Microsoft Office Tutorials and References
In Depth Information
Help in depth
Note
Most dialog boxes include a Help button located in the title bar (identified by a
question mark icon). Clicking this button displays a Help topic describing the function of
and options within that dialog box. If you click the Help button in a tabbed dialog box,
you’ll see information pertaining to that particular tab.
INSIDE OUT A user-assistance odyssey
The implication of the term online Help has changed somewhat over the years. It used
to mean that in addition to the primary source of user assistance—the printed
manual—how-to topics and explanations of commands and features were available right
on your computer by pressing F1. What a concept! Today, Help really is online, and an
Internet connection is almost essential—preferably broadband.
Those who write user-assistance topics and implement the Help system historically
had to limit the amount of actual assistance they could provide, being constrained
by the amount of space allocated for Help files on the installation CDs (or floppy
disks!). Over the past few Office releases, the need for Help files actually shipped on
CD has decreased because of the new user-assistance paradigm: web-based Help.
This offers tremendous advantages over in-the-box Help. First, instead of having to
cram increasing amounts of information into a finite amount of space on a CD,
keeping Help files on the web allows virtually unlimited information to be made available.
Second, it allows information to be more up to date, which is actually an incredible
understatement.
Consider that under the old paradigm, Help content had to be written early and sent
through the editorial pipeline many weeks prior to shipping the software—often
before developers were finished tweaking features. (Add another month or so for
printed manuals! Remember those?) With the constraints on disk space, tough
decisions often were made regarding helpful topics and useful aids such as videos and
presentations that would simply have to be eliminated to save room. No wonder Help
systems have historically been dissed for being inaccurate and incomplete. Under the
new “truly online” Help paradigm, topics that would never have made it onto the CD
are instead available on the web, and user-assistance writers can update and add more
Help topics, videos, presentations, and templates long after the product ships.
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