Re: Help tools and manuals

Subject: Re: Help tools and manuals
From: Bruce WHITE <WHITE -at- MSN -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 1 Mar 1996 11:38:44 UT

Dan,
>>They want a separate look, feel, and layout for each of these docs.
>>That means two separate files.

When you plan the project, work out what is common to both. Try to get it
right (signed off) and then split the project to printed version and on-line
version.

As they digress the printed material should talk more on, the approach,
philosophy, the overview, and how to use the software to perform common or
clever tasks. Include trouble shooting problems like the program won't run at
all (because then the help won't run).

The online material should concentrate on FAQ stuff, common problems, advanced
stuff (syntax etc). Be concise, have a look at the minimalist approach of
Windows 95 help (I like it). If you are in 3.1 still (most are) try to write
the stuff with 95 in mind. Do this right down to IDH_ prefixes to your topics
that will become What's This? items.

Also check for ways (eg. FTP of a WWW site) to get a revised WinHelp file to
users after the product has been used for a while. This will save your tech
support people.

>>This is a big piece of software. I would guess the printed manual would
>>be around 550-600 pages.

Minimalist? Are you paid by the page? :) Can those People Who Make Decisions
see the value in paying people to make this smaller? Can you get to enough
users to survey what bits they want or use?

>>Well, for the help file we could use Doc-to-Help with MSW 6.0, but I
>>am concerned on how D2H will handle a super big file.

Not super big, about medium - depends on the graphic content.
I work with one set of files for a client with 2,000 topics (its about 6.5MB
total and 16 WinHelp files). BTW, I don't use Doc-to Help, I use HDK, another
tool that can also handle Word =>WinHelp conversions.

There is a number of good reasons to make this 3, 4, or more, WinHelp files.
As well, a WinHelp project typically has a number of doc/rtf files within the
project. 600 pages is not too big for either Word 6 or any of the top Help
Authoring Tools.

>>What does Microsoft use for their help files?
MSWord and their own macros/in-house custom tools (not quite WHAT6) This may
be out of date - source Mary Deaton (ex-MS employee)

>>I think that the printed manual will have to be done in a different tool

Yes, if you don't have the MSWord expertise in-house. It can be done, but
doing it with people unfamiliar with MSWord is asking for trouble.
.....Bruce.....
WinHelp IT Editing
white -at- msn -dot- com
Go WHITEbook on MSN


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