I like it, but that's on a mac... everything is better on mac
Precisely! Help is a function of the OS. FM just makes use of the shell it is provided with.
Hmm...still think it sucks
Be nice to have some really serious context sensitive help built in
but doubt the effort would be worth the use it would get.
I had the pleasure of having lunch at last year's DevCon with the individual who heads the team responsible for the Help system. That conversation revealed a few little details that might be relevant.
Since the Help system works both within the OS Help shell and within the online Help on FileMaker's web site, it has to be easily migrated between different environments. Hence, they've chosen to go with an HTML-based system that can ride on top of an HTML-based Help system. This ensures a few things. First, consistency across platforms and with the web. Second, they only have to write the Help once (big cost savings). Third, since they only write the copy once, the chances of error creeping into one of the versions (without simultaneously infecting the others) are minimal. Fourth, since it is designed to work within a provided shell (as Lyndsay points out), they're spared the effort of having to write a shell of their own (more cost savings).
We can quibble about whether this is a good series of choices. But that's the direction they've chosen.
I work mainly in Windows, and I find the Help system extremey useful.
Granted, in a number of cases it won't teach me how to use a feature I've never used before, but I have other materials for this. But for reminding me of the parameters passed to some function or some similar detail, it's quick and concise.
If asked, I would divide the content into two separate documents. One for how to use FMP and one for how to build / modify a data base.
I don´t use FMP help system.
I just search what I need in Google. It´s faster.
Why does the FMP help system suck so badly?
I'm on Windows, and I like it fine. I get good and frequent use out of it.
For a sucky help system, try Adobe's.
The description is "Help" not advanced training. When I forget the natue of a command or need to find one that works, it 'helps' me to find it.
It is not an indepth manual and training isn't its purpose. It helps me remember what I forgot or learn something I haven't.
There is a Filemaker training series of 12 PDF manuals that might provide more insight and 'help'.
As help systems go I think it's about average. At times finding the get function or script command can be difficult. It is a lot better then some of the Help systems in a certain OS manufacturers systems. The manufacturer will be nameless but the first letter is NOT A.
The developer's reference you mention has been a great help. I have the 9 version. Now it sits on the shelf most of the time. When it was new it was very well used.
In the absence of a printed manual the help system is all we've got. There are documents that are provided with every Filemaker installation but the help files are or should be the option of first resort.
I have a few old manuals for software and they are really thorough. A lot of thought and expertise went into them.
The FileMaker help is reasonably good but it falls down in two areas, categorisation/search/index and consistency.
One purpose of the help file is to assist someone who doesn't know something. It is hard to find what you don't know. The system should make it very easy for someone to discover the things that they need. Even though I tend to use it as a reference and fact checker I still find it hard to navigate.
The other drawback is the consistency. Some items are handled well. They are explained satisfactorily and the examples are well designed. In other cases, the help item raises more questions than it answers.
The fact that the help system in Mac OS is frustratingly slow is not Filemaker's fault. I bookmark the online help files and reference them from my web browser.
Well, I didn't think my little rant would spark so much discussion!
Actually, If I think rationally about this now and not out of my initial
frustration, I have to agree that the Windows version of the help seems
to work better in terms of searching for specific words, functions, etc.
But on the Mac it is very common for the help to return several topics
that aren't what you what and it ignores what you asked for, even when
you've typed in the exact name of a function. THAT is frustrating.
But like I said, this is a minor point and I didn't intend to imply anything
ominous re FileMaker. I very rarely use it, relying instead on the 3rd party
reference manuals available or online forums when I need to check something.
Thanks for all your comments.