May 11, 2007

Helping the Help: Photoshop now on LiveDocs

The Help files that ship with Adobe products seem to catch a lot of slings and arrows from users.  There are some fair points to be made, and one small team of writers can never be as specific, detailed, or personable as the many third-party books out there.  This is especially true when the Adobe writers are trying to finish their work far in advance of shipping the product, in order to have time to localize the content into multiple languages.

The reality is that the people using the apps day in and day out (y’know, real customers) are likely to have plenty of good ideas and info to contribute. Recognizing this, the documentation team is now publishing the help content via LiveDocs–the user-editable Web publishing system rolled out by Macromedia. This has two important results:

  • Adobe help content is now accessible via search engines.  So, even if you think the Help menu is made of Kryptonite and prefer to look for documentation online, high-ranking hits from the Adobe materials can be found there.
  • More interestingly, the content is open to comments from users. On this page, for example, user Shangara Singh asks for clarification about noise reduction in Camera Raw, drawing a reply from the documentation team.  Elsewhere people can flesh out topics, add tips, and so forth.  I plan to do so myself in a few spots.

Like most things, this is just one step, but I really like the direction of baking more community into our apps.  Whether it’s help content, scripts, palettes, or anything else, we have to get out of the business of Adobe trying to do everything & make it easier for people with the know-how to share it with one another.  More thoughts on that to follow.

Posted by John Nack at 6:04 PM on May 11, 2007

Comments

  • Steve Werner — 6:57 PM on May 11, 2007

    John,
    Do you know why the Photoshop Help allows comments, but the Help for InDesign CS3 or Illustrator CS3, for example, do not? Also the URLs are different: Photoshop’s is at http://livedocs.adobe.com/ and the others at http://help.adobe.com/. What’s the story here?
    [Honestly I’m not sure, though I can ask. –J.]

  • Shangara Singh — 11:23 PM on May 11, 2007

    Woooa! More fame! :-))) Actually, I wasn’t looking for clarification but pointing out diplomatically that the help info was behind. With each new version, I spend a fair amount of time looking for appropriate reference pages to add to my Photoshop ACE exam aid, so tend to see things that others may miss. I expected my comments to be looked into and the page updated but found they were printed instead, which is still helpful to others but would’ve preferred to stay out of the limelight. Might an option to stay anonymous encourage more people to add their comments?
    [Perhaps, though I really want to encourage accountability and transparency. We’ll give it some thought. –J.]

  • Andrew Meit — 8:45 AM on May 12, 2007

    Thank you Adobe for fully sharing Help content and seeking more help outside of Adobe. I enjoy that the PDFs contain links to video training at Adobe’s site as well. I would like to see more outside of Adobe training videos to really flaten the learning curve to cover all features and perhaps special topics too as links in both PDFs/LiveDocs. A strong suggestion: that LiveDocs contain links to comfirmed bug reports and perhaps with workarounds. This will help users a lot and cut down on some support calls too. Oh, in six wks I get my CS3 and I will be able to hit ground running due to the online CS3 docs now. Keep it up! Again, thank you!

  • David Potter — 9:29 AM on May 15, 2007

    John, this idea that everyone can contribute is great. We did this at IBM Research, and the results have been incredibly rewarding. All of the 1000s of researchers, and others could add proghrams and documentation for everyone to use. You will be surprised at what is out there.
    David Potter, Software Engineer (retired)
    [Good to hear, David–thanks. –J.]

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