configurable help systems/documentation

Subject: configurable help systems/documentation
From: "McIntosh, Cathleen" <Cathleen -dot- McIntosh -at- vistacpg -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L digest'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 13 Mar 2000 09:06:35 -0600

Techwhirlers, I need your help. I am relatively new to online help systems,
and I have been challenged to create a configurable help system. I work at a
software company that creates modular client/server systems. The current
help system for the application is a WinHelp system, created in RoboHelp. It
is a modular help system with a master table of contents. When we deliver
the help files, we only deliver those that correspond to the application
modules that our customers use.

Challenge: Now I need to figure out a way to build a help system that uses
one set of files but that can be configured so that certain files can be
turned on or off, depending on whether a customer needs the files. In this
way, each customer would receive the same exact files, but we would be able
to control/configure which areas of the help system can be accessed. This
might be database driven, file driven, or other.

Also, is there a help system that "talks to" a database? I.e., can we
control the text and bitmaps (or anything for that matter) that appear by
populating tables within our application (or Access, resource files, etc) to
enable customers and integrators to change the help system without any
assistance and without the need to recompile?

Is there a similar system that could be used to configure our user guide.
Right now we use FrameMaker and generate unique books for each client
depending on which modules of the app they use. My boss thinks this could be
more automated.

Can any of this be done, and if so, what tools could be used and how would I
go about beginning this task? I would be very grateful to anyone who could
point me in the right direction with this.

Cathleen McIntosh
cathleen -dot- mcintosh -at- vistacpg -dot- com
1.630.377.1999 x8107

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