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What is Context-Sensitive Help?

Context-sensitive help is a form of online help or user assistance, that is accessed at a specific location or in a particular scenario in a software application, usually in relation to a graphical user interface (GUI). Triggering a generic help button or control opens a unique help topic that is relevant to the current location in the user’s workflow in the GUI. Different help topics are presented at different times or contexts. 

Context-sensitive help is meant to provide comprehensive user assistance for a single scenario or location in the software workflow and is not meant to be a general reference or full set of instructions. One challenge when creating content for context-sensitive help is determining the user’s intentions at that specific moment so that the help can assist the user to perform the task. 

Context-sensitive help content is presented either as a separate window or popup or as a tooltip that appears in context to the mouse pointer or cursor. Some context-sensitive help provides a summary of the topic, with links to a larger and more detailed description. 

Visual clues, or affordance, are often provided to the user to indicate that specific context-sensitive help is available at that point in the workflow. 


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