Re: QUERY: Baby steps to Windows online help

Subject: Re: QUERY: Baby steps to Windows online help
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 18:14:44 -0700

At 04:35 PM 7/31/96 -0600, Patty Ewy wrote:
>Greetings 'whirlers!

>I work for a third-party software development company. Until recently, the only
>role the tech writers here have had in the development of our online help is to
>export the text from our PageMaker files.
>Now we need to get our feet wet in the Windows-style help. But where to start?
>Our product is immense (more than 100 "major" windows, with lots and lots of
>inquiry and lookup windows). Our tech writing team works on Macs (the rest of
>the development staff is on PCs). All our text is in PageMaker files. And while
>we have a developer who has spent sometime looking into options that are
>available to us for developing the online help system, the development staff is
>keen to give the entire project to the tech writers. We have no tech writers
>with any online help experience.

>If you were in this leaky boat, what's the first step you'd take? Just send
>someone off to a training seminar? (Or do they expect you to have a pretty good
>idea of the help tool before you get there?)

Well, Patty. Step one is the hardest. Scrap those Macs and get your
group some PCs to work on. Not only do you need them to develop the
help on, you need them to become familiar with the platform, the
conventions, and *other* help files. One of the best ways to become
familiar with online help for a platform is to *use it* so you can
see how it works, what works well, and what falls short of the mark.
Until you do that, you'll be developing in the dark. And Windows help
ported to the Mac is nothing like Windows help on Windows.

Second step is read. Winhelp Journal, STC Online PIC newsletter,
books on online help, product reviews... Learn what the issues are,
what the tools are, feel your way around. Probably have someone in
the group subscribe to the winhelp list.

You'll have to pick a tool eventually. Take your time and select
the one that the group is most comfortable with. They all do the
same thing, but some of the approaches are very different. Get

Seminar? Maybe. But, to learn the paradigm or to learn the tool -- or
both? They'll more than likely be two separate classes. What's the
budget like???

Spend some time organizing and planning -- implement the help in stages.
Maybe first round is context-sensitive only, second round is to add
procedures. Take it in small bites. Once you get going, you'll wonder
what took you so long. ;-)

Sue Gallagher
sgallagher -at- expersoft -dot- com
-- The _Guide_ is definitive.
Reality is frequently inaccurate.

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