99 Summary: 4 Part Series on Using Help Files Effectively in Quilting Programs.
Part 1: What is in the Help Files and
Why Computer Quilters need to learn to use them.
2: Creating your own Help File Reference Manual
3: Optimize your ability to Search your Help Files
4: Modify Help File Content by Adding Information to the Help Files.
Supporting The Expressive Quilter In Tradition, Innovation, Art & Computer Quilting
What is in the Help Files?
Why Do Computer Quilters
need to learn to use them?
by Sharla Hicks ©1999
Over the last couple of years, the trend for software manuals in the
computer industry took a turn toward tutorials. Tutorials often lack the
meat of program operations and the meat to program operations are located
in the program Help files stored on the computer. The quilting software
developers have followed the industry trend and the new upgrades for Quilt-Pro
3 and Electric Quilt 4 manuals
are primarily tutorials. The tutorials contain very little information
beyond getting up and running, creating a specific quilt, or doing a specific
task like exporting or saving a file. Many of the less obvious operations
are not even addressed on the printed page.
Another trend in the industry is not to have printed manuals. Creative
and QuiltSOFT (when they
run out of this print run of manuals) are three software that are following
this lead. It makes economical sense and often the saving is passed on
down the line to us.
But, what is a computer quilter to do once they get are up to speed on
the basic operations covered in the tutorials or there is no program manual?
The answer is to go to the program help files. Sounds easy right? Well
it not as easy as it sounds. The hunt and peck operation of trying to
guess the correct keyword, idea or concept in the find search is often
a real test of patience and often produces frustration, annoyance and
little actual information. Sound familiar? As much as I love my computer,
I still prefer my manuals on real paper to ferret out operation nuances
by browsing the table of contents, index, chapter headings, subheadings,
and even reading a paragraph or two.
This last spring as I created my classroom manuals for my computer quilting
classes for the National Quilting Association annual conference in Omaha,
Nebraska, I used the program help files and discovered information that
I would never have found on my own with trial and error running of the
programs. I also uncovered some hints and tips to make your help file
search more manageable and time efficient.
Creating your own Help File Reference Manual
Turns out for me and I suspect for you, the answer IS print out the help
files! Now I mean ALL the files pages, every one of them. (Hints coming
on how to do this easily) The price, a ream of 3-hole-punched paper, a
2" three-ring binder, some ink for the printer, and a little time,
although not as much time as you might think with my nifty hints below.
Quilt-Pro 3 and Electric Quilt 4 help files each filled a 2" binder
(one-side page printing.) Walla -- now I have the printed word right at
my fingertips again.
Probably the best timesaving tip I offer here is the short-cut to printing
multiple headings at one time. The following information is generic in
nature and will be applicable to all programs that have help files.
1. To open the Help Menu and dialogue box: Click at the end of the Top Menu
Bar, then select the highlighted option(s) shown below.
2. To find Help Content files: Click in the tabs.
3. NOTE: The Help Files are categorized by headings. Each Major/Primary
Heading has a series of subheading(s) and topic(s) of information. The
actual information and printable pages are in the files marked with the
. (see example below)
4. SHORTCUT: To print all subheadings
and individual topics under the Major/Primary Heading at the same time:
a. Highlight the Major/Primary heading
(DO NOT select the page or
the indented subheading, those print only a partial section under the
c. While waiting for the printing to complete, browse the pages
that are printing and you will be very surprised by what you will learn
and how easy it was to print so many topics at the same time.
5. There is no way to print the Table of Contents or Index Words for
the Help files that I found yet (if you know of a way, let me know), nor
are the pages numbered for reference, so I created my own reference tabs.
After printing each section, I created a tab using a blank 2"
x 4" address label folded over the edge of the paper and labeled
each section as shown in the Content Headings. (i.e.: Introduction, Creating
Blocks, Grids, ETC.) I then staggered the tabs for easier reading.
6. After completing the printing and labeling process, place the printed
section in a 3-ring binder in the order of the Contents Index because
the Contents Index has a logical progression that makes finding references
7. Now, sit down, experiment, enjoy learning about the real power hidden
inside your quilting program. But, first move on to Part 3 and 4 to learn
to use the Help Files directly on the computer screen.
Using your Help Files Effectively -- Optimize
your Search Capabilities
OK, you are stuck in the program and know you can do something but can
not remember the steps, your printed Help Files are not handy, the tutorial
manual is not helping and you are growing frustrated. Can you use the
Help files effectively? Yes, but remember that the search can be cumbersome
and frustrating at times; so, I will try to come to the rescue here and
give you some hints to help you optimize your search capabilities.
The first thing you need to do to is rebuild your
keywords to maximize your search capabilities. The Quilt-Pro and
Electric Quilt Help files are small enough that you can maximize your
search capabilities for every word in the file and not create any slow
downs in the system. Searching every word enhances your changes of stumbling
onto related words or ideas that you are looking for.
Maximize the Keyword Find capabilities with the
1. After opening up the Help files (use method shown in Part 1):Click
2. To open the dialogue box: Select .
3. Select the . There will be a small delay while
your program rebuilds the keywords. This methods adds a few nonessential
words, but also adds every single word found in the help files allowing
you the potential of finding the keyword you are looking.
Now to maximize the possibilities of finding a
word, phrase or partial part of word that matches your search needs, change
your Find Keyword Search Method by changing your Options.
1. After opening up the Help files (use
method shown in Part 1): Click from the tabs.
2. To open the Find Options dialogue box: Click .
3. To maximize your search options: Setup your dialogue box as
Select the following options:
Search for topics containing: At least one of the words you
Show Words that: Begin with the characters you type.
To save selections, exit the dialogue box: Click .
Another way to maximize your searching efforts
is to browse carefully the Contents headings, subheadings and topics list.
The list is the Help File's Table of Contents. Reviewing the Contents
carefully may trigger a light bulb leading to a search completion.
1. Click on the in the tabs.
2. Browse each heading by clicking on the each to find the subheading(s) and topic(s) .
Now that you have a better idea how to search your Help Files effectively.
Move to Part 4 to learn how to add to your Content Files.
Modify Help File Content by Adding Information
to the Help Files.
You just figured out a nifty trick for using the program and would like
to document it in your help files. You wish to record that information
permanently in the Help Files, so that it will be at your finger tips
in the future. It really is much simpler than you would expect as most
computer functions are.
Here are the steps for modifying the help files.
NOTE: You can not modify some of the pages contained
in the help files. I have found the pages that I can not change are usually
'How-to' files that need to stay intact that are buried under the topic section. Often they are a color like Yellow.
Another way to determine if a page can be modified is by looking for
the following Top Menu Bar in the Help Files:
1. Browser the dialogue box for the document that you want to modify. (Refer
above for steps to searching Content.)
2. The pages that can be modified have in front of the topic as shown in the example below. Select
your topic to modify from the Contents Listings.
3. To add to the Help file, use the Annotate dialogue box. The annotate
option can be found under the Edit Menu:
To open the Annotate Dialogue Box (see below): Click Edit and
4. Type your information in the Annotate Dialogue Box.
5. Take note of the Copy, Paste and Delete buttons in the dialogue box.
Copy adds information to the Clipboard to be moved to another
Hint: You CAN NOT PRINT the Annotated
information from the help files, so if you want to print your added
information, use the copy feature to move the information to the clipboard
and paste it in a word processing program where you can print your
Paste can be used to add TEXT ONLY information from another source.
Hint: Use to add information gleaned
from your e-mail lists.
Hint: Use another word processing file
to type out the information so that you can spell and grammar check,
then Paste the information into the Annotation Dialogue Box.
Delete is used to remove unwanted annotation notes from the help
5. To find your annotation, the addition to the Help files:
- Return to the page where you added the information.
- Look at the first Paragraph and find. Double Click on the and your annotation will pop-up.
If you have gone through and done each of the exercises outlined above,
CONGRATULATION, you are now a seasoned veteran in the use of Help Files
and I know for a fact that you have learned more about your quilting software
than you thought you would. Now go and enjoy your new found skills in
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