Plug in Help

by William Grosso

Related link:

I ran across this today and was floored. Not by the implementation, but by the idea: plug-ins to applications (in this case, a shareware plugin for photoshop) that provide help information for users.

In a way, this is an obvious idea. The help that ships with application is often less than helpful. And the manuals often aren't any better (not that I'm complaining. The computer book industry is alive and well, in part, because software publishers aren't particularly good at documenting things). So why not use the existing plugin mechanisms to provide help?

But, then again, I've never seen anything explicitly do this before (have I just been missing out on a huge chunk of the software industry). And even though it now seems like an "of course people do that," I wouldn't have thought of it (simply because my mind is grooved to think of extensions as providing features, not commentary).

I don't have a lot more to say; I just think it's a very good, and different, idea.

What other clever uses of plug-in mechanisms have you seen?


2003-11-02 18:05:36
O'Reilly's .NET Add-ins for Visual Studio
You may be interested (generally) in knowing that about two years ago, O'Reilly began creating add-ins for Visual Studio .NET that integrate the contents of select books with the dynamic help features in the VS.NET IDE.

I'm not sure on the status of their work, but here's a basic information page:

2003-11-02 18:25:18
O'Reilly's .NET Add-ins for Visual Studio
Wow. Didn't know that at all. That's a pretty useful product.
2003-11-02 22:18:54
Even more could be done in the future...
Help plug-ins, alternative documentation and language skins are something that I'd like to see in the future applications.


2003-11-03 18:44:13
Even more could be done in the future...
Indeed. Here's an easy one (in the "alternative documentation" realm)-- the "hacks toolbar". It plugs into IE, recognizes the website, and offers you the appropriate "hacks" documentation (EBay, Amazon, Google, etcetera).

I'd pay $10 to have my browser know all the google hacks.