I suppose my question is rhetorical to a certain extent. But in another sense, I honestly wonder. I am incredibly frustrated with the help system that Adobe has implemented for ALL of its products in the technical communication suite 3.5. The worst however is framemaker The help system:
1. forces me to use the blasted community help, which means before the help system loads it HAS to establish connection to the internet. Sidenote: why would anyone want to use AIR help unless they hated their users? Yes, it looks really cool but holy cow is it slow.
2. Due to (1), the help system takes a minute or more to load and temporarily FREEZES my application. <snark> How many people want to access a help system for a product when said access will freeze and potentially crash said application? </snark>
3. Due to (2), I tried to disable the community help and just use the local help on my computer. I assumed that meant the help system would come up instantly.
4. However, when I do (3), that just means the application freezes for MUCH longer (two maybe three minutes) and then a HTML page pops up with an error message about not being able to access some file.
5. Due to (4), I actually had to request help from a forum to fix the help system. I still marvel at the fact that adobe managed to implement a help system that a user can actually break. Now that takes talent.
6. To load any page or to perform a search in the community help, takes FOREVER.
Sometimes I forget and I click the help button thinking a normal help system will pop up instantly. And then I curse when i realize too late what I have done. Here's the help system I want:
1. when i select the help button, the help system comes up instantly.
2. When the help system comes up, i can select bookmarks or do searches and they will load in one or two seconds.
Now never let it be said that I do not provide constructive feedback: Hey, Adobe ever heard of a CHM file or web help. I hear there's this HAT called Robohelp that can make these and they work pretty decently. Maybe you should give that a try.
Extremely frustrated Technical Writer,
I agree. Having worked for many years at Digital Equipment Corp., we had a group that studied the usability of products and user documents, so it became a part of the development process. Maybe that is what is lacking at Adobe. With all the money they are collecting from overpriced products, they should be able to afford the time to create more usable task-oriented online help.
Out of self-defense, I have taken to writing my own instructions for various tools like Frame, Photoshop, Acrobat, and others, taking the minimalist approach since I am the only user and I can tell myself whatever I want.
Recently I wrote a few pages on how to use Frame 7.2 conditional tags because the online help was unclear, confusing, or incomplete. For example, it never showed the two dialog boxes you needed to work with and had one poorly worded paragraph about the In, Not In, and As Is columns in the Conditional Text box.
Once I figured out how to create the tags, apply them, make text disappear or reappear, and remove conditions, then I could explain it to myself. I figure if I can understand what I wrote, then maybe others can.
Would anyone from Adobe care to respond?
> I suppose my question is rhetorical to a certain extent.
Not entirely. It might, for example, be consistent with an intention to market FM only to people who already know how to use it.
And you forgot items -1 and 0, the reasons why you went to the Helpless system in the first place:
-1. Why did Adobe wreck the Index in the FM9 reference manual pdf?
0. Where is the FM10 reference PDF? Hardcopy? Anyone home?
It used to be that 90% of what you needed to know was in the reference manual. Another 5% was in supplemental and platform-specific PDFs. And for the last 5%, you went to comp.text.frame (R.I.P.).
Talking about document usability, Adobe's PDFs don't necessarily get better attention than the online help...
Two examples, out of several, at the FrameMaker Developer Center, http://www.adobe.com/devnet/framemaker.html :
* All cross-file links (around 500!) between two closely-related PDFs -- Structured Application Developer Reference and Developing Structured Applications with FM -- are non-functional (whether you try to use the links in PDFs you download or through the web-based versions).
* File size of the Extendscript Scripting Guide PDF is 17.62MB, much larger than expected (especially since it does not have graphics). With a simple operation, and no loss of any data, the new size is 5.08MB (less than one third of the original size).
I will discuss additional aspects of PDF usability and demonstrate these with additional PDFs (available publicly, from Adobe and from other companies) in my free Testing PDFs webinar next week (April 17):
FrameMaker/TCS training & consulting * FrameMaker-to-Acrobat TimeSavers/Assistants
Europe, Middle East and Africa