Browse Prior Art Database

User Documentation Tool Update Facility

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000114918D
Original Publication Date: 1995-Feb-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Mar-30
Document File: 4 page(s) / 114K

Publishing Venue

IBM

Related People

Sobiesiak, R: AUTHOR

Abstract

A method for updating user documentation for software applications is disclosed. User documentation (specifically user guides and online help) is generated by recording how users perform application tasks. After the application is changed, the recorded tasks are replayed to check for application changes. If any such changes are found, they can be automatically reflected in the documentation.

This text was extracted from an ASCII text file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 52% of the total text.

User Documentation Tool Update Facility

      A method for updating user documentation for software
applications is disclosed.  User documentation (specifically user
guides and online help) is generated by recording how users perform
application tasks.  After the application is changed, the recorded
tasks are replayed to check for application changes.  If any such
changes are found, they can be automatically reflected in the
documentation.

      End user documentation (e.g., user guides, online help) for
commercial software applications is often not kept up-to-date with
the documented application.  A solution to this problem is based on a
user documentation tool concept which will be referred to as
QuickDoc.  A QuickDoc tool generates user documentation (both
hardcopy user's guides and online task help) as an end user proceeds
through an application, as shown in the Figure.  This is accomplished
as follows:
  o  The tool records "snapshots"  of application screens as an
      application-familiar user (the author) demonstrates how to
      perform prototypical tasks.
  o  Each state change of the application produces a potential
      snapshot.
     -  For NPT (non-programmable terminal) applications such as
         AS/400* or VM host-based applications, a snapshot consists
of
         a screen image stored in an ASCII format.
     -  For GUI (graphical user interface) applications such as OS/2*
         applications, a snapshot consists of:  1) a screen image
         stored in a bitmap format, and 2) a widget hierarchy of
         interface elements displayed on the screen.
   The author can have the tool automatically save a snapshot
    after each state change of the application.  Alternatively, the
    author can directly control which snapshots are saved and which
    are not.
  o  The author can associate explanatory text (annotations) with
each
      snapshot through a text editor supplied with the tool.
  o  As the author proceeds through prototypical tasks and takes
      snapshots, the QuickDoc tool records the author's interactions
      with the application (e.g, which pushbuttons are pressed, which
      menu selections are chosen).  This enables the QuickDoc tool to
      "replay" (i.e., automatically re-execute) the recorded task at
a
      later time.
  o  After the author completes recording the task, the resulting
      snapshot/annotation sequence is stored in a "script." The
script
      can be further edited at this point using operations such as:
     -  Adding and revising snapshots and/or annotations of the
         snapshots.
     -  Rearranging the order of snapshots.
     -  Imbedding existing scripts into the new script.
     -  Producing branching sequences that allow for multiple paths
         through the script.
  o  The script...