Oracle Application Express
Effective online help with video demonstrations
Oracle Tips by Burleson Consulting
One excellent feature of APEX is
the ability to have in-screen help pop-ups for any screen items.
However, text-based help has been very ineffective when compared to
streaming videos (shockwave swf files) that talk to the APEX
end-user and show the screen in-operation. Also, see out tip
fast adding of help
text to screen items.
Bad online help
The use of item-specific help pop-ups has a
very bad historical reputation in online systems because the help
text seldom provides any useful information. For example, we have
seen text-based help on a last name field and the pop-up help says
only “Enter the last name”. Gee, that wasn’t very helpful, at all.
Because of this, many end-users don’t bother clicking online help.
Good text-based help
To be effective, online screen item-level help
must provide details about the business process. At a minimum, all
text-based help should have the following information:
- What are the formatting rules for this
- Why is this field important to the
- How is it used in output documents?
- How does the screen item relate to the
database? Is it a key field to other information?
- How does this screen item relate to other
fields on the screen?
Supplemented with online screen demonstrations,
field-level help should provide the end-user with insights into the
screen’s business process and how everything fits together.
Creating APEX Screen Demonstrations
The use of pop-up help text dates to the
earliest days of computing and it is very outdated for use in 21st
Today we have the ability to create and deploy
streaming APEX screen usage examples with audio and video example
of how to use the screen. This “how-to” approach to online help has
become the de-facto standard for online systems and end-users demand
this functionality. Fortunately, online audio and video are easy to
incorporate into APEX. Let’s take a closer look.
Creating online demonstration help
There are many products that create online
demonstrations such as Captivate, and Robohelp. Here is an example
of an online video created by Captivate, compressed to less than 1.2
meg for easy loading:
The products like Captivate allows you to
create a screen usage demonstration and store it in a file for
uploading and linking into an APEX screen. First, wee need
a screen icon to let the end-user know that they can view a talking
demonstration for the screen. It’s imperative that you use the
word “talking” in the icon because many end-users turn-off their PC
We resized and animated the logo, placing it in
the header of the APEX page automatically when APEX detected
an swf file with the same screen number as the current screen.
The next step is to record the and upload the
screen demo file (usually a shockwave file e.g. mydemo.swf File).
Let’s see how we can write an APEX component to manage talking
screen demonstration help files for an APEX system. This
logo is a visual cue that they can get an animated demo for the
screen of region area by clicking the logo, which, in turn, invokes
the corresponding swf file.
To upload the
Demo Help Files
We built a small APEX screen to manage our
help video's. Here is how it works. We have a menu
just for developers:
Click on the Online Demo Maintenance. This
will display the Online Demo Management page with a report of all
the help files which have been uploaded already.
Here you can check any of the demo and click on
the ‘Delete Selected’ button to delete a demo. To Add a demo,
click on the ‘Add Online Demo’ button.
To add a demo, simply fill in the page number
and then the name of the region where you would like the demo to
be. If the demo will be for the entire page, enter PAGE into the
to the Page or Region
If the demo is for the page, nothing has to be
done. It is already automatically coded to include the demo icon
and linked in correctly.
If the demo is for a region, this is the
recommended way to display the icon.
1) Start by creating a button.
2) Choose the region you want to display the
icon – Click Next
3) Choose to ‘Create a button in a region
4) Give the button a name and label
5) Then choose to ‘Image’ for button type
6) For Action: choose ‘Redirect to URL
without submitting page’ – click Next
7) For the Image Name, click on the up arrow.
This will display a list to choose an image from. These are images
loaded up in the WORKSPACE_IMAGES area through the Shared
Components. In this case, the demo_logo_small.jpg file is chosen
from the list, click Next
8) For position, choose ‘Region Template
Position #HELP#’ - click Next
9) Change the ‘Target is a’ to URL
10) For the URL target, enter the next line
changing the <region name> to the region name that was entered when
the demo file was uploaded.
11) Click Create Button.
The Icon and Demo file are now linked on the
page or to the region. When the page is executed, the Icon will
appear. When clicked on, a new window will appear with the demo.
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