Re: TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 69, Issue 21

Subject: Re: TECHWR-L Digest, Vol 69, Issue 21
From: Chris Despopoulos <despopoulos_chriss -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 26 Jul 2011 06:08:59 -0700 (PDT)

Previous statements:
> This help system is very strange (http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb208225.aspx)
>
> Why does the TOC get truncated when you click a topic?

It's "focusing". That is, as you drill down in the TOC, the other
parts disappear.
*********************

Focusing is what I like to do when I read.  I don't much care for systems that make the decisions of focus for me.  Also, when I do focus in, I also like a clear path to "focus" out again. (These lexical somersaults make me think that focus is not the right verb.)  The problem here is that your task might be my obvious collection of unnecessary details.  I want to choose the level, and I want to explore the text.  To do that, I need to know the structure of the text.  That's what a decent TOC gives me.

I think this concept of so-called focus in the MS online piece is a technical limitation that was given a justification after the fact.  CSS didn't support a separately scrolling TOC, and it's unacceptable to have the page get hugely long.  And even so, the page does get unacceptably long for some TOC "states".  Ditching frames is probably a good idea, but not if it means the TOC behavior takes a step back to the '80s. 

Somebody also mentioned that MS Office had to switch back to some hybrid of ribbon GUI and old-fashioned menu systems.  As though the ribbon was an improvement.  A GUI is basically a visual programming language.  Menus present the verbs, adverbs, nouns, and adjectives of that language.  And the user gets to assemble them however she likes (within technical limitations of the product).  Sorry, but a strict adherence to task orientation is impossible...  The number of possible combinations outstrips the ability to list all the tasks.  So I would say a GUI that leans away from presenting the building blocks, and tries to present pre-defined tasks is a loser out of the gate.  And it seems the user community agrees (concerning Office, anyway).  Is this off topic?  I don't think so.  It's a question of what we're giving the user.  Are we providing tools that the user is free to combine and use?  Or are we providing a list of allowable tasks?  Are
we providing a text that a reader can use to assemble her own ideas?  Or are we providing a scripture that must be followed by rote?
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