How do I decide whether to use Apple Guide for my project?
Apple Guide is best at providing interactive, step-by-step, task-based instructions. Apple Guide will fit your documentation needs well if your documentation
- is task-oriented, organized in terms of the way the user views the task rather than in terms of the program's functions (for example, "How do I connect to the Internet?", not "How do I use TCP/IP?");
- presents information step by step; and
- can benefit from interaction with the user and the computer setup (for example, if you want to present different instructions depending on the user's system configuration)
You can also use Apple Guide as a hypertext reference engine, although this type of documentation doesn't really take advantage of many of Apple Guide's strengths (such as coaching and context-checking). Apple Guide is best used for reference material that is brief and which users frequently look up while they're at the computer. Syntax cheat-sheets for programming or scripting languages, power-user shortcuts, and quick FAQs are all appropriate for Apple Guide.
There are a few things Apple Guide is not really appropriate for for:
- Hardware setup, installation, and troubleshooting documentation that the user may need when the computer is turned off. Since Apple Guide is only available when the computer is on and running and the guide itself has been installed, it doesn't make sense to use it for such questions as "How do I install the software?" or "Why won't my computer turn on?"
- Information that may be used away from the computer or at a remote peripheral. For example, instructions on the front-panel settings of a networked printer need to be near the printer; if the user's computer and the printer are in different areas of the building, Apple Guide format will be frustrating and difficult to use. Again, a printed sheet that can be carried to or stored with the printer is more useful.
- Extensive references, essays, and background information, intended to be read all the way through, rather than looked up as needed. For physiological reasons, on-screen reading is physically more difficult and tiring than reading the same material on paper. Also, many users prefer to read such background material away from the computer.
Jeanne A. E. DeVoto firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 1996 Jeanne A. E. DeVoto