You are here: Help Authoring Basics > What is a Help System?

What is a Help System?

From the reader's perspective, a Help system incorporates some or all of the following five elements:


A set of "pages" containing static text and graphics.


A hierarchical view, or outline, of the entire Help system.


A searchable list of keywords, each of which corresponds to one or more topics.


A mechanism for accessing topics sequentially or by subtopic.


Interactive elements that link individual words and phrases with other topics or topic groups.

Note that this definition of a Help system doesn't presume a particular platform or even a computer! A printed manual is a Help system of sorts, as it has a set of topics, a table of contents, an index, and navigation (via your thumb and forefinger). A typical home page on the World Wide Web doesn't have a site map or a searchable index, but may include hyperlinks to other "Help topics" or a navigation sequence that steps through a set of vacation photos or baby pictures.


Topics Defined

Contents Defined

Glossary Defined

Index Defined

Navigation Defined

Hypertext Defined