From the screen shots on the Techcrunch site, it appears, yes, there will be online Help. It will be initiated by clicking on a ? button in the top right hand corner. In short, it appears Google will be sticking to standard User Interface conventions. What’s unclear is whether the Help pages will be stored locally on the machine or “in the cloud”.
Google Wave, the latest tool in development at Google, offers workflow and collaboration capabilities that will be of interest to technical documentation teams. With Google Wave’s open API, there’s the potential for developers of Help Authoring Tools to integrate Wave into its application and into published Help.
The first 50 minutes of the video below demonstrates Wave’s capabilities:
We can see a number of potential applications in technical documentation:
1. Embedded into online Help. Here the potential benefits are in providing real time conversational support for users within online Help.
2. Managing documentation projects. Wave could make the process of gathering information from Subject Matter Experts and reviewing drafts a little easier, through its collaborative documents capabilities. Also, the playback feature offers a new approach to version control.
3. Re-use of content. Wave appears to turn messages and replies into components. You can drag and drop chunks of email threads into other conversations, Blogs, bug tracking software and elsewhere. Could these, perhaps, be embedded into online Help in a useful way?
4. Multi authoring. More than one author can edit the document at the same time.
5. Drag and drop hyperlinking.
Wave has some very attractive capabilities, and it is something we should all await with interest.
We took a quick look at Google’s new Chrome browser this morning. MadCap’s Flare Web based Help seems to work fine, but there seems to be a problem with RoboHelp’s Web Help – specifically the Table of Contents.
We dragged some old RoboHelp 5 generated Web Help files into the browser, and we looked at some of the examples listed on Adobe’s Web site (http://www.adobe.com/products/robohelp/customer_examples/). We haven’t had a chance to do any further testing.
Update – The problem is also there with RoboHelp 6 generated Web-based Help.