FAQ's, HOWTO's and Tutorials in JPSoftware's forum

Apr 13, 2010
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The Hague
TC's help file has been praised many times for its completeness and its attention to detail. Not wanting to diminish in any way this well-deserved praise, there exists a sentence that I've been wanting to write down for many years now. So, here it is: "It is exactly the help-file's enormous success as a Technical Reference manual, that makes it ... less so ... as a User Guide". A Technical Reference manual and a User Guide are two completely different things. They have different audiences and different information and a different format. Somehow, I don't expect this to appear soon.

Can't the forum help out? Well,.. no. The forum is a place to ask questions that are limited in scope. Solutions are often pragmatic and require a lot of patience. Its easy to step on toes. The "bigger" subjects like coding style, developing larger systems, fitness for purpose, UI design, using GUI libraries,.. will quickly loose focus and the discussion will fail to teach anything. I can only remember one (!) successful attempt. It was a HowTo written by Charles Dye on the subject of running TakeCommand from a flash drive. He received much praise and rightly so, but it is (1) not maintained (2) not prominently placed or easily found. And that is typical for efforts like this.

The Helpfile has a chapter called Tutorials. Where a HOWTO helps the user through a number of steps toward a specific goal, a tutorial also explains historical or other background information, might point to other learning resources and have abstract and conceptual content. This kind of information is not just helpful to current users, it might also showcase how TakeCommand can solve real-life problems in professional environments.

Each subject/discussion/thread would start with a document, perhaps introduced by the author. They should be maintained to reflect the questions and comments by the readers. Perhaps a candidate first subject could be "List of HOWTO's"; with an overview of subjects already covered, being written or still to-do. Only authors can start a thread by publishing an article. I reckon we can reuse administrative procedures that are published elsewhere on the Internet. It's clear that authors should at least be experienced users and recognized by JP Software. Articles will be reviewed before publication.

I'm in no way attached to the details of this suggestion. If you boil it all down perhaps the shortest way to describe my idea is that FAQ's, HOWTO's and tutorials could fill the void of a missing User Guide. It is a way to monetize user contributions to the benefit of all parties.

What topics could we cover? Here are a couple ideas:

Getting Started !
How to quickly improve the usability of a fresh install.
How to write readable multi-line commented variable functions without line continuation.
How to structure your code into reusable modules.
How to implement a single framework for (almost) all your applications.
How to build your own queue manager for batches.
How to run your batches in a WIMP environment.
How to parallelize your processing (and when not).
How to run TakeCommand as the service.
How to run TakeCommand from a flash-drive.
How to make your modules self-deploying without code bloat.
How to make your modules self-testing without code bloat.
Using TakeCommand in Proof-of-Concept projects
Using TakeCommand to deliver quick results while a full feature system is developed.

I will monitor reactions to this posting and adjust accordingly.
 
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Oct 18, 2009
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In old posts we addressed significantly expanding the Help system. Whether that is by a Wiki, tutorials, HowTo's or whatever.

Rex has pointed out that it's a matter of allocation of resources. Any substantial addition would require basically all the development resources normally spent on an entire version upgrade. And few people would be willing to pay for a version upgrade just to get additional Help materials.

Also keep in mind that very few folks who write TCC code are "newbies" at programming. And TCC is not aimed at being a full-application development tool like Python, Visual Basic, C++, etc. It's basically what MS-DOS batch language would look like if Microsoft had continued active development for 30 years. It's mainly for utilities, etc.
 
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Apr 13, 2010
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I fail to see your point. It is precisely because of the limited resources that I turn to the experienced programmers to help out documenting TC and further enhance the usability of our beloved product. Here is the opportunity to roll up your sleaves and show 'em how it's done!
 
Oct 18, 2009
351
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I fail to see your point. It is precisely because of the limited resources that I turn to the experienced programmers to help out documenting TC and further enhance the usability of our beloved product. Here is the opportunity to roll up your sleaves and show 'em how it's done!
The point is this has already been discussed long ago and it's simply not realistic.