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Reflecting on the evolution of DotNetNuke Help Documentation

The next major release of DotNetNuke, DNN 5 or DNN Cambrian, is well on its way with Beta 5 currently in testing stage. Over the past few weeks I have spent many hours excitedly learning and documenting the numerous changes to the way Administrators and Hosts use the core functionality. At this point I’m guessing that this bevy of fabulous changes will to require the largest rewrite and expansion of the DNN Online Help to date. This led me to reflect on how this resource has evolved over the last six years:

  • Year 2002 – Version 1.0.07: After discovering DotNetNuke (IBuySpy) I created a 50 page document which included tutorials on managing pages (then called tabs) and using the 10 core modules. This manual was provided to my clients as a Compiled Help File.
  • Year 2003 – Version 1.0.10: Word spreads about the availability of user documentation as after several requests I repackage the Compiled Help File into a PDF document and begin selling DNN User Manuals to the wider DNN community. The manual grows to 104 pages and includes tutorials on using the 18 core modules as well as the Administrator pages.
  • Year 2004 – Version 2.1.2: The manual is provided to the DotNetNuke Corporation for exclusive use on the website as the new DNN Online Help. Now all DNN users can choose between free online help or purchasing an offline PDF version. The DNN User Manual grows to just under 200 pages and includes the first documentation of the Host functionality.
  • Year 2005 – Version 3.0+: DNN comes of age with the introduction of the attractive Iconbar control panel which includes new page management tools like copy and set to a URL and the Site Wizard. The new Languages page enables Administrators to manage notification messages, and the File Manager includes folder management. New Host sections include the Search Admin, Lists and SuperUser Accounts pages. Modules documented in this manual now total 21. The manual grows to around 250 pages.
  • Year 2006 – Version 4.3+: As the complexity of the DNN cores framework grows so too does module complexity. Simple modules such as the Discussions module is replaced by the Forums module and we see the introduction of ‘module suites’ such as the Help, Repository, Store and Blog which use multiple modules to manage a wide range of content. These complex modules further advance the concept of DNN as a collaborative, community based tool. 28 modules are now documented and the DNN User Manual total 382 pages.
  • Year 2007 – Version 4.4 – 4.6+: The DNN User Manual almost doubles in size this year with the 4.6 version weighing in at 684 pages. I also took some time out to write the first DotNetNuke For Dummies paperback based on DNN 4.4 with Scott Willhite, Philip Beadle and Chris Paterra. This 400+ page book is testament to DNN's popularity in the wider website building community.  
  • Year 2008 – Version 4.8+: The organization of information in the Manual redesigned with content is re-organized by Editor roles making it simple to find out who can perform which tasks. For Example, the chapter on the Blog module is now divided into sections for All Users, Bloggers, Page Editors, Administrators and the Host; whilst the Feedback module chapter is divided into sections for All Users, Feedback Moderators, Feedback List Managers, Page Editors, Administrators and Host.

    Over 150 pages of new content are added to this latest release including over 300 new or updated images. Despite the font size of the manual having been reduced from 11 to 7 over the past six years, the page total of this latest manual still comes in at just under 1000 pages. The Chat and MarketShare modules are added bringing the current number of documented modules up to 31 modules.

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