We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.

Advertiser Disclosure

Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.

How We Make Money

We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently from our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is Context Sensitive Help?

By M.J. Casey
Updated May 16, 2024
Our promise to you
EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At EasyTechJunkie, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

Context sensitive help is information provided by a software application to users based on the activity of the user. Its purpose is to provide relevant information quickly and efficiently. The factors to consider when designing a context sensitive help system are the trigger mechanism, the user interface, the content, and customization options. The primary challenges include understanding the user’s intent and the cost of the help system.

Trigger mechanisms are the means by which the user asks for help. Typical triggers include the F1 key, a symbol in the application toolbar, and a right-mouse click. Triggers may also include custom key combinations, certain spoken commands using speech recognition software, touch screens, or other access-friendly interfaces.

The user interface can take the form of pop-ups, tool-tips, or a multiple-choice screen asking the question: “What were you trying to do?” Embedded context sensitive help attempts to answer the most likely questions at any given point in the software by providing instructional text as the user works. Customization options give the user the ability to turn off features that are unneeded or annoying.

The content is critical to the help project. Traditionally, the software directed the user to the complete, official documentation. This documentation often had walk-through examples, syntax rules, and cross-references. As the Internet has become available continuously to many users, software companies have put their help systems online. Some companies abandoned writing their own help content and directed the user to a search engine instead.

In 2011, some observers believed the development of context sensitive help to be declining. Instead of documentation, software vendors began to offer question-and-answer or how-do-I-do-this formats. In these cases, the user learns a task but is likely unaware of possible refinements. As a result, many users may have been using less than the full functionally of the program.

Other experts have argued that users stopped reading manuals. Their focus groups indicate users preferred information delivered in a conversational style. These experts described full documentation as a waste and said it hindered their ability to compete. The lack of documentation spawned a publishing industry specializing in third-party software manuals.

Web sites employing content management systems (CMS) may be positioned to add useful context sensitive help systems. CMS sites store the content in databases, and Web-site formatting and layouts are separate from the content. While these sites are not applications, context sensitive help may be useful when navigating large sites. CMS used as user interfaces for applications or other database-driven solutions might help reduce the cost of these labor-intensive systems.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

EasyTechJunkie, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

EasyTechJunkie, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.