Monday 26 November 2012

The Return of the User Manual

I suppose I thought that when I left work at Sheffield Hallam Uni (SHU) I wouldn't need to write User Manuals anymore.  Funnily enough I actually did enjoy creating them, the little screen shots, the arrows, contents lists and most importantly a classy border around the title on the front cover!

Today I found that I had been mistaken.

You may already have read about my involvement with the Cudworth Local History and Heritage Group (CLHG), but here's a reprise.  On Mondays and Wednesdays I doddle along to the Cudworth Centre of Excellence (or library in plain English!) and join in with their working meetings (Monday) and formal meetings (Wednesday).  Today was a quite well attended working meeting, six people including myself.  I haven't been terribly well for the last couple of weeks so I've missed a few sessions, however I felt really guilty about this at last Wednesday's meeting when JW, a regular attendee on Monday's reported that they hadn't been able to get on with work on the Group's computer (which is stored at the library) because "something was missing".  Several people then all turned to look at me as if to say, "Why weren't you there to sort it out?"

So today, despite another marathon IT session with the OH last night, struggling to get Barnsley CAMRA's pub pictures online on the What Pub system, I slowly made my way the few hundred yards from our house to the library.  When everyone had arrived and AC had wheeled the computer desk, with machine through from the main part of the library I announced that I wasn't going to touch the computer today, but rather take notes towards writing clearly understandable instructions for the use of the Access database on which the CLHG keeps its archive photos and other images. 

Two hours and 4 sides of A4 later I hadn't actually kept my word, I had touched the computer more than once 'cos sometimes the only way to work out how to explain how to do a thing is to do it yourself, then rewind and let the learner have a go.  JW and AC had been very co-operative, although JW was worried that I was only making the notes because I wasn't coming again.  She knows I'm not very well at the moment.  I think we managed to cover the common tasks that they might want to carry out on a Monday at the working meeting, and hopefully the instructions I've written up will be plain and clear.

When I got home the fun bit started, taking screenshots of my version of the Access db in such a way that it resembled the one in the library.  The trouble is, you see, that the library computer is running Office 2007 and I've got Office 2010 at home on this laptop.  And I discovered way back at the start of my involvement with the CLHG that you can't develop a 2010 db and back port it to 2007 with all the functionality working right.  In fact you can't open a 2010 db in 2007 at all, you would have to save it as 2007 and that immediately loses some of the things I'd added to make it more usefriendly.  Like the drop down list of local Cudworth people who appear in the photos to provide consistency in the data.  For example (not real names ...) getting a person labelled as Mr Joseph Brown every time instead of Mr Brown, Joe Brown, Mr J Brown, Mr Brown the schoolteacher etc, etc. 

I even had to down load a freeware screen capture application because I couldn't work out how to catch the attachment navigation buttons with Microsoft's supplied Snipping Tool.  Capture View lets you set a time delay on the screen cap so you can line up the frame, click the capture button and then nip around and activate that annoying pop up that won't stay on the screen if you lose focus on it. 

Access Attachment nav buttons
Here they are, the little blighters!  Got you now!  I did cheat though and photoshopped this image to give me a green highlighted arrow pointing left and a pair of green arrows to complete the set.  To be honest it was easier than trying to find a multiple set of images on my test db to screen cap. 

Re-writing my notes as a User Manual took me back ... headings, numbered items, bullet points ... ahh!  And ecstasy of ecstasies  - a Contents list.  Wow, I'm even sadder than I thought.  Finally I saved the 8 page Word doc as a .pdf so the CLHG members could read it without it all falling apart if someone accidently clicks on an image or a heading, and emailed it to the Group.  I just need someone to test it for me now ... so I can thoroughly enjoy a re-write!

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