Documentation for MuseScore 2.0
From our first MuseScore users survey back in 2013, we learnt that the number one request was more and better documentation. In the meantime, as we were packing great new features into MuseScore 2.0, the need for good documentation would become even more necessary. So with the 2.0 release nearing, let's check what the state is of the documentation and what we can still do in the weeks to come.
First there is the 2.0 handbook which is an ongoing community collaboration effort. It is already far more extensive than the original 1.x handbook. What is currently missing is a downloadable PDF version of the handbook. This PDF file will be made available around the time of the Release Candidate (RC) and from that moment on, the PDF will be regularly updated as the handbook is a living document.
Secondly, there will be put more emphasis on writing how-to's. A how-to is different from the handbook as it tries to give a very concise answer on a specific question. There are many questions and answers in the forums which could be turned into an easy readable HowTo. Here is a good example. So frequently asked questions should be easily answered by pointing to a how-to. If it doesn't exist yet, we can/should create one.
Thirdly, there are tutorials which are basically long reads concerning a specific use case. In that list you will see a "lead sheet" tutorial, but we want much more of these, e.g. on using MuseScore to make scores for piano, guitar, choir, orchestra, ....
These three types of documentation (handbook page, how-to, tutorial) will be clustered in help topics. These topics will be linked with the MuseScore software through the contextual help. So when you place your mouse pointer on a measure and press F1, MuseScore will launch the browser and return the measure help topic page. Another way is that you right click on a note head and press help in the menu, you'll get to know everything about notes. We hope this contextual help will turn into a powerful self-support tool.
Finally a word on books. We had a few for MuseScore 1.x, but we definitely lacked a definitive bible to learn about all the little details in MuseScore. This is about to change as Marc Sabatella is currently writing this book. It will go on presale just before the release of MuseScore 2.0. If anyone else wants to write a book on MuseScore, don't hesitate to reach out to me. There is place for many books on the market targeted to specific audiences and use cases.
The Getting Started in 10 Steps video tutorials have served MuseScore very well. Hundreds of thousands of new MuseScore users learnt to use the software through these videos. There are two initiatives going on to create a new video series for 2.x: Churchorganist and George Hess. As the creation of these videos require the 2.0 software to be finished, this work will only get started as soon as the RC is out.
Another visual solution is to make very short screencasts which can assist written documentation. I personally use a free tool named Licecap. Here is an example. I see these screencasts in particular handy for how-to's.
At this stage of the development of 2.0, I'm very interested to brainstorm about more ideas which can lower the barrier to help first time users to get started with MuseScore, as well as turning existing users into MuseScore experts.
One of the ideas is to create a search facility in the MuseScore software which visually shows you what you are looking for. For instance, if you are looking to add a fermata but you don't know it listed under the Articulation & Ornaments palette, MuseScore would expand that palette for you and show with a pointer where you can find the fermata.
Another idea is to make worksheets giving users easy tasks to solve together with the instructions. This way first time users can learn about common tasks like how to add notes in multiple voices, how to input slurs or ties and more.
If you have more ideas on how you want to improve the documentation for 2.0, please don't hesitate to leave a comment.