Help By Leo Walks You Through Software Help

You wouldn't judge a book by its cover, and you shouldn't judge a piece of software by its name. Especially when it sports a name like Help by Leo. If you can overlook the hokey moniker, you just might be impressed by this interactive help tool. It's certainly not perfect, but (free for personal use) is pretty darn helpful.

The free (for personal use only; business users can contact vendor for per-seat pricing info) app provides interactive help for a handful of applications, including Microsoft Office 2007, Facebook, , and . Support for is expected in early 2011, and the company is considering adding support for additional apps, such as Photoshop, in the future.

Once installed, Leo appears as a small query bar, into which you enter your help request, using any kind of language you'd like. Real-time results appear as soon as you begin typing, and the results are refined as you finish typing your query. Each result links to one of Leo's help wizards, which will deliver the answer to your query. For the most part, I found that Leo returned results directly related to the question I asked, and the app was able to provide answers for most of my basic questions.

Sometimes, however, Leo would return results for an unrelated application, even when I included the name of the app itself in my query. For example, when I asked "how do I set up home sharing in iTunes?", Leo returned results for Office 2007 apps, as well as results for iTunes. And, what's worse, Leo couldn't answer this query at all; it offered no information on iTunes' home sharing feature.

When Leo was able to provide an answer to my query, as it was the vast majority of the time, the application really shone. It doesn't just send you to a text-heavy page and require that you dig through paragraphs to find out how to accomplish your task; instead, Leo literally shows you how it's done. Leo offers two options. In one, called "Do It," Leo actually accomplishes the task itself; you don't even have to touch the mouse (unless the application asks for your input). You can sit back and watch as Leo completes a task, such as creating a chart in an Excel worksheet. The other option, called "Guide me," has Leo walk you through the process, showing you where and when to click and enter info.

Help by Leo was indeed very helpful most of the time. It did occasionally stumble, but not so often that I'd hesitate to recommend it. Leo will prove especially useful to software newbies who are intimidated by text-heavy help menus, and would benefit from the application's ability to complete tasks for them. And even advanced users just might find that Leo has a little help to offer them, too.