Posts Tagged ‘ FAR HTML ’

Online Help

Being Windows XP users we from time to time use its Help and Support feature that use both local resources in the form of unequaled set of HTML files on computer and internet resources. Such type of help is called web help.  Among the whole range of tools which are usually used to create web help DocBook XSL, HelpSmith, MadCap Software, RoboHelp, Macrobject Word-2-Web, XDocs Knowledgebase, Help & Manual, chm2web, FAR HTML, HelpMapper, AuthorIt, and Help Explorer Server should be mentioned.

From one hand the web help can exist as a set of web pages and have quite simple structure. On the other hand more complicated structure of web help has a frameset sidebar that has a table of content and gives a possibility to use search and HTML Help.

Web help solutions have both pluses and minuses. First of all they give the potential buyer understandable product preview. They are always updated and can be see using a regular browser. So it doesn’t require any specific technical authoring software. Also usage of a DocBook XSL system gives a possibility to produce any kind of technical documentation in PDF format ready for printing, as HTML ready for publishing on-line or as WebHelp on CD/DVD-roms.

Unfortunately, web help strongly depends on user’s internet connection. Despite the fact that the majority of modern tools can provide context-sensitive web help, in some cases it can be still a problem.

Another way of getting some assistance is to use online help. Online help is any kind of information usually devoted to a specific topic and is provided to the user by means of computer software. Online help introduces the information on the variety of subjects, but more often it is used for giving the user assistance answering the questions on how to use a software application or operating system. If online help is connected to the state of application, that the user is currently operating, with the help of the link, that online help is usually called Context-sensitive help.

Online help can be created with help authoring tools using a wide range of formats: e.g. proprietary (HTML, JavaHelp, Oracle) and open-standard (PDF). To these tools belong DITA and the Open source tool DocBookXSL that is a wonderful resource for generating help files in the following formats: PDF, JavaHelp, WebHelp, eBook, etc.

There are special platforms for delivering help systems. These systems developed by Microsoft for the Microsoft Windows operating system are:

Not open to public:

  • Microsoft QuickHelp (written for MS-DOS and OS/2 called QuickHelp)
  • Help command (MS-DOS, OS/2 and Windows)
  • Help and Support Center (windows Me and Windows XP)
  • Microsoft Help 2(.hxs) (the Microsoft name for HTML Help 2.0 used as a format for Visual Studio .NET, MSDN Library and TechNet products, Office 2007)
  • AP Help 1.0 (.hls) ( based on Microsoft Assistance Markup Language and developed especially for Windows Vista and will be probably used by Microsoft, OEMs, and certain corporate users. The Assistance Platform Help 2.0 engine is currently on hold.
  • Microsoft Help Viewer 1.0 (.mshc) ( developed for VisoualStudio 2010)

Open to public:

  • Microsoft WinHelp (.hlp) (Based on the Rich Text Format, and was included with all Windows  operating systems apart from Windows Vista, where it is available for downloading)
  • HTML Help (Another name is Microsoft Compiled HTML Help and uses HTML, images and JavaScript and other data as a base.)

Other platforms:

  • AmigaGuide (.guide) (the official hypertext document file format made for the Amiga.)
  • Apple Help (.HELP) (Apple Computer’s proprietary platform for the Mac OS 8.5+ operating system.)
  • Flare (MadCap Software’s cross-platform, WebHelp based on browsers)
  • Sun JavaHelp (.js) (made by Sun Microsystems is platform-independent. It is platform-independent (so it runs on any platform that supports the Java Runtime Environment (JRE)), was written in Java programming language )
  • Oracle Help (developed for Java (OHJ) and for Web (OHW))
  • Help library (.HLB) (the official file format designed for VMS.)
  • DotNetHelp (A new Windows format which supports .NET applications.)
  • Texinfo (or “info” is the official documentation system for the GNU project.)
  • Unix man pages (the standard method used to document Unix commands.)
  • Information Presentation Facility (IPF) (used by IBM’s OS/2 system.)
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Help authoring tools

Technical writers in their work use a lot of different software.  These can be a Help Authoring Tools or HAT, content management systems and version control systems. To Hat belong Adobe RoboHelp, Author-it, Doc-To-Help, FAR HTML, HelpIQ, Help & Manual, Help Generator, HelpNDoc, HelpServer, HelpStudio, MadCap Flare, Sandcastle and many other.

It has several basic and auxiliary functions. To the first group belong file input and help output. File input either allows importing a text produced by any kind of program or gives the technical writer an opportunity to create a text using an editor within the tool. Depending on what HAT tool you use the format of the imported file can be different. For example, ASCII, HTML, OpenOffice Writer , Microsoft Word, Microsoft WinHelp, Microsoft Compressed HTML Help etc. HAT also can put the files out as a compiled Help file and non-compiled file formats. The formats that are normally used for outputting are: WinHelp(*.HLP),  Microsoft Compiled HTML Help (*.CHM),  Adobe PDF, XML,HTML, JavaHelp and so on.

As it has been stated HAT tools have also some auxiliary functions for technical authoring. The functions include: automatic or assisted Index generation, automatic table of contents, spelling checker, image editing, image hotspot editing, import and export of text in XML files, for exchange with computer-assisted translation programs.

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