It’s always enjoyable to be able to dust off old skills and use them in new ways, or on new projects. I find myself in this great position once again. I was handed a task to build an Oracle APEX install guide from the higher ups. They asked for clear instructions, documented steps and screenshots to go with it all. I was already looking forward to it.
After taking three dry runs at the install process, using the manufacturers guides, I was able to distill the steps down to something a bit more friendly and straightforward, without the plethora of caveats and warning and cautions in the original guides. Wiped the computer clean and booted up my image tools, and away I went. Two hours later I had a once more running installation of the software, and a couple of dozen screenshots to go with them.
Taking my pictures to my main machine, I cataloged them, and associated them with the steps they went to, and made sure they were uniformly labeled. Down sampling them for inline sizes, I set about writing the framework instructions while the final look was distilling in my mind. Once I had it all together, fire up the HTML editor, and dust off the hard references and dive into the wonderful world of markup languages. A few tweaks here and there, a table under here, and a horizontal line there, and I had what was shaping up to be a decent guide.
The fun part about writing HTML for me is the raw versatility you have with it, without ever having to touch any of the extended capabilities of it (Java, Perl, CGI, ASP, PHP, etc) and how decent and simple a page can look with just the basics. I find many places overlook the ability of raw HTML in favor of the flavor of the month add-on. While they are nice in some situations, in my world, the closer you are to pure HTML, the better.
So here I sit, with a guide that works on three different browsers, contains 76 images in total, and has a total footprint of just over 2 MB. Not too shabby given what I included in the page. Now I begin reviewing it, streamlining it and correcting syntax and little errors that are hard to weed out and find. Rewording sentences here, fixing spelling there, reducing the number of tags needed to make the page work, and applying some basic formatting changes to try and give it a better feel. The guide is now resting with my bosses, awaiting their trials to see if I did write a guide easy to follow, and free of major bugs. I look forward to their feedback and truly hope they find something broken.
Not that I doubt myself, but it’s always hardest to debug your own work. Let someone else use it, and you’ll almost always be able to make it better. I await the notes so I can continue to improve both the guide and my own skills.