Most applications come with very comprehensive help built-in. If you know where to look, you can have the program's complete manual at your fingertips.
Getting to the Help
- Almost every program has a Help menu. To get to help in the program you're working in, click on the Help menu. This is usually the right-most menu. Note that it may be on the far right of the screen.
- The contents of the help menu will differ between different applications.
Some example help menus. Left to right: Word's help menu, Internet Explorer's help menu, RealPlayer's help menu.
- Almost any application ought to have a Contents item on this menu. If your program's help isn't named Contents, look for something like Topics or Overview. The most useful help item is generally the first listed on the Help menu. When you find it, click it. This will bring up the help.
Help systems for differing programs operate differently, but some general suggestions can be made here.
The Internet Explorer help screen
Above is a typical help screen (This one is from Internet Explorer. Yours may look different, depending on the program you're getting help for.)
Most help screens will share some basic properties:
Browsing the Help
- There is usually a few buttons or tabs present:
- Contents - There should always be a button in the help window labeled Contents. This button will allow you to access the table of contents.
- Index - This is useful when you are looking for topics that are not in the contents, such as a particular term, for example.
- Search - Search the help for specific key words.
- The window will always be mostly made up of one large area dedicated to actually displaying the help.
- In addition to the display area, there is often another area that displays the table of contents, or will also display other data, such as the index or the search.
Every help system should be organized with a table of contents. This makes it very easy to find the topics your looking for.
Because help systems vary so much, it is impossible to give specific instructions on how to access the contents for help. However, a few general rules can be very helpful:
- Many help systems are divided into multiple panes. Systems like this usually place the contents on the left-hand pane.
- Some help is tabbed: there may be three or four tabs on the window, which will allow you to quickly switch to the contents, index, or search the help.
A tabbed help window.
- Many, such as Microsoft Word uses a combination of the two: It has a third pane which lets you switch between the contents, the search, and the index.
Microsoft Word help.
Using the table of contents to browse the help should not be difficult. Here's a few things to try:
- Click on the topic names listed in the contents. This will usually display the topic, OR if it is a folder, display what the folder contains.
- If that doesn't work, try double-clicking.
Searching the Help
Searching is one of the most useful features of any help program. If you do not know the exact name of what you are looking for, this can be extremely handy.
- First, you must locate the search facility. Try looking on a menu, or if there is a tab or button for it. Remember, the labels and layout may differ between applications: In the example below, it is labeled Answer Wizard.
This is where you can find the search in Microsoft Word help
- Once you've found the search screen, it's time to start searching. There will be a text box in the help window. Type some terms into it.
- Look for an OK or a Search button. Press it. Your results will be displayed for you to peruse.
Word help search screen
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