Accordance 13 Tutorials: Honoring our History of Help
As I explained in my last post, the feature of Accordance 13 I am most excited about is our new interactive Tutorials. Whether you’re brand new to Accordance or a long-time power-user, you’re sure to find tutorials which can teach you about features, tasks, tips, and tricks you didn’t know before.
Now, as new features go, the ones which add new capabilities always make the biggest splash and garner the most attention. Adding various kinds of help so users can actually use the software always requires a great deal of work, but never seems to generate a corresponding degree of excitement. That’s why so many software developers offer only half-hearted support at best. Offering truly helpful help requires a level of commitment few developers are willing to make.
The Bygone Days of Print Manuals
When Accordance 1.0 was first released in 1994, it was standard practice in the software industry to include a print manual. Even in the Mac market, where everyone indulged in the charming fantasy that software should be so intuitive you wouldn’t need a manual, any full-featured program was expected to include complete documentation. The Accordance User’s Guide was extremely well-organized and copiously illustrated with screenshots. I remember devouring it as a new Accordance user—and I didn’t typically read manuals.
Yes, the Construct window goes all the way back to Accordance 1.0!
Of course, creating a print manual was laborious and expensive, and even in those early days, only the most highly motivated software users would ever bother to crack one open. We soon began selling the print manual separately, since not all our users wanted it. Still, we continued to offer it as late as Accordance 7.
Ever-Evolving In-App Help
As more and more people entered the brave new world of personal computing, turning to a print manual seemed increasingly antiquarian. Shouldn’t the software itself teach you how to use it?
The really cool thing about Apple Guide was that you could write step-by-step tutorials that would draw circles around interface elements the user was supposed to click. Apple Guide was a really well thought out approach to providing in-app help, but it was hard to implement, and few software developers chose to adopt it. Apple soon dropped Apple Guide in favor of a less capable but easier to implement and more cross-platform help system.
Naturally, we moved to the new in-app help system, and we eventually hired a professional technical communicator to bring it up to date for Accordance 9. Her work was recognized with an Award of Excellence at the International Summit of the Society of Technical Communications.
Accordance Help offers complete documentation which you can easily browse and search, and you can get contextual help related to your active tab by clicking the Help icon of the workspace Toolbar.
With the interactive tutorials of Accordance 13, we’ve now come full circle back to our Apple Guide days. Tutorials were the one thing I really hated losing when Apple Guide was abandoned, and our new tutorials are better than anything we did back then.
More to Come…
I initially planned to include our training seminars and various forms of video training in this post, but there is so much to that history I’ll cover it in a follow-up post.
For now, let me just say again that the new interactive tutorials in Accordance 13 are just another chapter in our long history of offering the most helpful help we can.