Microsoft

How do you do

One of the tenets of online content production suggests that

the way you present information is as important as the

quality of the information itself. This applies to how it looks (legible fonts,

nice use of white space, nothing overshadowed by ads or graphics) as well as

how it's packaged—its form factor, as we like to say (over and over) these

days.

So naturally, the TechRepublic editors are always looking

for the best ways to present particular types of information: glossaries, cheat

sheets, tutorials, "10 things you should know about…" lists. And

we've recently started publishing a new type of content, which, in a fit of

unparalleled creative brilliance, we dubbed "How do I…?"

You may have seen a few of these already:


(You can view the entire growing collection by clicking

this tag search link.)

The formula is pretty simple: Take a problem or a procedure

and work through it step by step until you reach a solution or produce the

desired results. The tricky thing here is scope.

Just how granular should the focus be in order to be truly

useful? I'm thinking, for example, that something like "How do I… Create a

Web page?" or "How do I… Use Microsoft Visio?" or "How do I…

Make lots of money and have fun working in IT?" might be a little

sweeping. On the other hand, I'm wary of getting too particularized. So, for

instance, I'd steer clear of:
  • How do I… Adjust the brightness on my monitor when I'm using

    two Philips 100-watt Longlife incandescent light bulbs in a room with a

    south-facing Andersen Tilt-Wash Double-Hung window and partially closed

    Venetian blinds (color: Mocha Frost) on a day that's 83 percent overcast with nimbostratus

    clouds whose bases lie at 7,100 feet?
  • How do I… Extricate Gerber Tender Harvest Non-Bioengineered Pureed

    Corn 'n Peas from my MATSHITA UJDA755yDVD/CDRW DVD/CD-ROM drive, from my

    Microsoft Natural PS/2 keyboard, and from the internal components that got a

    little soggy, including the Texas Instruments PCI-4520 Cardbus Controller and

    the Intel(R) 82801DMB Ultra ATA Storage Controller -24CA?
  • How do I… teach Microsoft Word to know what text I want to

    enter when I type the beginning of the AutoText entry "thisthatthesethosethem,"

    which sometimes should autocomplete the word "this" and sometimes

    "that" and sometimes "these" and sometimes

    "those" and sometimes "them"?

Nope, you probably won't be seeing that stuff in the content lineup anytime soon.

Achieving the right balance between macro and micro is

sometimes tough, but I'm confident that we can do it. We could use a little

help, though. What "How do I…?" topics would you like to see us

cover? How narrowly focused do you think they should be?

About Jody Gilbert

Jody Gilbert has been writing and editing technical articles for the past 25 years. She was part of the team that launched TechRepublic and is now senior features editor for Tech Pro Research.

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