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Guide Book Reviews
Volume Number:12
Issue Number:1
Column Tag:Book Review

New Apple Guide Authoring Aids

Three books and accompanying software for Apple Guide authoring

By John R Powers, III, guideWorks, LLC

Apple Guide Complete: Designing and Developing Onscreen Assistance
By Apple Computer, Inc.
Addison-Wesley (0-201-48334-3)

$39.95. 554 pages.

Real World Apple Guide
By Jesse Feiler
M&T Books (1-55851-429-5)
$39.95. 411 pages.

Danny Goodman’s Apple Guide
Starter Kit
By Danny Goodman and
Jeremy Joan Hewes
Addison-Wesley (0-201-48349-1)

$34.95. 295 pages.

Apple Guide authoring just got a lot easier. Three new books and accompanying software make it that way. If you already know about Apple Guide, skip to the next section. Otherwise, hang on and I’ll give you a quick introduction. [For more on Apple Guide, see the March and July ’95 MacTech Magazine.]

Introducing Apple Guide

Apple Guide is the exciting help system that comes with System 7.5. It enables users to accomplish tasks with minimal directions. It actively leads users through the steps required to complete desired tasks. For example, let’s pretend you make fax software. You may use Apple Guide to lead your user through the steps to send a fax, including how to set up the address, cover page, and scheduling transmission. You do this by creating a guide file that interacts with the user step-by-step. The guide file checks the user’s context and presents only the necessary information. It also automates many of the steps via AppleScript, and uses Apple Guide’s unique “coach marks” to highlight live interface elements so that users can simply point-and-click their way through the process. Your users are happier and your customer support line is less busy.

With the recent release of version 2.0, Apple Guide technology is available from System 7.0 on up; and it will be a key part of Active Assistance in Copland. More and more applications are including guide files. Third party developers like the way it gives them a competitive advantage and reduces the load on customer support. Major corporate users like how it streamlines the work flow and how it reduces the load on the help desk.

Authoring Apple Guide

One authors Apple Guide by combining content and instructions into a guide file. The current guide authoring tools are Guide Maker, Guide Composer, and Danny Goodman’s Apple Guide Starter Kit.

Guide Maker is the original Apple Guide authoring tool developed by Apple. It’s five tools in one: build guide files, test look-for, diagnose guides, convert WinHelp, and import/export for localization. Guide Maker uses Guide Script as its means for “programming” guide files. Guide Script is a mark-up language; the author writes the guide content and tags the content with Guide Script. There are about 100 commands that control startup parameters, formats, sorting, sequences, and much more.

Guide Composer and Danny Goodman’s Apple Guide Starter Kit (the latter included with his book, discussed in this article) are two new tools that provide a WYSIWYG interface to guide authoring. Both of them output Guide Script for automatic compilation by Guide Maker Lite, a special version of Guide Maker without a user interface.

New Authoring Aids

The new books and accompanying software are:

Apple Guide Complete: Designing and Developing Onscreen Assistance

This is Apple’s own Apple Guide book, written by Apple’s Developer Press. Think of it as the Apple Guide Inside Mac, 2nd Edition, for guide authors. It provides authoring tips and suggestions, describes how to use Guide Maker and Guide Script, and documents the Apple Guide API.

Apple Guide Complete includes a CD-ROM with lots of Apple Guide material, including Apple Guide, Guide Maker, sample guide files, sample source files, sample context checks, the Apple Guide interface files and libraries, and a searchable command reference to all Guide Script commands. The CD-ROM does not contain the latest release of Apple Guide (2.0), Guide Maker (1.2.7), or Guide Maker Lite (1.2.5); those you’ll have to get from Apple’s ftp site, Apple’s Developer CD, or the Mac OS SDK.

Real World Apple Guide

This book covers much of the same material as in Apple Guide Complete, but with an emphasis on actually using Apple Guide to solve problems. Think of it as Jesse’s Handy Guide to Using Apple Guide. It contains the prerequisite chapters on Apple Guide, Guide Maker, Guide Script, and the API, but also includes chapters on creating guide files for use with common frameworks and applications. For example, it describes how to add Apple Guide to MacApp and 4th Dimension.

An accompanying CD-ROM includes Apple Guide, Guide Maker, and related files. It also includes lots of demos, and a cookbook which comprises shells, guide script examples, and code examples. Like Apple Guide Complete, the CD-ROM does not contain the latest releases.

Danny Goodman’s Apple Guide Starter Kit

This book takes a completely different approach from the other two. Danny starts the reader immediately authoring guide files using his Starter Kit software. It’s a very “hands on” approach that quickly produces a guide file from Danny’s WYSIWYG interface. Once you learn how to use the authoring tool, Danny and his co-author, Jeremy Hewes, introduce design concepts and advanced topics.

The book includes a floppy disk with the Guide Starter software, Guide Maker Lite, a sample application, and support files. Apple Guide and Guide Maker are not included, nor are they necessary since Apple Guide is in System 7.5 and Guide Maker Lite is the only compiler Danny’s software needs.

Comparisons

We’ll attempt to help you sort out the possibilities by providing a couple of different ways to compare the books.

Who is the reader?

Third party developers use Apple Guide create guides for their applications. All three books cover this.

Solution providers use Apple Guide to develop custom guides for end users. While ways to do this can be inferred from any of the three books, only Real World Apple Guide includes specific information on creating guides for common third party applications and frameworks.

Application software engineers need information on how to support Apple Guide within their applications. Apple Guide Complete and Real World Apple Guide provide API documentation for this.

How well do they support the development process?

Creating Apple Guide files requires a seven-step process: task analysis, instructional and visual design, writing content, scripting, application integration, testing, and localization. Let’s examine how each book supports each step in the development process.

Task analysis: identifying and articulating the tasks that the user must accomplish. This is a very difficult step, but essential for Apple Guide’s task-oriented design. Conclusion: zip for all three. None of the books provide help in this essential area.

Instructional and visual design: specifying how the guide will support the user’s tasks. Conclusion: all three books provide good coverage of this area. Apple Guide Complete provides the most information on design.

Writing content: creating the words and images to support the instructional and visual design. Also includes all the indexing of the guide topics for the Apple Guide’s search engine. Conclusion: Apple Guide Complete and Danny Goodman’s book provide information on this area. Apple Guide Complete also covers the difficult area of indexing.

Scripting: wrapping the Guide Script around the content. This includes all the sequencing of steps, context checking, and automation. Conclusion: All three books provide ample coverage of this difficult step in the process. None of the books cover automation scripting using AppleScript, though.

Application integration: Apple Guide does not require that the application it supports be changed in any way, but if you can change it, you can really improve the user interaction. Application integration adds code to the application to support the guide. Conclusion: Apple Guide Complete and Real World Apple Guide provide reference material for application integration. Real World Apple Guide also provides detailed integration information for MacApp.

Testing: guide files must be tested like any other complex software. Conclusion: Apple Guide Complete provides a little information.

Localization: guide files, like the applications they support, must serve an international market. The guide content must be localized. Conclusion: Apple Guide Complete provides a little information.

What do I buy?

All three books are helpful for guide authoring. If you have to pick just one, consider the following: For a comprehensive reference, pick Apple Guide Complete. For custom solutions and practical applications, pick Real World Apple Guide. For a fast start, pick Danny Goodman’s Apple Guide Starter Kit.

 

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