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Lotus Wants Feedback on Redesign of Domino Designer Help

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For all the criticisms people have against Domino Designer, there is one handy little feature that I use all the time and apparently not everyone is aware of. I am referring to the ability to select a property, method, or command from the code Reference pane and press F1 to get context-sensitive help on that exact topic, as shown here:

A picture named M2

Well, the good folks at Lotus who have been tasked with figuring out how this sort of thing should work in the upcoming Eclipse-based Domino Designer want to know how important this functionality is to you. The goal is essentially to "Eclipsify" the context-sensitive help feature, and one of the potential solutions is to:

...make contextual help less granular, so that instead of the single @ command topic itself, you might see a short list of links to a group of @ command help topics. Clicking any of those links would show you the actual @ command help.


You can weigh in on the topic over at the Lotus Technical Information and Education Team Blog.  Do be sure to read comment #2 in which Mike clarifies some of his points from the initial post.

You might also weigh in on some of the related issues which I brought up in my second comment (#12):

While we are on the subject of context-sensitive help, how about some method of updating the help via an online update, perhaps even one that can notify you automatically, by default, that there is an update available for the version that you're using?

To take it even a step further, how about an integrated feedback feature whereby a user who wishes to point out an inaccuracy or offer additional information about a given topic can submit that to IBM, such that that sort of feedback might be incorporated into future updates to benefit the whole community. Given the nature of blog articles and other useful information that touches on any number of help topics, I think it would be awesome if links to blog articles, etc. could be included in the help as a result of user contributions.

For example I may write an article for my blog that goes into far greater detail about the soft deletion functionality than any help document I have ever seen. It would not bother me one bit to have quotes taken out of that article and included in the relevant help topics, with appropriate credit and a link of course.

Maybe there's even a way to do a context-sensitive Google search from a given help topic, whereby Google would analyze the content of that topic and present search results similar in nature. Or do the same thing but use the Notes 8 forum instead of Google as the destination, assuming there is some way to do that sort of search against the Domino database. If worse comes to worst each help topic could contain a field of "keywords" and the search of the forum would use those as parameters, separating them with AND.

Comments

1 - Hi Kevin - thanks for the feedback. I'm on the Lotus team looking into the 'nsf vs eclipse' style help - and I'll be sending out a survey in the near future. Do hope you'll volunteer to participate!

and btw - re:
"To take it even a step further, how about an integrated feedback feature whereby a user who wishes to point out an inaccuracy or offer additional information....."

Did you know that this has been a part of the help system for a long while? On the bottom of every help page, you'll see this message: "Feedback on Help or Product Usability?"
Please feel free to use the links we provide to let us know what you're thinking!

2 - Uh, I now see that I outlined the 'abstract' approach in my follow-up comment in the Lotus Technical Information and Education Team Blog. Duh. Oh, well, maybe repeating it here will encourage some more feedback...

3 - Yes! I've been suggesting this for years now (at each Lotusphere). I'm referring to the concept of updating the help nsfs via an online update based on the version of Notes being used...

The problem with the current help files (e.g. Notes 6) is that they are static. Designer Help, in particular, could greatly benefit from additional examples for LotusScript (or fix some of the examples that are just plain wrong)

Same goes for many of the @Formula examples.

Sometimes the parameters descriptions are woefully lacking.

Notes help has gotten better over the years, but it would be wonderful to click a "Check for online help udates" button and get the latest and greatest documentation updates.

Perhaps Notes 8 could implement some aspect of this "help online update mechanism."

I'm all for it.

4 - Chris, thank you for your comment, and for pointing out the existing feedback links that have been hiding in plain site all these years Emoticon. Still, there is more that can be done with that, such as turn that one-way flow of information into a more open channel like a forum, blog, etc. It would be nice to give ideas from one person a chance to bounce around the heads of others as we've done in a small way here.

I will definitely participate in your upcoming survey, and help encourage others to do so as well.

5 - Great ideas! Really like the notion of currency updates and two-way communication. A combination of Eclipse and wiki/blog might go a long way here.

Also, an update on my initial post, just to see what your reaction might be: I'm working on a mechanism to provide Eclipse context help that provides granularity similar to the current NSF help. On an F1 keypress, you would see a context help topic about the object/control/function/command/whatever with focus (so same experience so far as with NSF context help); the topic would contain an abstract of the "full" help topic--say, the short description, the syntax, the parameters, and the return value, for an @Command. You'd also have a "More..." link so you could view the "full" help topic if you wanted.

What do you think? (In case you're wondering, it's impractical--as far as I know--to think about reproducing the full help topic in the context help topic. Eclipse context help topics support very limited formatting, so you can't get things like tables into them. Hence the 'abstract' approach outlined above.)

I like this approach because it provides immediate help of equivalent granularity to the current NSF method, and maybe obviates the need to view the full topic in many cases, if we're smart about the abstract info we include. Would really like to hear opinions about this, though.

6 - Thanks for the feedback Larry. You should contribute a comment to the IBM blog entry I link to in the post.

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