Re: Help with Help

Subject: Re: Help with Help
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- SIMPLYWRITTEN -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 2 Feb 1999 09:53:46 -0500

Juley, above all don't yield to panic. And don't put much focus on your HAT.
Tools aren't hard to learn once you know the basics of help.

I'd recommend doing two things. First, if you aren't all that familiar with
help terminology and concepts, get Windows 95 Help by Zuback et al. Take two
days at home and thoroughly read that thing, or as much as you can. Don't
focus on what you won't be doing (macros, for example), but get completely
familiar with how help works, its graphics needs, its lexicon, and so forth.
The problem I see most often is that help authors assume that the tool will
rescue them. It won't, guaranteed, any more than a roofing airgun can make
you into a roofer. You'll need familiarity with help itself. It ain't
chopped liver.

Second, get a shell/outline together. This is one of the most common
failings I see, too...people try to "grow" a help file instead of write one.
Right now, you can start answering some questions and planning your file's
structure. For example:

*Will you need context sensitivity? If so, what form will that take?
*Will your users have to scroll through long topics? Or will you cut them
*Will you be using popups? And if so, for what kinds of topics?

Before we start any help project at Simply Written, we create the beginnings
of a jump list. It also helps if you can make your project into "chunks"
that just repeat. Then the jump list is the same from subject to subject. It
takes a LOT longer to reinvent jump patterns for every subject you cover.

For example, if you know that you'll need an introduction and a stepwise
procedure for each subject (not "topic"), you might make a rule that every
introduction has a link to its stepwise procedure topic. That's a pattern
that repeats over and over again. This cuts down on time and mistakes. If
possible, make the whole file into one big chart, long before any writing is
done. It's a lot cheaper and easier catching mistakes in structure when it's
on paper than when it's already coded.

Tim Altom
Adobe Certified Expert, Acrobat
Simply Written, Inc.
The FrameMaker support people
Ask about Clustar Method training and consulting

----- Original Message -----
From: Juley Torkomian <Juley -dot- Torkomian -at- MCMAIL -dot- VANDERBILT -dot- EDU>
To: <TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU>
Sent: Tuesday, February 02, 1999 9:10 AM
Subject: Help with Help

>Hi All,
>Where do I begin? Literally where do I begin? I'm writing my first Help
>project and I'm overwhelmed. My HAT has been ordered and I will receive it
>week sometime. I've begun my writing in Word so I can get started before
my HAT
>arrives. So far I've written a "How do I?" list, a Glossary of Terms
>definitions and a few help topics. I have plenty to write but I need to
>like I have some kind of a plan. How do you plan a Help Project. What
steps do
>you take before you begin writing?
>I'm feeling grossly disorganized and without direction (two feeling that
>me up a wall). Can anyone suggest a site or some reading that might help?
>advice would be appreciated.
>From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000==

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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