Re: Planning before writing on-line help

Subject: Re: Planning before writing on-line help
From: Faith Weber <weber -at- EASI -dot- ENET -dot- DEC -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 4 Mar 1994 10:07:26 PST

I just wrote my first (small) online help file. I, too, recommend the
book "Developing Online Help for Windows", which helped me get
a feel for the overall process of developing help.

Before I got started, I created an outline containing topics for
procedures, reference information, and definitions. That
really helped me get an idea of what I'd cover in the help file,
even though the actual structure of the help changed a couple
of times. (I imagine you'd want to establish the structure
more firmly before coding a large help file; mine was only 45 topics,
so changing it was not a big deal.)

If possible, I would strongly advise verifying as much
of the information as you can before you start coding.
I started with a very system- and programmer-oriented spec, eagerly
started coding early (which admittedly served the purpose of getting
me familiar with the process), then found out my interpretation of
some of the spec was wrong, and I had to completely change parts of
the help.

It can be difficult to get a decent review of help file contents
until you've coded because the help is hard to visualize from paper,
but it helps to at least be sure of the information you're covering
before you start! (Easier said than done, but . . .)

Faith Weber
EA Systems Inc.
weber -at- easi -dot- enet -dot- dec -dot- com

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