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Make topics self-contained

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Self-contained topics are vital for online help, but they also make printed manuals more user-friendly.

Build topics that are complete, which means that they fully cover what their headings promise to cover.

Within the topic text, don’t use any statements that relate to a given sequence of topics because you can’t presume that users have read any “previous” topics or will read any “subsequent” topics. It’s OK to link to other topics for related information but don’t rely on the fact that readers follow the order of topics that your table of contents suggests.

Nein:

As you’ve seen in the previous chapter, you must first create a report before you can print it.

Ja:

You must first create a report before you can print it (siehe “Creating Reports” on page 78).

Self-contained topics have many advantages:

Self-contained topics are essential if you want to create online help and a printed manual from the same text base, or if you want to produce documentation for different product versions from the same text base. You can then omit any topic in a specific version without having any negative side effects.

Writing self-contained topics forces you, the author, to be concise and focused. Sometimes this can be challenging, but it greatly enhances the quality of your writing.

Self-contained topics are a one-stop knowledge shop. Users find everything that they need to know in their specific situation and context in one place. There’s no need to follow links. There’s no need to go on a wild-goose chase and to collect information from multiple places.

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