RE: HTML v .hlp [RE: 28.8 Modem Users]

Subject: RE: HTML v .hlp [RE: 28.8 Modem Users]
From: "Brierley, Sean" <Sean -at- Quodata -dot- Com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 5 Jan 2001 14:26:58 -0500


> -----Original Message-----
> From: Paul Hanson [SMTP:PHanson -at- Quintrex -dot- com]
> I came up against the attitude that Andrew Plato states below with the
> vendor of the software I use to create Help files. The vendor has decided
> that HTML is the future of Help and, because of that, is not making
> changes
> to their .hlp file interface. A technical support person wrote to me today
> and stated that "the reason that HTML Help seems to get more attention is
> because the vast majority of our users have told us that that is the
> direction they are moving, either to chm or Webhelp."
Well, Microsoft about 4 years ago announced they were putting WinHelp (HLP)
into maintenance mode and were supporting HTML-based help (which turned out
to be CHMs).

> That's all fine and dandy. It's a 'business decision' to cater to the
> 'vast
> majority' of users. But what about us TWers that write Help for
> non-internet
> applications? Why would we *ever* want to require an end-user to install a
> browser just for Help?
The idea is that the browser is the Help viewer. Just as WinHelp uses a
viewer that is bundled with the Windows operating system, so HTML-based help
uses a viewer. Now, MS has chosen to replace one proprietary compiled format
(HLP) with another (CHM), but for the rest of the non-MS world, using a
browser as a viewer has the supreme advantage of offering cross-platform
compatibility for help. Uncompiled HTML-based help and Java-based help
solutions can work via any browser on Macs and Unix, as well as Windows.

This HTML-based help is not for internet software only, it is for all
software. And, since some browsers are free, why not? HTML-based help adds
choice of browser (for non-CHM folks), does it not?

> I wouldn't. Our systems have no interaction with the
> Internet. (If anyone has successfully lobbied to do this, please email me.
> I'm curious about how you justified your case and why you decided HTML
> help
> was the way to go.)
HTML-based help is the way to go because it is the future and MS has
announced the end of WinHelp development. HTML-based help is the way to go
because it is potentially and really cross platform. HTML-based help is the
way to go because HTML is a lot easier to fuss with than RTF . . . even if
the resulting help system has different strengths and weaknesses than
WinHelp (and Mac's bubble help, and the PDF-based help I've seen).

On the MS operating systems, CHMs are the way to go because MS has publicly
supported development in this arena for years and has stated HLP will go
away. CHM is the way to go because it can be delivered as one file, like HLP
which exists as two files (HLP and CNT). Also, with support for ActiveX, and
other web technologies, such as Java Applets, JavaScript, etc., you can
customize the help quite a bit.

It's not that HLP doesn't work. It is that HLP has gone as far as it will go
. . . for better or worse. Sure, there's things you'll prefer in HLP over
CHM, but suck it up. Change the way you develop. Move on . . ..

> I guess I'm a young (31) old-timer (been at this 6 years in 2/2001) that
> is
> writing Help for an app that is not cutting-edge.
Me too, with about twice that time in <vbg>.


sean -at- quodata -dot- com

> > Ideas, suggestions, comments, solutions, etc. appreciated.
> Paul Hanson

Develop HTML-based Help with Macromedia Dreamweaver! (STC Discount.)
**NEW DATE/LOCATION!** January 16-17, 2001, New York, NY. or 800-646-9989.

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Conference East, June 4-5, Baltimore/Washington D.C. area. or toll-free 877/278-2131.

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