Re: Context Sensitive Help

Subject: Re: Context Sensitive Help
From: Matthew Stern <MAStern -at- PLATSOFT -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 9 May 1997 09:16:07 -0700

In response to Becca Price's questions 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?

Our help files typically have field-level help with related topics links
to the form-level help and related procedural topics. This is because
users usually want information about the specific field or control they
are using first, but they then want the option of looking elsewhere for
procedures or information about related fields.

We still produce Windows 3.1-compatible help, so we haven't implemented
What's This help yet. The limitation I see in most What's This help is
that it just describes the field and there is no obvious way to go
directly to more information. I have seen some What's This topics with
Related Topics buttons, and I think that is a good way to go.

>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?

I don't think F1 or whatever the context-sensitive help key is should be
the only way to get field-level help. You can only use F1 when you can
select a field, but if you can't select the field, you can't get to the
help. You can provide links to these field-level help topics with
related topics or by providing a list of fields with links in the
form-level help.

Hope this helps.

Matthew Stern
Sr. Technical Writer
Platinum Software Corporation

E-mail: mastern -at- platsoft -dot- com

The opinions here are solely my own.

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