When the concept of including online Help and feedback options in the Office 2003 applications was first introduced I was a little leery of its effectiveness. But rather than passing judgment too soon, I waited to see if Microsoft actually incorporated our feedback and whether Online Help content has been updated as a result. It has been a little over a year since the release of Office 2003 and I decided to spend some time comparing the offline and online Help content and I have to say I was pleased with my findings. Granted, some of the examples I found werenít earth shattering updates, but I did find some substantial revisions and new content. Interested in knowing how our feedback has been implemented? Read on!
So How Does Microsoft Collect Feedback?
Microsoft obtains feedback from various sources. Here are the primary methods they use:
- Direct user feedback: Feedback gathered from users who utilize the Was this information helpful? commands at the end of the Online Help topic.
- User search requests: When you perform an online search the search string is sent to Microsoft and the data is utilized to generate new content.
- Commonly reported issues: Microsoft receives reports of common issues from various sources and creates or obtains content to update Help as new problems arise.
Updated Content Examples
I put together some specific examples of where Help content has been created or updated as a result of the various feedback options. If you want to see for yourself and compare the offline content to the new online content then take a look at Tame Office 2003 Online Help Content! for instructions on how to configure Help to search offline content.
Direct User Feedback Examples
Picture Manager 2003: Print a Picture
Users were unable to find a Print command in the Picture Manager and Help certainly wasnít helping them out. Thankfully there were those who took the time and sent their feedback using the Was this information helpful? commands at the bottom of the Help topic. After a little research they realized it was due to a caveat of using Office 2003 on Windows 2000 in which Windows 2000 users are unable to print from the Picture Manager. Although this was notated in the original Help topic, apparently it wasnít clear and users were overlooking this fact.
Some additional context in the Print a Picture topic added more visibility to the limitation and the Help topic is now clear and concise:
Offline Content Note: In order to print files in Microsoft Office Picture Manager, your computer must be running Microsoft Windows XP or later.
Updated Online Content Note: If you don't see the Print command on the File menu, Picture Manager 2003 is installed on a Windows 2000-based computer. Print functionality in Picture Manager 2003 requires the Windows Photo Printing Wizard, which is not included in Windows 2000. You'll need to print using a different image printing program, such as Microsoft Paint.
Excel 2003: Add or remove a sheet background pattern
The offline topic doesnít address the primary reason users are searching for help on sheet backgrounds. Their main question is why the sheet backgrounds do not print and/or are looking for watermark functionality. The updated topic: Add or remove a sheet background addresses the fact that sheet backgrounds are for visual purposes only and notes that watermark functionality is unavailable in Excel at the beginning of the topic.
User Search Requests Examples
Here are a few Help topics that were added as a result of our search requests. I found it interesting that some of the titles are worded similar to our search strings:
- Excel 2003: About the syntax of functions
- PowerPoint 2003: Build text on a slide one bullet at a time
- Word 2003: Print on both sides of the paper (duplex printing)
- Office 2003: XML for the uninitiated
Top Customer Issues Pain Points
Word 2003 Help Topic: Word prompts me to save changes to the Normal.dot template
After an update to Norton Antivirus and its Office Plug-in option, users began encountering a prompt to save their Normal template each time they exited Word. An article covering all aspects of this growing issue was developed and published on Office Online. Not necessarily a new Help topic but it turns up in the search results when an Online Help search is preformed.
Iíve had the opportunity to witness several occasions of where Microsoft actually listened to our feedback and updated Help accordingly. It has taken some time but I think Iím finally sold and taking the time to provide feedback has been worth the effort. So go for it - send them your feedback!