Today one of my Technical trainer colleagues was having an issue with a new piece of functionality. He turned for help to one of my team who had documented it in the help. The response was interesting. There was a brief pause whilst she considered what to say. Then she offered a wry smile and the words, “It would be easier to show you than to explain it.”
Such an honest response made me smile. My initial reaction was to suggest that it was an example of superb customer service that could be extended to the help files. You know the sort of thing, “Don’t know how to do X? Just call your friendly SME a ring and they’ll be around in a jiffy.” Such an approach would make documenting so much easier.
No? Oh well. We’ll have to add that dialog to the list of those we have suggestions on how to improve. It is a good job our Development team are so understanding.
Moses is chiseling the ten commandments onto a large slab of rock. After many hours chiseling away he finishes at which point God says, “Isn’t there only one “t” in covet? This leads me onto a perennial issue for me: my fingers. If you occasionally have fingers that seem to belong to a different body, you’ll use whatever tools are at your disposal to correct any typographical errors you create.
My tool of choice, RoboHelp, has its own in-built spell checker which can be used to auto-correct any errant “words” that may be inadvertently used. Lots of other applications have a similar feature. So if like me you have a habit of typing “teh” rather than “the”, such a tool can save you loads of time! You just type away in the knowledge that any occasion where your fingers start misbehaving your error will be automatically corrected.
Such powerful tools may occasionally feel a bit underused and like Marvin the Paranoid Android may need their ego boosted. If you are feeling adventurous, why not use them as a form of snippet repository? The RoboHelp snippets functionality works well but it has its limitations. For a start you can’t insert a snippet inside a sentence. Say you have a text phrase that frequently use. At my company we use the phrases “E-WorkBook Suite” and “BioBook Spreadsheet” all the time. You could have these as RoboHelp variables but this means moving your hand from the keyboard to the mouse to click and drag it into the topic text. Wouldn’t it be better if you had an entry in the auto correct panel that corrected a text string as it was typed? For example:
- EWBS for “E-WorkBook Suite”
- BBSS for “BioBook Spreadsheet”
To add an auto-correct entry in RoboHelp:
- Locate the cursor inside a topic.
- Click the Tools > Spelling Options menu item. The Spelling Options dialog is displayed.
- Click on the AutoCorrect tab.
- Click inside the Replace field and type the text you want replaced when it is typed (e.g. teh).
- Click inside the With field and type the text you want the typed text replaced with (e.g. the).
- Click Add.
- Click OK.
Values entered are not case sensitive. Oh and if you make a mistake typing the auto-correct values there is not option to edit them. You have to delete the entry and add it again. But then only an imbecile would make that mistake. I should know!
Drum roll please!
I heard a joke the other day that really made me laugh. Like a lot of verbal jokes it relied heavily on its use of language to lead the listener up a chosen path before delivering a killer punch line. Once I’d stopped laughing, I got to thinking about how we technical communicators also use language and, more importantly, how its misuse can have a similar effect. Tell me what you think?
“It’s the way I tell them”
Two men go hunting in the woods. After an hour or so, one of the men suddenly collapses. The second man grabs his phone and dials the emergency services. “I need an ambulance. My friend has collapsed and is motionless on the ground.” The operator tells him, “OK Sir. Just keep calm. The first thing you need to do is make sure he isn’t breathing.” Just then the operator hears the phone being dropped and the sound of a gunshot. After a few seconds the second hunter returns to the line and says, “OK. Now what?”