We made some big changes to the CS4 Help experience from previous versions of the suite. First, Help is now on the web (there is a stripped down version of Help on your hard drive, but that appears only if you’re not connected to the web). Second, the default page that appears when you choose Help > InDesign Help is the Help and Support page, not the main InDesign Help page. Third, searches in Help can include community content.
As I’ve been looking at survey results and getting feedback from customers, it’s clear to me that a lot of people aren’t happy with all of these changes. While we have some major improvements to Help coming down the pike for the next version, there is only so much we can change for CS4. Here’s what I recommend to make the current Help experience more productive.
Tip 1. Change the default to the main Help page.
I’ve heard from a number of people that when they choose Help > InDesign Help, they want to look at the actual Help topics, not a support page. Fortunately, you can go to the main Help page and then click the “Help on the Web” option. From then on, whenever you press F1 or choose Help > InDesign Help, you go straight to the Help topics.
Tip 2. Start searches with “This Help system only” selected.
When this option is selected, the community links are not included in the search results. While I think the community sites are great — after all, I added them to the custom search engine — a lot of people say they want to start their search only in Help, and then expand if necessary. Many of the Help topics include direct links to related blogs and user forums. Like the topic on GREP search. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, it’s easy to expand the search to include community content.
By the way, you may have been frustrated by the fact that each time you selected “This Help system only,” you had to select it again whenever you went back to a Help topic. Not anymore. As of last Friday, that option is now “sticky.”
Tip 3. Ignore the three items below the search box.
You may have noticed the “Adobe.com,” “Support,” and “Community” options on the Help and Support page or on the search results page. These options are the result of a design-by-committee approach that tried to please different groups within Adobe who wanted to use different search engines for different purposes.This approach wouldn’t be a problem if so many people didn’t misunderstand it. A lot of users perform a search, decide they don’t want to cloud the results with community content, so they click “Adobe.com.” It’s perfectly logical, but they end up using the limited adobe.com search engine, which is better for marketing purposes than for answering how-to questions. What people really need to do to filter out community hits is choose the “Show only content from Adobe” check box in the search window or select “This Help system only” before searching.The “Support” option can be useful if you’re looking for tech notes. But in most cases when you’re looking for help, it’s best to leave “Community” selected. The Community search includes tech notes, user forums, and all the rest of adobe.com.
Tip 4. Download the PDF.
While I prefer using the web version of Help, which includes useful comments and community search capabilities, some people prefer being able to view the entire PDF. From any Help topic, simply click the “Download Help PDF” option in the upper left corner.