Online Help System Demonstration

Steve Amoia
Technical Writer
June 5, 1997
AZ*Share Users' Conference

Please note:

This is a partial re-creation of a live product presentation that I gave at the 1997 AZ*Share Users' Group Conference in Washington, DC. Online help represented a new enhancement for AZTECH and we were eager to display the results to our clients. I was given permission by the former AZTECH Corporation in 2000 to share this presentation in a brief form since the contents were already in the public domain.


In November 1996, I began a four-year journey to document an entire revision of software modules. Since I had never authored Help systems, this project would provide me with a significant challenge. My job was to prepare a complete revision of Help systems from scratch along with updates for subsequent software enhancements. 

The HelpBreeze WinHelp Development Tool, which is sold by Solutionsoft, enabled me to produce a high quality product. Without their free technical support, I would have never finished.The Help product not only provides you with actual online instructions, but also reflects the knowledge base of our talented software developers, trainers, and client support team. Since this is the first edition of our Online Help, I relied heavily upon suggestions from all of my colleagues. I wanted the product to reflect the years of experience that the dedicated AZTECH staff provided to its clients. 

I have developed and designed the Help files with my clients' needs in mind. In order to simulate my target audience's experience, I received no formal training in our software modules. This method, along with alpha testing of our software, allowed me to anticipate the behavior of a new user.

My goal was to create concise, topic-specific, and time-saving online Help. Unlike most Windows Help systems, my projects are organized in menu order. This provides the user with a consistent flow based upon the actual menu items. To complement our training efforts, my Help files contain numerous How Do I learning examples.

Main Help Screen:

Each book, which is organized into one topic per menu item, represents a major software menu item group.

Topical Keyword Index:

For ease of use, the keywords mirror the exact names of the software menu items. I designed my Help to contain only one keyword per topic; consequently, if users need to do a more comprehensive search, they can click on the Find tab.

How Do I Procedural Index:

The How Do I topic is a comprehensive procedural summary that is organized by major menu item groups. Each topic has at least one How Do I. This reference tool saves time, since the client does not have to remember where the information is located. To further enhance the Help Systems, I have added Glossary and Help Tips topics.

Sample Online Documentation:

Due to my non-disclosure agreement, I can not show or distribute anything that specifically described software features; however, this will give you an idea of my documentation skills.

Software Users' Manual Documentation:

One of the time-saving features of HelpBreeze is its single source capability. I was able to develop the Online Help, and then produce a complementary indexed and referenced software manual. There was no need to maintain two separate source files. The software produced the table of contents, chapter headings, along with an index based upon the content in the actual help file. Since I was the only technical writer, it made my job much easier.