Proposal Smart Help

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Overview

One of the main features of Smart Help is to provide detailed context sensitive information on each configurable parameter in the preferences panel.

This will allow us to use very short descriptions in the preferences panel, e.g. just a tick box with the word 'Overdub' beside it. Experienced users will already know what this does. Inexperienced users or users who have forgotten what the parameters in a particular parameter group do can click on the title for a group to get a description for each parameter in the group.

Discussion

James:

Current design difficulties:

In my prototype the help panel is a strip on the right side of the preferences dialog that is there all the time. That makes the preferences dialog rather wide. Current thinking is that on the interface panel in show/hide we add a tick box 'help on preferences'. It's ticked by default. When unticked the help vanishes and the dialog goes back to its normal size. Unlike most items its effect is immediate, i.e don't wait for OK/Cancel. Will we need the option of the help appearing in a separate window rather than making preferences wider?


Gale:

I rather doubt the "widened Preferences" idea will work - what about the 800 x 600 screen size? The ways I've seen this done are:

  1. An additional help window (either disappears when preferences are exited or not)
  2. Same idea, but integrated with the inbuilt help, so there is no need to write extra text
  3. A pop up window or tooltip just for the item in question as per LRN's custom exporter (Leland would have to advise on the accessibility implications here)

Personally I like the third idea best, and the first least. The third one increases the chance of everyone seeing "near-essential" text like "uncheck when recording "stereo mix"" and could make it easier to omit it from the actual wording.

James:

I'm not planning a per-item tooltip. It's going to be per wxStaticBox. I've experimented with this and found that this allows groups of related parameters to be explained better and in their proper context. Tooltips are OK for a small amount of text, e.g. telling you what a graphic button actually is. When you need a lot of text, and the whole point of this feature is to allow us to have as much descriptive text as we need, then you need a window that doesn't keep jumping around on the screen as you 'probe' one item after another.