Better than nothing

Let's face it, there is a lot of software on the market, much of it low-cost, that comes with next-to-nothing in terms of documentation. And sometimes, when there is a manual, it's so bad you wish they hadn't bothered at all. Particularly if you're a documentation professional because horrible manuals just bring down the whole industry. Which brings me to the subject at hand, a utility for "automatically" writing your documentation "in just minutes."

Certainly, as a consumer, I have definitely used products that might have benefitted from having at least some documentation. But enumerating the list of buttons and menus in an application does not result in professional documentation, and it certainly doesn't produce a usable help system, at least not by current standards. For that, you need a user-centric approach that focuses on tasks, emphasizes troubleshooting, and provides context. Writing a manual that simply defines the UI is like creating a recipe that only includes the ingredients list and omits the cooking process.

In a wonderfully recursive example, you can >browse the "help system" for Dr. Explain, which was created by running Dr. Explain on itself. I think the result speaks for itself.

So if you're faced with releasing a product without documentation, and you just can't bring yourself to hire a professional writer, I suppose a utility like this will allow you to say "sure, it's got a help system" but don't count on it actually being useful. That's something that won't happen "automatically."

Posted: November 3, 2005 link to this item, Tweet this item, respond to this item