White Paper and Webinar on RoboHelp 10 User Defined Variables

User assistance thought pioneer, Joe Welinske, has authored a valuable White Paper that addresses an important issue: how to use a flexible interaction language scheme with User Defined Variables. This blog touches on key concepts contained in the White Paper; you may download the White Paper “Interactions with User Defined Variables” by clicking here.

Adobe has scheduled a November 15th webinar in which Joe Welinske will illustrate many of the tools and methods recommended in the White Paper. You may register for “Employing a Flexible Interaction Language Scheme with User Defined Variables (UDVs)” by clicking here. (Note: after the webinar, this blog will be updated with a link to the recording.)

Anyone who authors Help or documentation for software or apps faces a new challenge these days. An app or software (SW) may run on multiple devices that use very different actions, from mouse clicks on a laptop, to finger swipes on a table or smart phone, to hand and body gestures on a home entertainment “box.” Single-source publishing becomes more challenging as multiple verbs or definitions are needed whereas older products merely required “select File->Save As with the left mouse button.”

As Welinske states on page one of the White Paper:

There is an emerging environment where software applications need to support every computing device, every input device, and every human interaction at the same time. This means the majority of mainstream customers are going to need help from us to learn the language of touch, hand gestures, voice, and more.

The illustration Welinske uses in his White Paper makes the range of gestures and devices used quite apparent:

02 diagram of gestures

User Defined Variables (UDVs) in RoboHelp are a huge time saver

When authoring or modifying imported text with RoboHelp 10, the author may employ User Defined Variables, which can globally update new text to match the device being addressed in single-source publishing.

The following examples show three alternate interaction verbs (generic)(mouse)(touch) for three different commands.

The bold, red text in the steps above indicates where three different definitions would be used for a UDV inserted at that point in RoboHelp source text.

Carefully defining your UDVs

As Welinske indicates, a sensible strategy is to carefully define your various definitions for UDVs ahead of time. The table below (pulled from the White Paper) gives an excellent example how different the UDV definitions can be:

01 Variable Verb Table

Notice the icon of a hand in the 5th column under “Hand Gesture.” Welinske details exactly how icons can be included in a UDV definition.

Associated UDV sets with screen profiles

Welinske’s White Paper covers all intermediate steps in detail. At the end of the process you will want to assign your sets of interactions to the appropriate single-source outputs. With RoboHelp 10, you are likely using multiscreen HTML5 as your single-source layout. “With the multiscreen HTML5 layout you will have created screen profiles for different devices or categories of devices. One of the properties you can assign to a screen profile is the use of a particular UDV set.”

Use of images for hand gestures

For hand gesture commands, you may find an icon image to work better than a term. Welinske covers this issue in detail. You can also look forward to live examples in the November 15th webinar mentioned at the top of this blog. An illustrated example of icons for hand gestures, extracted from the White Paper, is shown below:

03 hand gesture icons

Seeking a solution? Give RoboHelp 10 a test drive

Many of the requirements and recommendations that Welinske makes in his thesis closely intersect with basic RoboHelp 10 functionality. You may wish to review the RoboHelp product page, which has a variety of resources, from links to videos, blogs, other White Papers and more. You may also test drive Tech Comm Suite 4 and RoboHelp 10 without download or installation by clicking here, and completing a simple on-line form.

Information about Joe Welinske

author photo

Joe Welinske specializes in helping your software development effort through crafted communication. The best user experience features quality words and images in the user interface. The UX of a robust product is also enhanced through comprehensive user assistance. This includes Help, wizards, FAQs, videos and much more. For over twenty-five years, Joe has been providing training, contracting, and consulting services for the software industry.

Joe recently published the book, Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps. He also teaches courses for Bellevue College, the University of California, and the University of Washington. Check out the Events page for upcoming classes and industry presentations