Monday, February 05, 2007

Hypothesis: Help Writers are Smartasses

How else to explain any documentation from Microsoft? Better yet, this quote straight out of a help authoring tool (help for people who write help files):

"As soon as you start a project in [this software] you can do any number of things with it. Technically, you could build the final output immediately. However, if it is a new project, building the output right away would not do your end users much good, since the output does not yet have any real substance. The project needs topics, content, hyperlinks, navigation, and all of the other "stuff" necessary to help your end users."

Umm, yeah, thanks guys. Otherwise us poor dumb documentation types might just create blank help files and send them out to our hapless users. Come to think of it, that kind of file would be an improvement over some I've encountered (e.g. Microsoft reference above).

Hey, if anyone's reading, feel free to rant about bad documentation here. As a smartass help author, I'll probably just laugh at you, but it's good to get it off your chest.

4 Comments:

Blogger Eliyahu said...

personally, my all time favorite (so far) was looking up "general ledger" (G/L) in version 1 of the new MS office accounting program. (ust in case you aren't an accountant, the general ledger is the heart of any accounting system-the listing of all the transactions.) the MS index said that the G/L was used by some accounting systems. there was no way to display or print it in version 1. version 2, now trying to get on the good side of CPAs, added a G/L report.

close second, referring to the built in help as "online."

2/05/2007 11:38 PM  
Blogger Tzipporah said...

ha! Their programming was probably drawing accounting info from QuickBooks.

Actually, eliyahu, a lot of built-in help now looks first for an active Internet connection, and only reads installed help files if it cannot find one. So clicking on the Help menu CAN take you to "online" help (WebHelp) in many programs.

But thanks for the rant. ;)

2/06/2007 12:01 PM  
Blogger BJ said...

Don't get me started on Motorola phone manuals. I would have been better off with nothing......Circular references (p. 18 says to do X, see directions on p. 36, then p. 36 says to see directions on p. 18) and a mishmash of nonsense when the directions are there. Worthless -- so I'm only using the features on the phone that I found by trial and error.

2/06/2007 4:10 PM  
Blogger Mrs. Jude said...

we were cleaning up our help files and found this...EEEK

"This is your unique password, and it must be entered correctly each time you login. Passwords are case sensitive. Your password will not be shown on the screen as you enter it, just in case somebodys peeking over your shoulder. If youre really paranoid about it, you might try hunching down over the keyboard so nobody can see which letters and numbers you type."

2/12/2007 12:51 PM  

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