After writing about the Help in Office 2013, I realized I hadn’t checked out the OS Help for Windows 8.

From the Start screen I tried a Shift+H and it the “Help and Support” tile popped up on the Apps screen. I used the right mouse click to pin the Help app to the Start screen for future reference as shown in Figure 1 below.

Clicking the Help and Support tile opens the app to the Help home page shown in Figure 2. This is a preview release and may not be the final version. But with an October ship date, I doubt the Help is going to change much in the near term. The only navigation is the prominent Search box and the forward/back button in the top left corner. The right corner has icons for Print and Settings.

There are three links right below the Search box (Fig 3) on all Help pages: Help home, Browse Help, and Contact support. Browse Help has the same three top-level items as Help home plus seven other subsections. ¬† Interestingly, the Internet and the Security subsections are all the way at the bottom of the Browse page but they are two of the three topics on the Home help. I’m not sure I understand the prioritization scheme of the Help designer. Getting Started is still at the top of the list though.

The language choices for mouse and touch seem to be a mishmash.

  • Figure 4 shows one form where “tap and click” is used as the action verb.
  • Figure 5 uses touch language – swipe, tap – for the command step. Mouse language is in parentheses below it.
  • Figure 6 shows such a mix of styles that it must be an error. Or maybe the Help writer can’t decide which way to go. Step 1 uses the form from Figure 5. Step 2 the form from Figure 4. And Step 3 just uses “click” and omits “tap”. Steps 3 and 4 include UI icons. Icons are used inconsistently in the Help.

The Help topics in general use the plain Metro-style look with default black text and blue headings throughout.Tips and Notes use a grey color. The expanding hidden text effect is still used to layer related content. Some topics include shortcut links directly to the screens described in the topic.

Overall, there have been no innovative moves made in Help for Windows 8. It is basically a repurposing of existing Windows 7 topics with some touch variants.