UPK - Going beyond the Topic

The UPK topic has been the center of all things in the User Productivity Kit for much of the product's history. They are of course, the document type that allows you to capture your organization's system processes through the UPK recorder, enhance them in the topic editor and deploy them in the player. UPK further allows you to deploy these topics in a number of ways including interactive simulations, documentation and presentations.

When topics are deployed through the UPK Player, they can be delivered in a context sensitive manner such that the user is shown only those topics that apply to their current location in the application. In the Player, these topics are displayed when the Applicable check box is marked. The Player also offers users the ability to filter the content based on their role within the organization or search based on keywords within the content.

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For topics you create in UPK, context sensitivity is provided automatically (1) and allows you to quickly start your performance support initiatives. This works fantastic for any UPK topics you create but what about those "piles" of existing documents, pages on web sites and wikis, and existing training assets? Imagine if you could bring all of the UPK power to these assets?

User Productivity Kit 3.5 and later add powerful features that allow you to extend context sensitivity, role based filtering and keyword searching to all sections in an outline. This allows you to leverage these capabilities on anything that you can put in a section concept: web pages, links to files in packages, or any URL. This was part of a concerted effort during the UPK 3.5 project to make sections (non-topics) first-class citizens within the product.

Adding roles and keywords to sections is done in exactly the same manner as you would do it for a topic. Select the section for which you want to add the role or keyword and press F4 to display the properties pane. In the properties pane you will see properties for Roles and Keywords.

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Their use is identical to topics. If the section is linked to a web page, the contents of the web page will automatically be added to search. If the section links to a file in a package or a URL, you must add keywords for it to appear in the search results.

The ability to extend context sensitivity to sections is completely new. The target of a section's concept can be a web page, file in a package or URL. None of these assets inherently know what page or screen of an application to which they are relevant. You, the author need to create this connection. UPK provide two different methods for creating the connection. Both allow you to leverage UPK's powerful context recording technology. To start the process, select the section to which you want to add context and display the properties pane. Within the properties pane, you'll find the Context property.

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Clicking the browse button (...) for this property displays the Context dialog which provides two methods for establishing the section's context. Either approach allows you to define the circumstances under which a section will appear in the Player's applicable topics list.

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This first way to add context to a section is record its context. This can be useful when you have some information that you want to return in the Player's applicable list but you do not have any UPK Topics for that particular area of the application. To add the contexts to the section, click the second tab, Context Names and then click the Create new context button. This starts the UPK recorder in a special mode in which it will only capture context information and screen shots. Use the the recorder to move through each screen in the application for which you want the section to appear. Once completed, you'll see each context appear in the list and you can view a screen shot for that context.

The second way to establish context for a section is to link it to a UPK topic. Sometimes you may want to have a page on your intranet, document, spreadsheet or other asset appear whenever a topic is returned in the Player's Applicable items list. Or in other words, the section is applicable to the same contexts as the topic. UPK offers a quick way to link the section to the topic. On the Topic Contexts tab of the dialog, you can add a link to the topic by clicking the Add topic contexts button. This establishes a link such that whenever the user is on a page or screen in that topic they will see both the topic and section returned in the applicable list.

Even if your outline doesn't contain topics, this second method can be useful to create what I like to call a "context container". Say you have several web pages you want displayed to a user on a certain page in an application. If you use the first method to add context you'll need to record context for each of the sections. Another approach is to create a new topic and record that page in the application. Then link each of the sections Topic Contexts property to that topic. The topic does not have to appear in the outline but rather serves as a container for the contexts that the sections share.

Start to look around your organization for assets that you can context enable. Documents, intranet web sites and wikis, blog posts, forum posts, support knowledge base articles are now all content that can be re-purposed as context enabled, role filtered, searchable UPK content. In your application deployments there is great justification for delivering these assets at the point of need in addition to topics. If you've already leveraged this capability in your content or discover new ways, please let us know through the comments at the bottom of this post.

In closing, I'd also like to provide some links to other blog posts that have appeared here on the UPK blog. In this post, I've mixed together a few different UPK concepts and I think these articles do a great job of describing context sensitive help, Smarthelp context sensitivity and use of packages.

Context-Sensitive Help with UPK
In-Application Support Made Easier
User Productivity Kit - Powerful Packages
Smart Help with UPK

Thanks again!

John Robert Zaums
Senior Director, Product Development
Oracle User Productivity Kit

(1) See User Productivity Kit Technical Specifications for detailed information regarding context sensitivity.

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The authors of this blog are members of the UPK product development, management, and marketing teams. On this blog, you'll find UPK news, tips/tricks, upcoming events, and general information on UPK - the easy-to-use, comprehensive content development, deployment, and maintenance platform for increasing project, program, and user productivity.

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