Tech Write Tips

March 28, 2006

Best Practice: Screen Portraits

Filed under: Best Practice,HTMLHelp — AndyR @ 12:37 pm

It seems that the post about screen portrait generated quite a bit of interest. So I thought I would provide some more "How to" details.

Stage 1portrait1.gif

  1. Bring the screen shot into your paint package. I use PaintShop Pro
  2. Ensure that the screen is configured in such a way that all the general features are available, so it depicts the required functionality.
  3. Also Ensure that it is good aspect, so the resulting portrait will fit your help topic. This can be adjust at the end but not as easily.

Stage 2portrait2.gif

  1. Provided your paint package supports layers, and most of the do, start adding rectangles to mask over the key parts of the screen.
  2. A feature in PaintShop Pro is to tmake a layer semi-transparent, as you can see, I make my rectangles transparent so I can still see the screen shot behind them. This makes for easier laying out.

Stage 3portrait3.gif

  1. Start to add in the key details of the dialog, ensure that anything that is referenced in the help is included.
  2. What you are looking at doing is replicating the visual signature of the image.
  3. In the same way that we recognise words by their overall shape rather than each letter, the same is true with how we recognise software screens.
  4. For example you could probably recognise a Font selector dialog from across the room.
  5. You can probably make your portraits more styalised than you will first imagine. Practice makes perfect.

Stage 4portrait4.gif

  1. Turn off the original background image in the paint package so you can only see the portrait.
  2. You can add some bells and whistles like rounding the containing area to match the rounding in windows.
  3. There you have it, your finished portrait.
  4. I estimate you can knock these out in about 3-4 minutes once you have a sample layout completed.

Next post about this we will focus in more detail about the colours, positioning and visual clues to make your portraits sing.

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