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Screenshots in Online Documentation

An online documentation for software informs about the features and functions of the software application. The aim is to enable the users as quickly as possible that they can apply the software productively. The online documentation is an always available reference - especially as context-sensitive online help. In order to make the documentation as clear and comprehensible as possible, you can include screenshots. By visualizing the processes particularly in the step by step procedures, it is possible to match the user interface with screen shot in the online documentation. In this way you can control your actions at all times.

Here, however, are not given the same conditions for the integration of screenshots for all online documentation. To what extent screenshots are reasonable depends on various factors, for example, whether the documentation is translated into many languages and where it is displayed. Nevertheless, screenshots are seen as enriching the online documentation.

Screenshots explain difficult step by step procedures

If you describe a software whose user interface reflects complex processes and it is very difficult to describe them in  instructions, then screenshots help. For example, when users must draw something in a CT chest image and the software responds for example with different lines, then a screenshot helps quickly and easily. Filling in a field, or pressing buttons - to describe this is easily possible so that a screenshot is superfluous.

Introducing the User Interface

If you introduce the main user interface, you should use screenshots. Users can familiarize themselves with the user interface. If you provide the main components with numbers and describe these, then the screenshot is not confusing. Even if the application is opened at the same time, it can be seen immediately if the screenshot belongs to the user interface or to the online-help.

The online documentation is translated into many languages

If your software documentation will be translated into many different languages, then you should consider whether you actually need all screenshots.  Not only will the screenshot be created in the source lange, but also in the target languages and updated repeatedly. This is very time-consuming.
Plan to create the screenshots in the target languages as well as the quality assurance. Maybe you pick the translator on board to check the translation of the user interface.

Creating software documentation