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© Ugur Akinci
Eclipse is a relatively new and open-source integrated software development environment that has created additional opportunities for technical writers who write help files, or “user assistance documentation” as it’s also known in the industry.
You need to download (free) and install Eclipse on your system before you can use to create user assistance files.
Here is how Eclipse has created a whole new set of opportunities for technical writers:
1) Topic-based documentation for help.
This is available in 3 flavors:
Integrated help – If you are creating an Eclipse-based product, the help system is automatically provided. You can launch the help browser from the Help menu or through welcome or dynamic help links.
Stand-alone (local) – If you are creating an application that is not based on the Eclipse framework, you can still use the Eclipse help system. Your application can package and install the stand-alone help system, a very small version of Eclipse that has had everything except the help system stripped out of it. Then, your application can make API calls from its Help menu, or from UI objects, to launch the help browser. The stand-alone help system has all the features of the integrated help system. However, it interacts with the application UI for features such as context-sensitive help or active help will vary. All features except dynamic help and active help are supported.
Infocenter (served) – You can also allow your users to access the help system over the Internet or their intranet, by installing the stand-alone help system and the documentation plug-ins on a server. The application accesses the documentation by calling a URL, and the help system is shown in their web browser. The infocenter help system can be used both for client applications and for web applications, either of which can have their help accessed remotely. All features except dynamic and active help are supported.
2) PDF-download help.
This is for those clients who would like to print and read the help topics offline at their convenience.
3) Introductory “Welcome” help.
It greets the first time users of an Eclipse application with a series of pages that are meant to introduce him/her to the application and make the initial experience favorable. The implementation can simply guide the user through the initial setup and then offer common tasks to do in the application, offer tutorials, samples (for development applications), links to online resources, news etc.
4) Tutorial help.
Eclipse calls these “cheat sheets.” These are meant to lead users through sequential tasks. They follow the user through steps, offer help links for each, provide an option to perform the step for the user or let the user do it herself. Cheat sheets are available from the Help menu but can be programmatically opened whenever a task assistance is needed.”
Share, help and prosper.