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Redirected from: online documentation

Definition: online help


On-screen instructions for using software that are immediately available within the application or from a website. Users in general, and particularly first-time users, are always complaining about the quality of online help. For decades, no matter how big or small the company, online help has been spotty at best, if not downright useless. Quite often, help on the vendor's website is not up-to-date and refers to an older version without specifying which one it is.

Online Forums
The many user forums and articles on the Web are often more beneficial than the official help in the application or on the vendor's site. Perhaps this is one of the reasons software publishers put so little effort into their own help. They know that the user community will eventually do it for them even if people have to wade through dozens of postings to find the answer.

Which Version Is It?
However, user-submitted answers create the same problem as official online help because they often refer to a previous version of the software. Menus and functions change constantly, and the very first statement on any help article or forum answer should be the version number of the application. This is often missing, and after users wade through several menu steps, the next menu item does not exist because the help and software are not in sync. See first-time user, help system and RTFM.