What's This help: summary

Subject: What's This help: summary
From: "Huber, Mike" <mrhuber -at- SOFTWARE -dot- ROCKWELL -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 2 Oct 1997 10:38:04 -0500

I had asked if anyone knew of any research into field-level "What's
This?" style help.
There was one response pointing me toward an individual who might have
some research, but the rest of the responses were essentialy opinion and

(Where the response was sent directly to me, I have skipped the
attribution out of respect for the tradition of not publicly posting
private e-mail. If it's yours and you want your name on it, let me

None that I've found. I think it sucks. It ranks up there with
single-sourcing, in my opinion.

Personally (OK, a sample of one is not statistically valid research) I
don't like it at all. If you just want help on one field, it isn't too
bad, but generally, when I look for help, I prefer to wander around
the subject, and 'what's this' help makes this very awkward.

I love the technical improvements in Winhelp 4, but I am very much
less keen about hw the 'standards' have been set.

Iain Harrison
iharrison -at- sct -dot- co -dot- uk
iain -at- hairydog -dot- clara -dot- net
(in response to Ian)
I feel that What's This? help is a great *addition* to dialog level
Sometimes you need to know what a dialog box is for, and sometimes you
to know what a radio group is for. When you've got both, you can choose
whichever you need. If you just need the radio group, then you don't
to spend the time skimming through the dialog level and other field
help to get to the part you're interested in (as when you've only got
dialog level help).

I don't think that's how it was intended, but that's how I would do it
if I
had to include What's This? help in a project. It's never been an issue
discussion with me, though, because I've not been at a place that wanted
invest the programmer-hours to get the software set up for that kind of
help. If you want to avoid What's This? help, you can probably come up
a lot of other improvements that could be made with those
and head off the discussion altogether! :-)

This is just a personal perspective, but like a lot of things, it's good
done right and useless otherwise.

There are times when it can improve the interface, however. For example,
I'm working on a program that includes a listbox, one of whose columns
shows the most recently used order. I can label this column MRU and know
that anyone who doesn't know what that abbreviation means can use What's
This to find out. Otherwise, I'd be at a loss to know what to label it
without making the column ridiculously wide.

Mark Wilden [Mark -at- MWILDEN -dot- COM]

Mike Huber
mike -dot- huber -at- software -dot- rockwell -dot- com

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