Re: Online Documentation vs. Help

Subject: Re: Online Documentation vs. Help
From: Michael Lewis <lewism -at- BRANDLE -dot- COM -dot- AU>
Date: Thu, 11 Dec 1997 10:44:26 +1100

Larry Weber wrote:
> Just a theory--feel free to take pot shots at this one:
> Ron D Rhodes said: "Anyway, Horton says you can't just dump
> documentation into a help file and expect a result that users will
> appreciate."
> Might the appreciation level of the audience really be an issue of "know
> your audience" and also HOW technical the material is? Consider the
> following "formula":
> higher technology (of material) = higher knowledge level of users
> THEREFORE less need for procedural help AND higher need for reference
> help

Yebbut: this is ducking the distinction between online reference docs
and online help, which is where this thread came from. The difference is
one of structure and access (the two being essentially mirror images of
each other). While it would be possible to publish full help material in
paper form, I've never seen it done and I don't think I ever will: the
access mechanisms for paper docs are comparatively slow and cumbersome,
even when they provide exactly the same access points (index, topic
segmentation, etc). Paper reference docs, on the other hand, can -- if
you're reasonably lucky -- convert to online form quite well. I've
converted a number of paper reference-type manuals to online form;
sometimes I've had to perform surgery on the structure, sometimes not.
Michael Lewis
Brandle Pty Limited, Sydney, Australia
PO Box 1249, Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012
Suite 8, The Watertower, 1 Marian St, Redfern 2016
Tel +61-2-9310-2224 ... Fax +61-2-9310-5056, or

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