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...