Phil Bull (philbull) wrote,
Phil Bull

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Feisty feature of the day #4 - Get help. Fast.

The problem with writing documentation is that you get the feeling that no-one is going to read it. I mean, when was the last time you looked at the help browser?

Documentation has a bad reputation. It tends to be long, boring and lacking the information you actually need to find, so you just give up and never look at the installed help ever again. Hopefully, things are about to change.

A while ago, Shaun McCance of the GNOME project wrote about Project Mallard. Building on this, the Topic-Based Help spec was created in Ubuntu. The idea is that help is presented as small, to-the-point topics which just answer a question rather than waffling on for five paragraphs.

Feisty's help system is now topic-based. Just press System -> Help and Support and look for a relevant topic, either in one of the categories on the front page or by searching by typing a keyword into the box provided.

New topic-based help front page

Let's take an example. I want to install the Flash plugin, but I don't know how. Here's what I do:

  1. Press System -> Help and Support to start the help browser

  2. Type flash into the search box.

  3. Click the first result.

  4. Follow the steps in the instructions.

So far, so conventional, eh? Well, the major difference is that the instructions consist of two steps and aren't buried half-way down the document. Fast, easy, no messing about.

It's early days yet and there's definitely room for improvement, but just give it a go and see the difference. You just might find that help is helpful again...
Tags: documentation, feisty, ffotd, project mallard, topic-based help, ubuntu, ubuntu-doc, yelp
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