Creating product help documentation has many similarities with a typical student project. A student project will often need to:
- Discuss a topic in depth, covering each aspect of the topic thoroughly
- Break a subject down into clearly identifiable sections
- Include detailed references supporting the conclusion of the project
- Provide a complete index covering the topic under discussion
All of these tasks can be managed much better in help authoring software than in a conventional word processing package. If you write a student project in Microsoft Word then you have little choice but to start at the beginning of the subject and type the whole thing all the way through. That approach makes project writing tricky and very time consuming.
Often when you are writing a report you remember a piece of information that you should have included under an earlier heading, or perhaps you realize that something you wrote earlier would fit much better under the subject you are now dealing with. In either case you have to go back and edit the earlier section of the report. In a Word document you have to search back through every page trying to find the part you want to change. With a help authoring software you can easily locate the section and change it to read however you like.
There are many other benefits of using help authoring software for student projects. One of the most obvious is the amount of customization that is available using the software. Any student who has more than one project to manage can produce a standard template to ensure all their projects have the same "look and feel". Any images or sections of text that need to be shared between the projects are instantly available for inclusion from within the software. Students can use the authoring software's media library to insert graphics, audio, or video into their project as required. The topic editor, and subject editor help students to arrange their work in the most logical manner. Being able to search the project by topic also makes it easy to see if any topic has been missed, or requires further expansion.
Once the whole project has been completed it is easy to export it in whatever format is needed. If you want the convenience of reading it on your favorite e-reader in ePub or PDF format they are available at the click of a button.
Why aren't more students using help authoring software?
One of the reasons that students may have been deterred from using help authoring software may be their perception that such software is expensive. Students generally operate on a very tight budget and there is a temptation to stick with whatever software is already installed on their computer. The good news for students is that some help authoring software is available for free: HelpNDoc and several other packages are available and can be downloaded free of charge. Students can now experience all the benefits of using help authoring software for student projects with no increased costs, and a substantial saving in the time the project takes to write.