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Alibre Help Question

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Max, May 14, 2020.


Do the benefits of online-only help outweigh the cons?

  1. Yes

  2. No

Results are only viewable after voting.
  1. Max

    Max Administrator Staff Member

    Our Help will be completely rewritten within about 9 months. Question:

    Help is best maintained / de-obfuscated / mass-appealed when it has feedback that is easy and when it can be updated on-the-fly.

    We want our Help to be online only - you click a Help button in a dialog and it takes you to help.alibre.com/Extrusions and you can see the rest of the Help navigation on the left side.

    Huge benefits here - people can comment, suggest, vote, etc. on each page - we have immediate feedback and can change stuff in hours - everyone sees the changes immediately - etc. Help can be localized into many languages way more easily.

    Cons - some folks may not have Internet access all the time.

    I personally feel the benefits far outweigh the cons. What are your thoughts?
  2. HaroldL

    HaroldL Alibre Super User

    Max, will it be able to have animated examples for some of the features to show the preferred application? I'm thinking like what's in SolidWorks help since that is what I have been using at work for the last few years. Not that it has to be exactly like SW but showing the selection order can sometimes make a big difference in having a successful experience or not. Just thinking back on some of the questions posted on the forum it seems like a short little animated GIF example would help.
    jfnewman likes this.
  3. NateLiqGrav

    NateLiqGrav Alibre Super User

    I'm assuming this would be a wiki type of thing but my comments will relate to many other online documentation types as well.

    An online wiki type approach can be useful for quick updates, tutorials, discussions, and a great supplemental but as a replacement to the in built help I vote no.

    Way to often I've seen companies create a wiki with basic info and then neglect it because it can be done later - leaving users to discover and document software changes on their own. I'm not saying that will happen but could.

    Often users of older versions of the software get left in the dust without any useful help when things do get updated. Conversely if a system of multiple versions exist then new version users searching for help often find multiple outdated pages.

    Any large wiki requires a team of people moderating and maintaining it daily. Preventing malicious and just plain wrong edits.

    If the help is online only and the server goes down all help is lost for all customers.

    I think a better route for faster help updates might be to have the help file added to the update checker and download/install them from there.
  4. Max

    Max Administrator Staff Member

    It should. The existing help can't. For example the v21 help has a handful of animations for constraints. Help size increases by 22mb or some such. For one page . So online that is not an issue .
    jfnewman likes this.
  5. Hunter

    Hunter Member

    Online makes sense.

    I'm sure user edits will be separated?
    Just make sure to have strict rules about style and language if users are allowed to edit the help.

    As long as there is an option to download the help as a PDF or CHM, then it should be fine.
  6. DavidJ

    DavidJ Alibre Super User Staff Member

    There are of course some users (those with off-line licences perhaps) who will never be able to access an on-line help, so there must be a fall-back option of some kind...
    anson likes this.
  7. Hunter

    Hunter Member

    If the user has an option to also download the Help System separately during a normal install of Alibre or when a SP is released I'm sure it will be fine?

    In essence deal with the Help System as though it is a separate piece of software, with the option to also update your 'static' Help System on your local machine as and when you choose (assuming it is already on your local machine).

    Regardless of which way Alibre decides to go, I'd still like to have Help buttons or simply the ability to press F1 in a dialogue.
  8. Lew_Merrick

    Lew_Merrick Alibre Super User

    Hi Max -- What we need is a User's Manual (with a great Index) that can be printed out and "bound" in a 3-ring binder such that we can read it (often while spending time "sitting"). What percentage of your user's are even aware of the Hole Preset System? And what percentage of those actually use it??? -- Lew
    Engr62 likes this.
  9. JST

    JST Alibre Super User

    There MUST be a local help version with each release. Needs the basic stuff that is in the help NOW, but MUST ACTUALLY APPLY to the version it is with.

    THAT is the major problem with on-line help, and is a big issue with the help shipped with the products. On-line may be totally wrong for a version that is not the latest. The existing shipped version for 21 has info relating to version 12 still in it, which is totally wrong for 21.

    This will NOT make a problem with tons of extra work. BOTH versions of help can be nearly exactly the same. BOTH can have links to "more information", which is on-line.

    You have the basic help, and you have more info with tutorial links etc. So the basic gets shipped with the program, and the links are always available if the user needs them and has internet. But the basic is available no matter if you have no internet, slow internet, etc.

    There could be a fairly simple automatic conversion to make the shipped version from the on-line.
    anson likes this.
  10. axeme

    axeme Member

    Like Hunter said, having a way to download the help system as a separate entity would be preferred. I can't always rely on being connected. Worst case would have to be to wget the whole help web site and piece it all together after, but I'd prefer not to.
  11. tk1247

    tk1247 Member

    I would prefer local help tied to my install/machine for the following reasons:

    1. Online help is easier to maintain, but internet access or server downtime would cause that problems. Help files that are tied to updates/upgrades would be preferable, and interim help updates could/should be able to be update-able to local installations. My general experience with online or HTML help has been poor for other apps - not searchable, indexable, or printable. Also, with my single full screen Alibre install, I don't want a browser up in the middle of everything just to see help.

    2. A big +1 for the suggestion above for a printable user manual, in downloadable pdf format. I get that updates to it are a bit more painful, but I can't see much difference between updating online help and downloadable/update-able help files

    3. Help needs to be current to the applicable release.
  12. domcm

    domcm Senior Member


    Personally, I have no issues with an online only version - if it results in an improved system.

    What I hope to see in the online version is better support for display scaling. The current help system does not scale well when the display scale zoom setting is increased, e.g. opens with a small window and tiny text.

    Are you planning on providing a beta for customer testing before deployment?
  13. Nick952

    Nick952 Senior Member

    If you have a program that can be used offline, then I think that ALL aspects of that program should also be usable and accessible offline.
    Last edited: May 16, 2020
  14. simonb65

    simonb65 Alibre Super User

    Program functionality should be provided, and integrated, with the application. You can use the benefits of online mass storage for enhanced help, i.e function examples, demos, the latest upto date Alibre Script library with examples if each and every function, the Alibre API documentation (with examples).

    The online portions would need to be version sensitive, i.e functions would need to be marked with whch version they are applicable to. It's going to be used concurrently by users on different levels of licencing and/or version.

    The application supplied help only needs to support the specific version it ships with.

    Online help doesnt mean the help can become an after-thought, i.e it can be left to be updated after the product ships ... in my experience, it never happens! Priorites in releasing means the help gets forgotten and it lags too far behind the release. Hence leave the online stuff for value-add and specialised areas of the application ... not the core stuff used by the majority of users.

    Also, we dont all have online access, especially on customer sites ... so, do not leave us in a position of not being able to look up basic core help the precesnce of our customers, it's bad enough when the licencing stuff lets us down!
    anson, JST and NateLiqGrav like this.
  15. dwc

    dwc Alibre Super User

    Online is Helpless, not Help.
    My work computer is offline. (except for a couple of minutes a week to keep my AD license happy)
    Can't imagine how anyone could put important info online.
  16. anson

    anson Member

    I suggest you could make online or offline help an installation option. And on the online help definitely have a version selector of some kind.
  17. Hunter

    Hunter Member

    This is how some open source projects do it (in this case the Julia programming language, which is a modern/new language, so their help system would reflect that). Help is online (obviously), version of help bottom left (you can choose), and you can download the help as a PDF. Great thing here is the search box top left, that is a great, err, help.

    But it's not only open source, here's how SOLIDWORKS and Autodesk Inventor goes about it, which is basically the same approach. I don't think it is really a matter of asking, this is how it is done nowadays...

  18. simonb65

    simonb65 Alibre Super User

    I like the Autodesk Inventor layout, but you still need to select the right version first ...

    i.e. 2018 = http://help.autodesk.com/view/INVNTOR/2018/ENU/
    2019 = http://help.autodesk.com/view/INVNTOR/2019/ENU/
    2020 = http://help.autodesk.com/view/INVNTOR/2020/ENU/

    Love the API doco with good clear examples on every function and hierarchy. Would need examples to be in different languages (C++, C#, VB, etc) for the Alibre API.

    Not sure how different levels of licensing functionality would integrate into it.

    The Solidworks help is a little less user friendly and a lot of textual content with not much in the way of real world examples.

    I would expect that applications like Solidworks make a lot of money from large corporate tutorial in-house courses, so the help is more of an ongoing reference manual rather than tutorial/guide.
  19. Hunter

    Hunter Member

    Yes, the Inventor help and tutorials are excellent.

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