Big help files, usability issues, need advice

Subject: Big help files, usability issues, need advice
From: Kristy Astry <104146 -dot- 13 -at- COMPUSERVE -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 1996 11:35:11 EDT


I'm using Word 6 w/D2H 1.6.1 and need your advice. Not sure whether to combine
several large files or leave 'em separate.

There are 4 help docs: 1 @26k, 1 @512k, 1 @360k, and 1 at an unknown size at
this time, but will probably be around 500k to 1 mg. The "master" doc is 20k.
The product is made up of three interrelated modules, each of which has its own
help, plus a "common" help file that covers common buttons, commands, etc. At
times the user will be in one module and will need to call up another, thus
making the immediate accessibility of each help file important to the user.

So. If I combine all files, then I get a shared topic list for the search,
index, and glossary, which is good. And I get a combined, seamless table of
contents. However, the disadv. is a very long compile time each time we make
changes (and lord knows that happens all too often w/a new product).

If I don't combine all files, then I have separate search topics, index, and
glossary, which isn't nec. good if a user is looking for help for a different
module ("where did I see the help for x..."). However, it's easy to compile and
update each module as needed. And I could set up buttons in the Help
nonscrolling region to "jump" to the other help files. Using this help requires
a little more intelligence on the part of the user, and makes it a bit more
difficult for him/her to navigate help. I sure don't want to make the user's job
harder! What would you do?

Kristy Astry
Columbine JDS
"Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder"

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