RE. Winhelp vs. html help?

Subject: RE. Winhelp vs. html help?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "Techwr-L (E-mail)" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2000 11:11:56 -0400

Linda McCulloch-Smith wondered <<I am going to be writing online help for a
product that currently uses WinHelp. We are thinking of switching to HTML
Help. More than 45% of our users are running Windows 95. The number of users
running Windows 98 and NT 4.0 is increasing, but only about 1% are using
Windows 2000.>>

If I've understood these numbers correctly, then you only have 46% of your
audience running versions of Windows that can run HTML help (are 54% running
Win3.1?), so why would you even consider going to HTML help? If I've
misunderstood, and the only problem is that some users may not have Internet
Explorer (IE) installed, this raises the issue of why you would want to
force anyone to install IE on their machine if they've been happily using
WinHelp without a hiccup thus far. Its not rocket science to include the
latest version of IE as part of your installer, but you do significantly
increase the risk of some system-level conflict as a result of a botched
installation. And what about people who prefer to use Netscape and don't
want IE on their system at all?

I haven't yet tried to produce an HTML help file for one simple reason: it
offers me nothing that I can't already do just fine in WinHelp, and creates
additional complexity for my users. To me, that makes the decision a
no-brainer: I'll wait a while yet for HTML help.

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"Technical writing... requires understanding the audience, understanding
what activities the user wants to accomplish, and translating the often
idiosyncratic and unplanned design into something that appears to make
sense."--Donald Norman, The Invisible Computer

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