I use ScreenSteps to document what I do for my customers. It is excellent for this purpose - I create a manual for each project, a chapter for each phase, then one or more articles per day that record what I have done so I can backtrack and they can see what I did with their money. (I do administration work on big SAP systems such as upgrades and performance tuning, so often, the customer has no idea at all of what is involved. At least for programmers, there is something to demonstrate on a big screen at the end of three months work. For me, it might just be a last-digit change in a version number.)
I am finding some mental resistance to SS3 over 2.9 because of the number of steps required to get started.
- Create a new manual (then wait for the server to respond)
- Rename the manual (then wait for the change to be uploaded)
- Rename the initial chapter (then wait...)
- Open the empty article (then wait)
- D-click it to check it out (then wait)
- Rename the article and start working
Subsequent chapters are less tedious, but still the work density is low.
Sure, it takes only a minute or so, but the actual amount of work for the user in all this is a few seconds of typing. It seems like f-o-r-e-v-e-r. I am an old guy - every remaining moment is precious. I cannot imagine what it must be like for the ADHD generation.
I propose we petition the DeVores to create a Quick Start structure editor to speed this process up. The Create Manual button pops up a dialog that asks for the manual outline. The outline may even extend to the step and sub-step level for those clever little thinkers that can plan all this stuff ahead before they start.
The pop-up has:
- a Manual Name field;
- a default depth selector - chapter, article, step, sub-step;
- a scrollable text block for the manual structure.
To make it open-ended and easy to edit, the text block defines the structure with tabs.
It allows four levels - chapter, article, step and sub-step. They can be omitted from the right - so, for example, only the manual name and chapters are initially drafted.
The depth selector controls what happens after you hit "Return". Set it to "Article", for example, and "Return" after a chapter indents automatically for the chapter's articles. "Return" after an article indents to accept another article. Steps can be created by tabbing to the right. The next chapter is created by tabbing to the left.
Chapter 1: Not Again
Article 1: George awakes to the grumble of his espresso machine
Step 1: George looks over the side of the bed, hoping that this time, he sees a pair of women's shoes.
To create the manual structure, type in the name of the manual, tab to the text box and type the name of the first chapter then "Return".
The cursor automatically indents for the name of the first article. Type that in, then "Return". The cursor remains indented for more article names.
Shift-tab to create another chapter. Return auto-indents for this chapter's articles.
After defining an article, tab in to define steps. tab again to create sub-steps, tab out to define chapters.
Each entry is automatically formatted to reflect its type - e.g. steps are bold, sub-steps are pale grey (and indented...)
- restructure by drag-and-drop
- delete by clicking a line or selecting a block, then tapping delete
To publish we have two options - Save, and Save and Check-out.
- Save sends the entire shebang up to the web server which processes the whole log in one transaction.
- Save and Check Out follows up by checking out the first article as part of the response.
Clearly, all this can already be done by hand so the back-end services already exist. The first draft should be basic enough that it can be done by existing web services that are called locally on the server, following the recipe created by the Quick Start editor, rather than remotely. This therefore reduces the amount of server-side development required to get it out the door.
- Text formatting to match title formatting available elsewhere in the application
- Context-based tag editor
- Option to initialize structure from an existing manual
- Search and replace function for fast changes - particularly useful with copied structures
- Task assignment and other chapter-and-verse functions
- Restructuring of existing manuals
Please sign in to leave a comment.