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Motif and CDE 2.1 Style Guide Reference

Help (Menu/Action Choice)



Help is information provided to the user about the application. It uses the following choices:

A cascading choice that appears as a menu-bar item. It provides access to other menu items that provide various kinds of information related to the use of the application.

An action choice that presents an alphabetic listing of help topics for an application.

An action choice that presents information about the application's use of keys, including function keys, shortcut keys, and mnemonics.

An action choice that presents information about the application's use of the mouse.

On Item
An action choice that allows the user to indicate the element for which help is desired.

An action choice that provides a brief overview of each action and task that a user can perform within a window.

An action choice that provides access to reference pages for the application.

Table of Contents
An action choice that displays a table of contents of the help information available.

An action choice that enables a user to determine how to perform specific tasks.

An action choice that gives a user access to online educational information.

Using Help
An action choice that gives a user information about how the help system works.

An action choice that displays a secondary window that contains information about an application, such as its copyright notice, logo, and version.

When to Use

Provide a Help menu-bar item in the menu bar of all windows that have a menu bar and provide help information.

Place a Help push button in a window that does not have a menu bar.


In conjunction with the Menu Guidelines reference page, use Table 15 to decide which choices to include in the Help menu and how to organize them.

Table 15. Help Menu Choices

Mnemonic Menu Choice Keyboard Function
Recommended O Overview
Optional I Index
Recommended C Table of Contents
Recommended T Tasks
Recommended R Reference
Optional L Tutorial
Optional K Keyboard
Optional M Mouse

Recommended O On Item ShiftF1 or ShiftHelp

Required U Using Help

Required A About application-name

Do not display the shortcut key for On Item (for example, Shift F1 or Shift Help) in the menu entry if it would significantly increase the width of the Help menu.

Provide help in the form most appropriate and useful to a user. For example, use text, graphics, animation, or any other technique or combination of techniques that conveys the information clearly and concisely.

When possible, place a help window so that it does not cover the element for which help was requested.

Display help information in a separate primary window.

If the help system provides access to information that spans multiple applications, then use a separate help application to display the help information. If necessary, have a request for help start the application.

If help for both mouse and keyboard is provided, use one searchable entry for Mouse and Keyboard (M for example) instead of separate entries for each.

Do not include the words "Help for" in index entries. For example, do not label an entry Help for Cut.

In keyboard help information, display all key assignments for the window or component from which the user requested help.

In keyboard help information, indicate to a user which keys are available in the current state of the window.

List shortcut key assignments in keyboard help information.

If a user adds or changes key assignments, display the new or changed assignments in keyboard help information, along with any unchanged assignments.

When the user chooses On Item, initiate context-sensitive help mode by changing the shape of the pointer to the question mark pointer. When the user moves the pointer to the element for which help is needed and clicks the SELECT button, exit from the mode and present any context-sensitive help available for the element. When the user presses Cancel or Escape, exit from the mode without presenting help.

While in context-sensitive help mode, when the user clicks the MENU button while the pointer is on a cascading menu choice or at a position where a pop-up menu is defined, display the menu, allowing the user to obtain context-sensitive help for the menu entries. Remove the menus when the mode is exited.

About should display a window that indicates minimally the name and version of your application. Display the icon or some other signature graphic for your application.

Supplemental Related Topics

For more information, see the Menu Guidelines reference page.

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