Future of Help revisited

Subject: Future of Help revisited
From: Dick Margulis <margulisd -at- comcast -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 04 Jun 2005 17:21:33 -0400

I'm writing help for a Web application that is designed to make my life easier. This may be a model that others can see the benefit of.

My login profile gives me a couple of special privileges. I can go to any page in the application that will be available to a user, and on that page I see a couple of extra links that the user does not see. One of the links is "Edit instructions"; the other is "Edit help." I can enter html directly into the child window that opens, update it, close the child window, refresh the main window, and voilà! There is the text I just entered, big as life on the page (for page instructions) or in the help window if I click the Help button.

The developers built this functionality into all of their applications. Pretty clever solution if you ask me.

Want single source? Not a problem. The developers can export a table from their central database and deliver it to me as an Access database. I can then turn that into a formatted document in a jiffy. (Just between you and me, I'm building my own Access table as I go along, rather than depending on them to generate it for me. This gives me a backup for what I'm writing, too.)

Limitation: Right now there is no way to add an image to the help text, although it won't be an insurmountable challenge if the need to do so becomes obvious.

Anyway, this is yet another approach, and it's clean and neat enough that I think it might catch on as a reasonably standard way of providing page-level help for Web apps.


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