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About Mallard

Mallard is an XML format designed to make topic-oriented help as simple as possible. In contrast to linear documentation, which is designed to be read cover-to-cover, topic-oriented help provides users the information they need quickly. Good topic-oriented help has three main characteristics:

  • Users can navigate to information following a path that fits their mental model.

  • Users can find the information they need in a topic without reading any more background information than necessary.

  • Users can learn more if they choose to by following links to more in-depth information.

Mallard helps you help your users by making things as simple as possible. The base Mallard language is refined from years of working with online help, and contains only the elements you're most likely to need. And with its rich automated links, Mallard removes many tedious and error-prone bookkeeping tasks. See how easy Mallard is with the Ten Minute Tour.

Mallard was uniquely designed from the beginning to support extensible documents. Because of Mallard's automated links, you can insert topics into existing documents without modifying any of the original files. No other format makes it as easy to provide help for plugins and extensions, to ship supplementary help separately, or to support extra information from downstream distributors and OEMs.

Although you can easily use Mallard without ever thinking about extending or customizing it, the Mallard language was designed to be extended using new elements and attributes in different XML namespaces. The specification rigidly defines the behavior for unrecognized extensions so that you can design extensions that fall back gracefully with any standards-compliant processing tool.