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Subject:Which kind of ransom note? From:mlist -at- safenet-inc -dot- com To:"TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com> Date:Thu, 30 Jun 2005 11:04:01 -0400
WebHelp system (done in RoboHelp X5).
It's help for a networked security appliance.
There's a command-line interface for the appliance (via ssh or via local
There's a command-line interface for client computers (which in some
procedures must perform actions in conjunction with the appliance).
There's a handheld PIN Entry Device (PED) that plugs into the front of the
appliance when you need to authenticate to it. That device has a 4-line X
20-character LCD and a numeric keypad with "YES" "NO" "ENT" buttons, and it
accepts little key-like tokens (three different kinds).
When, for example, I'm describing the initialization of the hardware
security module (HSM) within the appliance, I have to describe a
command-line dialog with the appliance, and a keypad-and-LCD dialog with the
PED, plus some physical actions. I differentiate between the two
conversations (on my Help pages) by showing the CLI portions in black
courier, and the PED portions in red someotherfont. This, of course, is
interspersed with the regular text on the page (expository/explanatory) and
punctuated with the occasional Note or Caution, which are offset by
Almost every step has options that must be considered, and implications from
the resultant choices that have effects in later steps.
At the moment, my solution is to highlight a likely word in a step or a
dialog and embed some DHTML drop-down text at the spot. The advantage is
that the explanations are invisible unless you need/want them, but the
color/font of the highlighted word (or phrase) lets you know it's there.
The disadvantage is that the highlighting needs to stand out, so it's
different than other text elements.
Taken all together, some of my procedural Help pages have a very
ransom-note-ish look to them.
I can ease it a bit by splitting longer sequence pages into multiple pages,
but do we really want ten separate pages for a ten-step procedure (that has
Instead of dropdown text, I could just link to a separate page with the
explanations and implications, but that would do little to ease the
ransom-note look in the main flow. Links do need to stand out from ordinary
text, after all.
I've seen cleaner-looking pages that didn't have font-and-size-and-color
changes, but then it was less obvious that different pieces of text had
different importance or applicability. For example the action of a step
would be lost in the pre-amble and post-amble of that step, all of it in the
same font and color and looking very elegant, I'm sure...
What are some approaches you other folks use to avoid the
clown-barf/ransom-note look without losing usefulness?
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