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Re: Feature proposal: New, Standard Documentation System



Basil Mohamed Gohar wrote:
Michael,

What would a new system's advantage over man be?  For example, if a new
interface to manpages were created, that might eliminate some of the
initial learning curve some might say manpages present to users.

Actually, I think manpages already solve your 5 points without need
anything new.  Perhaps a manpage-to-X/HTML solution that allows reading
them on the fly in a browser could be used to make accessing them
easier.

So, what this comes down to is creating an easier way to make manpages,
if what I am suggesting makes sense.

________________________________________________________________________

Basil Mohamed Gohar
abu_hurayrah hidayahonline org
www.basilgohar.com




On Wed, 2008-11-26 at 20:28 -0600, Michael Cronenworth wrote:
Far too often I find myself looking for non-existent man pages, Google results, or help menus in GNU/Linux software. What's the problem? There is no single, reliable, standardized documentation system that is universally accepted or appreciated. Yes, what I'm about to describe should obsolete man, info, and all the other dozen "help" documentation found in all the Fedora packages.

Problem case out of the way: Fedora should pioneer a GNU/Linux documentation system that meets these criteria:
1. Lightweight
The entire system should not demand hundreds of megs of fonts, images, or other non-reusable requirements. I'm looking at you texlive. Recommendations: SQLite, ncurses, GTK. Existing toolkits; not new ones.
2. CLI and GUI front-ends
Allow users to be presented to a universal and familiar front-end no matter where they are. The parts should also be separable so that, for instance, if there is no X requirement in a said environment, the help packages should not require QT, GTK, etc.
3. Universal formatting
Obvious criteria, however, application specific formatting should be allowed as an optional addition after a standard format has been met.
4. Easy to use creation tools
It shouldn't take a programmer background to write help documentation. Be it WYSIWYG tools or a simple XML-like (hey, or even XML) language to create documentation pages.
5. Global access
You should be able to access any and all documentation for all software through a single window, be it X or console, without having to open the corresponding program.

Optional criteria:
1. Platform independence (for use on non-GNU/Linux systems)

Feel free to rip me apart. To me, and I'm sure most standard Linux users, documentation for /any/ piece of software is a nightmare, even if you are the original author. It should not be that way!

Back in the old days when there weren't so many programs I always liked xman in split-screen view so you could see the index of available commands in one pane, click on a name, and get the man page in the other pane. However, now that there are thousands of programs with mostly meaningless names, the index isn't very useful and the list is too big to just browse through everything to see what it does. If you are going to come up with something new, it should provide a way to browse/search the short description that 'yum info' would have for a package, then view the man/info pages of the associated program(s), preferably without having to have the package installed first. That is, you need a way to find which program you want, then the details of how to use it. Man pages only provide the latter (a good thing, because you'll need the detail reference often but you'll probably remember the overview and not want it to clutter the reference).

--
  Les Mikesell
    lesmikesell gmail com


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