the TOC has to be based context sensitive
help and menus, and insists that is the norm everywhere. But when I
look at the help files for the programs I use, the TOCs are function
based. A few help files have an interface or menus section, but they
don't organize topics by the software's menus.

Here is an example:

Context sensitive:

--System Setup
-----Application Setup (These are not the same as system setup)
-----Report Formats
-----Report Selector


--Report Formats
--Using the Report Selector (or Creating Reports)


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