RE: Building HTML Help from a Database?

Subject: RE: Building HTML Help from a Database?
From: "Rich, Charles" <crich -at- FSC -dot- Follett -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2001 08:57:35 -0600

Barb asked:

>I use Doc-To-Help to create compiled HTML Help for our software product.
>I would
like our development staff to be able to directly document the programming
>information, preferably in a database. This would ensure accuracy and also
>provide a simple way for developers to update information.

Interesting concept. I don't know if there are any tools that directly
convert a database to an HTML file, though I have had pretty good luck with
manipulating similar databases with Perl scripts. I export the data from an
Access database as a flat data file and use that as the input for my script,
which in turn parses the data and renders an HTML document. Its not exactly
dynamic, but it can be quick and easy (not counting the time to learn Perl
if you don't already know it).

If you are looking for a more dynamic method, i.e. allowing the developers
to compile a table of information that you can plug into the help file
verbatim, you might consider using a SQL database and some sort of SQL query
tool, or even ASP. Of course, you'd still have to figure out how to
eventually get the data into HTML format. I suppose with a little creative
notation within the database you could have the output file contain the
necessary HTML tags, or you could possibly just have the developers include
the tags in their entries. On second thought, that could get really messy.

Robohelp can also import a flat data file, so you might look at that route.
I could see where you might have quite a bit of formatting to do this way,
but it would work. I haven't used Doc-To-Help, but I assume that if you fed
it a flat data file exported from your database it would accept it as well.

Anyway, I had a few thoughts on this. I hope at least one of them helps get
you off and running.

Charles T. Rich
Technical Writer
Product Development
Follett Software Company

I often save the really coherent thought for the manual, can you tell?


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