The Eclipse help system (along with other User Assistance mechanisms) is an effective delivery vehicle for providing information to users about accomplishing their tasks and using the tools provided by Eclipse-based applications. New in V3.2 is a set of UA features that let authors customize their own or other authors' information, so that when a reader views the information, it's highly customized to their own environment (for example, their operating system, what tools they have installed, what capabilities they have enabled). Rather than forcing the user to sift through information that doesn't apply to them, or to wonder which version of very similar information applies to them, the help system does the work of figuring out what is relevant, and shows only that.
These new features provide information developers (be they technical writers or the code developers themselves) unprecedented opportunity to provide seamless, custom content, and to take advantage of reusing existing content. It also introduces new tagging techniques and novel approaches to architecting information. The new features apply common and simple principles from object-oriented programming, such as componentization, extension, reuse, and API, to user assistance content, opening new doors of opportunity but also presenting new tooling, maintenance, source management and mind-set challenges. The UA information is becoming much more like code.
In this demo, I will use example doc plug-ins in Eclipse to show:
And I will discuss:
Kari Halsted is a User Assistance infrastructure specialist with IBM Rational Software in Canada. She works with information development teams to design and improve the tools and systems they use to create, maintain, and deliver user assistance content. She's had various UA- and Eclipse-related jobs at IBM over the past 12 years, including helping design the first help system in Eclipse and providing help content for the TPTP Eclipse project.