Season of KDE: Need Help Anyone?

For Google Summer of Code I proposed two projects, however as I can only work on one, I would like to suggest the following project for Season of KDE.

by loop_oh@flickr

KHelpCenter

It is the application at the heart of KDE’s documentation system and also (ought to be) the central point of support efforts. However it does not do a very good job at it. A rewrite is needed to improve user experience, provide more integrated support solutions and generally make the whole application more worthwhile.

One of the key problems is that currently KHelpCenter does not integrate the many online help resources KDE provides (such as the KDE UserBase).
These days documentation is more than what we include with our software as offline documentation. It is a great base supply of information, but it is limited. So, we are seeing an increase in online documentation, especially since introduction of the KDE Userbase. While online documentation also has limitations, combining it with the existing offline documentation could create something amazing.

But why stop at traditional documentation. Today we are more concerned with finding knowledge at large. It is not really important if we find it in the system documentation or a forum or a mailing list. Ultimately KHelpCenter would help us find knowledge, offline and online from different sources. It should become a gateway for every user to make the most out of their system; find out how to use a specific piece of software, why video in Dragon is laggy and what to do about it, why Gwenview is so awesome, what the most recent version of KTorrent is and where to find it…

The only limit to everyone’s experience of the system is the one we introduce by not helping everyone see the awesome.

To change that we need a renewed more powerful KHelpCenter. Among the possible changes are:

  • Online content integration
  • Possibly even of different source types (wikis, forums, forum-like things…)
  • Reliable search offline and online
  • A GUI redesign to make it look hot and assist us better in finding what we are looking for
  • Possibly adding semantic information (ratings?) to online resources

My general vision of a better KHelpCenter is outlined in this post to the KDE Developer mailing list.

More details on the project and what I would imagine the implementation to look like is available in the GSoC proposal.

Interested? Read up on Season of KDE.

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9 thoughts on “Season of KDE: Need Help Anyone?”

  1. Support for animations or short video clips walking you through things might be good as well. Userbase has them, but having offline versions distributed with documentation. Or, better yet, allow it to be split up, having the documentation able to retrieve videos online if possible, but if someone install a separate package with videos they will be installed locally and allow the user to view them online. The help system would need to be robust enough to support both.

    A few things for search:

    * there should be a page search bar, like kate, rekonq, and konqueror have, to find a particular word in the current page.
    * the main search should take you straight to the location in the article with the word
    * use strigi for full-text indexing and search when available, perhaps?

    A few other things:
    * Is there a way to query wine for windows help files that can then be included and indexed? You might need to talk to wine developers about getting this implemented if it isn’t already.
    * the list of help pages is basically a web page with links. There should be a better interface for this.

    What is used for rendering currently? Might the okular part be a good idea? It has support for wide variety of file types, including windows help files.

  2. Well I think that there must be help about drivers. People face so many problems fixing drivers for their unsupported hardware.

  3. Hi Harald,

    I work on the GNOME help, including development work on Yelp and Mallard. I’m really excited to see more people bringing new ideas to open source help systems. I’ve chatted with Rich Johnson in the past about ways we could collaborate and share technology.

    Over the last couple of years, I think we’ve done some really good things with local help in GNOME. But we still don’t have a good story for integrating online content. I’d really like to talk more with you about your plans.

    A bunch of open source documentation people will be gathering at the Open Help Conference in June (http://openhelpconference.com/). Do you think you’d be able to join us?

    1. Hey Shaun,

      That particular week of June I’ll be at a KDE sprint, so unfortunately I am not able to attend the Open Help Conference. If you are at the Desktop Summit in Berlin, we could talk about things there.

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