MarcEdit 7’s new Help System: A first look

By reeset / On / In MarcEdit

Over the next few months, as I work on MarcEdit 7, I’ll be periodically slipping some of this functionality in the MarcEdit 6 series to give folks an opportunity to provide feedback.  The new Help system is the first of these kinds of improvements.  I’ll be using the last remaining updates in the version 6 series to get feedback, so by the time MarcEdit 7 is released, this is a mature, and useful process.

So what is changing?  Well, I’m adding a context specific question and answer service.  You’ll see it on the Main window, the MarcEditor, and the MARC Tools windows.  For example:

The highlighted red box is a user interactive help service.  Currently, the service indexes all the menus and actions in the program, as well as leverages a local knowledge base.  As the user types their question, the service sorts through potential answers, and offers them back to the user.  For example, searching for validation, and you see the following results as you type:

If you user selects a function — the program will automatically open that tool.  If the user selects a menu item, the menu item will be displayed as a context menu below the search like:

These menu items will function as if they were selected from the normal menu dropdowns, but they take the user directly to the requested functionality without having to jump through the screens.

Finally, in addition to menus and functions, there is a webservice that connects to my youtube channel, the knowledge base, and hopefully (eventually) the listserv.  This service will additionally provide responses, so users can jump out to web resources or videos showing potentially interesting content.  The idea behind the new system is to provide users with a better method to get to know the program, and to transition from a menu based user interface, to more of a search/discovery based system.  Presently, the current contextual help system has been taught the answers to approximately 500 topics.

Oh, and one last thing — while the tool won’t support this in the initial versions, by MarcEdit 7, the tool will not only index the english function names, but international names as well.  So if the user has applied a language file, the tool will utilize those labels in addition to the english l labels.  The idea being that this will allow non-native speakers an easier option to get help.

This will show up in the next update of the MarcEdit 6 Windows/Linux update.  It will be incomplete, but this work will continue to be revised and refined as I work towards the Fall 2017 MarcEdit 7 release.



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