Re: Context Sensitive Help

Subject: Re: Context Sensitive Help
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher -at- EXPERSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 8 May 1997 13:56:55 -0700

Becca Price asks, about context-sensitive help:

>As users, what do you like to see when you ask for context-sensitive help?
>do you want field-level information, as in Win95-style What's This? help?
>or do you want to see what someone else thinks might be the most appropriate
>topic? or possibly a list of options that could include field definitions
>and information about common procedures? Should cs-help be at the field
>level or at the screen level?

When I hit F1 from a dialog box or right click for What's this, I'm
always looking for field information -- mostly the implications of
making a particular choice (like what areas of operation are affected).
Less frequently, but often enough, I need to know what kind of info
to enter into a field.

"What someone else thinks is an appropriate topic" or procedural stuff
doesn't help me at all, because if I don't know how to do something, I
access help thru the search engine.

Sometimes I prefer getting c/s help at the dialog box level -- for two
reasons. I can see the information for more than one field at a time,
so if I need extensive help on the dbox, I don't have to right click
repeatedly *and* there's the ability to link to procedural and/or
conceptual topics, so I can browse for more info.

>If field level help is the most appropriate, should the cs-help command (F1,
>shift-F1, whatever) be the *only* way to get at this information, or should
>there be links to that topic in the general help file, as well?

Depends on the application and the user -- and sometimes it just depends.
I once worked with a project architect who insisted that all help topics
be browsable. ;-) Sometimes I've browsed dbox info and stumbled across
features I didn't know were available, so it can definitely be useful.
However, if you allow users to browse to c/s info, please include instructions
on how to access that dbox from within the program! Nothing is more frustrating
than finding a really great feature in the help file and not being able to
locate it in the program.

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

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