Monday, May 4, 2009

Help assistant widget for RCP

Everyone who's used any MS office application would have come across this annoying yet sometimes useful Office assistant. He's there to "point" us in the right direction to do something. If we've got questions (as silly as how to wrap text) he may have the "answers".

I was wondering ... RCP has a very nice help system in the form of cheatsheets, balloon help, context based help, status bar messages, etc... which will prompt the user for action/attention as required. But the help system doesn't have something like a help assistant - similar to the ones in MS Office applications. Eclipse RCP as an application is used in a variety of domains (hell even Swiss Railway people use it!) we get users who aren't aware as much and aren't willing to experiment or search to find out. I'll share some inputs I got from users who don't know much the Eclipse UI way. There are a some of them who say "How do I know that i have to right-click on the wizard to get a context-menu full of options ?" We can provide a message in the wizard page ... but that may be hard to notice.

I feel RCP help assistant widget is a better HMI mechanism than the usual status bar messages. May be the widget can be a very low on graphics, animation and high on usefulness. This is just an idea ... I thought I'll share.