May 1, 2006

Changing Expectations

I've been working at NI for a little over a year now, and I'm beginning to realize that working for this documentation team has raised my expectations any time I hit a Help button in any program. Raised my expectations to my benefit and aggravation!

The truth is, not every company that writes software has the ability to, or the willingness to, create a comprehensive Help like I think we do at NI. Tooting my own horn? Maybe a little. But even though we haven't produced a "perfect Help" for LabVIEW yet, we have a lot of folks here working hard every day to improve the supporting documentation in usability, scope, and detail. We're definitely some of the best Help I've seen.

On the other hand, just as I've learned to click the Help button in other programs expecting answers to my questions, I think a lot of other people have learned NOT to click the Help button in LabVIEW. Their expectations are that they won't find answers in the LabVIEW Help because they've been disappointed so many times before with other help systems.

In fact, today we had a tech support person bring us a printed copy of a web page with a topic that he said should go in the LabVIEW Help because it was so useful to the customer. Turns out, he'd printed a topic from the LabVIEW Help we just recently posted to the Web!

Funny. Frustrating. The incident might say more about people's comfort level with the Web as the ultimate documentation resource than about their confidence in the LabVIEW Help. Then again, it might also show that we need to continue marketing our own Help - even within the company.

I'd be curious to read more examples of great online help. Suggestions, anyone? I've got a list as long as my arm with bad examples...


  1. LabVIEW help is great. I have the tooltips on most of the time. As a bonus, they are easily toggled!

    Microsoft Word has a good offline help, however their online results clutter rather than help.

    Mathworks has great help too, with good code examples.

    As a member of the Ubuntu Linux documentation team, I feel your pain regarding people not reading documentation. Most of the questions asked on irc or the forums are already answered, and installed along with the operating system.

  2. Thanks for the feedback! That's great that you find the context help useful. It's saved me many times as well.

  3. Sebastien Maerten5/19/06, 2:42 AM

    Definitely, you're right : Labview help is the best one I've ever seen. I'm not surprised to discover that there are ressources dedicated to it, because it keeps improving, and, at least I, really benefit from the work you do. Thank you NI for keeping things this way.

  4. Thanks Sebastien! I'm glad you find our help useful.

  5. Yes, you're right. LabVIEW has one of the best help I've ever seen. It's really usuable and when programming in LV I don't need any reference books but the help is sufficient usually... And the context help is great too.

    This is really a big plus for NI as it makes programming much easier.