User assistance support

What is user assistance?

User assistance is a set of components that together introduce the user to the product, guide the user through tasks, and help the user find more information about the product. There are four basic components:


Welcome (also called Intro) support is a set of extension points and workbench parts that allow plug-ins to define specialized pages that introduce a platform product to new users. These extension points can be used to create the "Initial User Experience" of the product in the form of welcome pages. Welcome pages are intended to guide users into discovering a product's functionality. They are typically shown the first time a product is started.


The help system provides the raw building blocks to structure and contribute documentation to the platform. It does not dictate structure or granularity of documentation. You can choose the tools and structure for your documentation that suits your needs.  The help plug-in allows you to describe your documentation structure to the platform using a table of contents (toc) file.

Help also includes context help support, where a user can summon help for a particular element in the UI (e.g. by pressing F1 on Windows). In addition, help provides the ability to perform a single search that finds information from any number of sources (federated information search).

Cheat Sheets

Cheat sheets guide users through tasks. The task is broken down into steps and presented to the user one step at a time, and the user checks off the steps as he/she completes them. Cheat sheets come in two forms: simple (one task, several steps), and composite (many sub-tasks, each having many steps). Which one you use depends on the size and complexity of the task you want to guide the user through.

Status Handling

Status handling is a facility that allows to introduce a custom way of showing problems in the product to users. A part of the facility is an extension point which allows to plug new status handler specific for the product. This handler associated to the product is intended to present the problem in the useful for users way.