Survey day: What are your thoughts about Help systems?

Today is Thursday survey day! Let’s think about our favorite, and least favorite, help systems and help system features.

First of all, there are internal and external help systems. An example of an internal help system is what you find in Flash MX 2004 – the Help panel. External help systems might use a browser window — essentially, this help lives outside of the program you seek information about. Fireworks MX 2004 has an external help system.

So what do you like and/or dislike about these kinds of Help systems? Which system do you prefer to use when you work with Flash?

Lastly, let’s think about the features you find in each of these kinds of Help systems. Which features do you use the most? What do you consider vitally important features of a Help system? What features are “nice to have”? What kinds of features speed up, or slow down, your search?

Your feedback is appreciated!

11 Responses to Survey day: What are your thoughts about Help systems?

  1. Peter Witham says:

    I spend most of my time in Flash so my thoughts are based around that fact.I used to like the internal help until my screen space started to disappear. Now when it comes to Flash I actually brought the Action Script dictionary so I can have it on the desk and not loose any screen space.That said, I think I would choose built in help rather than external, the only real plus to external is when you have multiple screens (based on my experience). The only feature I ever use is to go straight to search and find what I need that way.If Macromedia ever get their act together with multiple screen support I’d love to have the help panel on a seperate screen and leave it there. The current multi-screen support of stretching the application over the desktops is insane :)If I was using external help files though then I would probably use a multi-desktop tool and have the application on a screen and the help on another and switch between the two.My two cents.Regards to all.

  2. Tim Scollick says:

    I use Mike Chambers Flash Resource Manager and it rocks. Unless I’m checking the most basic of things, I NEVER use the onboard Flash help. Those panels are annoying because you’re forever re-sizing them.If I were making a new version of Flash (hint, hint), I would have a seperate Flash help program (available from Flash by F1). Then you can launch the help and alt-tab between the two.Use Mike’s app as an example but don’t build it in C# cause you’re stealing all of my memory invoking the CLR.That’s my two cents. Keep up the good work.

  3. Mr K says:

    I have to say … ditch the internal system, first of all I thought it was great, but like Peter said it’s just a pain in the ______ when you don’t use it. It wastes realestate.Go back to a system accessed via the HELP menu or the F1 key. My thought is let the IDE do what the IDE does best, and clear EVERYTHING else out. 🙂 he he heBtw … “Hi Jen ..”

  4. LarryP says:

    Just wanted to mention that there is already an external help system…called Live Docs.More advanced search features would be helpful, so that the possible matches that are returned can be narrowed down more easily. For example, it would be nice to be able to type in two or three words to search on and only get docs back that contain all of those words.

  5. Hilton says:

    I agree that the in-screen help can be hard to read, but I like it. I manage my workflow with panel sets (one with fullscreen help, one with fullscreen actions, and one with normal stage setup). External help is less desirable because it ends up feeling like a pop-up ad.There is so much Flash documentation all over the internet. I try to stick with a few good sites that are clearly written, with tutorials for the current release. Including tutorials (found ’em, Jen!) in the help is a really good idea, I think. I store my personal code library- with notes, of course- in a separate document. I wonder if there is a way to do that with the help, so that everything is in the same place? Like Peter, I also bought a hard copy of the AS Dictionary. It’s a constant companion.Thanks for all you put into it. I appreciate it.

  6. Gary says:

    I tend to use the help files on Macromedia’s web site rather than the inbuilt one. I sometimes use an external text editor to edit my AS file and on OSX the help file is entirely hidden when Flash doesn’t have focus. I sometimes do development on a Windows box as well which, maybe because I’m used to not using the internal help files on OSX, I use the site still.

  7. Sebastian says:

    I totally dislike the internal help system. It is very annoying how it keeps coming to the top by itself. Something like Flash Resource Manager is the way to go. I also found the search capability useless; it always produces too many results or nothing at all. I would like some keyword based search on top of the full text search.

  8. John says:

    On windows at least I find external help panels easier to use on a dual screen setup and quicker. The current internal flash help system is slow and at times just sits and hogs CPU.Useful features would be highlighting words you searched for, abiblity to make bookmarks and to add notes.

  9. With regards to the help system, when I use the pro version on Windows, I just have help collapsed at the bottom of the screen. When I need it, I can easily expand the pane while I need it.Unfortunately, since the Mac version doesn’t use the same panel layout mechanism, it is always getting in the way for me. I continue to use it though because it is quick to browse through.The LiveDocs are nice, but can be slow to load, and don’t work under Safari, my primary browser (I get the initial spash graphic, but nothing beyond that). I used LiveDocs a lot more before 7.2, because a lot of stuff was missing from the documentation and I looked to people’s comments to provide the extra info. The documentation is a lot better in 7.2, especially with more complete examples, so I find myself going to LiveDocs less now.Oh, and hi Jen!

  10. Brendan says:

    As a user with only one monitor, I’ve found the internal help system much easier to use than external. This is especially when using tutorials. Its akward to have to toggle between Dreamweaver and Safari. Thanks for asking.

  11. William says:

    Better search in the Help panel! PLEASE!!