Re: Documenting Floating windows - how would you do it?

Subject: Re: Documenting Floating windows - how would you do it?
From: Nancy McDonald <nmcdonald -at- OTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 22 May 1997 11:48:31 -0400

Carla Lotito wrote:
> Dear techwriters,
> Here's a dilemma many of us face often....What would you do in this situation?
> I'm documenting a product which has floating windows (windows that can be
> accessed from several points in the software).
> The documentation is by module in the software and includes field
> descriptions. However, window X can be accessed from module A, B and C.
> Different users may use each module but it is possible that the same user
> use all modules. The documentation will be delivered as a whole, not by module.
> Where would you document the description of window X?
> * In module A and then provide a cross-reference from B and C?
> * Would you repeat the exact description in each module?(this may increase
> translation costs)
> * Or, would you make a new chapter called Floating windows at the end of the
> book (where it may not be seen by a user) in an appendix and just mention
> the existence of these windows and refer users to the appendix in each
> module for more information?
> I wait for your enlightening answers.
> Thanks!
> Carla.

Carla, I've got a similar project here: I'm writing a user guide for a
windows database system for an agency w/ many departments... each menu
in the menu bar has a different department's set of tasks... but there
are windows that have common behavior (the developers call it "standard
metaphor"), though the *content* of each access will be different.

So I've created a Chapter 2 (ch 1 is how to access the system itself,
user id, etc). In Chapter 2, I've got the general conventions, mouse
conventions, how to use help, all the toolbar buttons, menu items, etc.,
and then specific explanations for the screens' shape, and behavior, as
opposed to the specific content of particular screens, used in different
departments, which each gets its own chapter.

Because everyone will work with the same screen behavior patterns,
(screen 2 is displayed after working in screen 1, eg) I've written a
really hefty chapter 2, with all the specific information (eg, how to
search with screen 1, how to get to screen 2, etc).

Then, in say, chapter 4, which is a particular department (which in turn
has all its own commands in one menu from the menu bar), I first tell
them to refer to Chapter 2 for details, and just say generally, "choose
Search" without rewriting all the details I wrote in Ch 2!!

Hope this helps,
Nancy McDonald
nmcdonald -at- otech -dot- com

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