MS HTML Help Workshop

Subject: MS HTML Help Workshop
From: "Ivan Weiss" <ivan -dot- weiss -at- centurytel -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 1 Jan 2002 10:51:20 -0800

"Steve Lefevers" <scl -at- pcisys -dot- net> wrote in message
news:<000101c192eb$4504d900$9222e5d8 -at- computer>...
> My Email Address is scl -at- pcisys -dot- net
> I just downloaded Microsoft's HTML Help Workshop ver. 1.31 for
> Windows 98.
> I've never used this or any other Help program before.
> I know you can create On-Line Help documents with this program.
> Can you also create Help Documents for a hardcopy book or manual with
> it?

My experience is limited to the (excellent) class I just completed, but
I'd say yes, although this is not necessarily the best way to do it.
Just using a word processor would be less hassle.

But I'd add this: Our instructor drummed into our heads, again and
again, that a tool is just a tool. The user needs help, and right now.
The more quickly and the more precisely your Help file does this, the
more effective it is.

For me, and YMMV, HTML Help Workshop forced me to give the user that
help in the space that one screen allowed. It forced me to sharpen my
writing and to clarify my instructions, to the point where there was
*no* ambiguity. It forced me to organize my links so that if the user
could jump immediately to another page, if need be. It forced me to
format my Help file to ensure maximum effectiveness of display.

A word processor might not have demanded such a rigorous approach. I'd
say from my limited experience that this approach is one of the keys to
successful Help writing.

> Can I practice with this program on my pc and actually create a Help
> Document with it?

Most certainly. That is its purpose.

> Is this program similar in its procedures to RoboHelp? If I practice
> with MS HTML Help Workshop - will it enable me to understand the basic

> procedures that RoboHelp uses and thus learn RoboHelp quicker?

I have no experience with RoboHelp, so if this is all wrong, somebody
slap me please, but I have heard, FWIW, that HTML Help Workshop is like
driving with a stick shift, and RoboHelp is like driving with an
automatic transmission. If the purpose is to learn a tool, by all means
learn the tool. If the purpose is to write effective Help files, any
tool will do. If you need to learn to write effective *online* Help
Files, HTML Help Workshop is a good way to start.

I also have been told that no tool will save a poorly written Help file.
I read and use a lot of Help files. I believe this totally.

> Along with the actual MS HTML Help Workshop program - Microsoft had
> the following instruction files which I downloaded as well.
> Help Viewer
> Help Authoring Guide
> Help ActiveX Control Reference
> Help API Reference
> Can you basically describe the purpose of these instruction files and
> how they relate to using MS HTML Help Workshop.

Steve, I'd suggest kindly that you take the time to read all these
through and try to form some ideas for yourself, so that the next time
around your questions might be a bit more directed. I have a book from
Microsoft Press entitled "Official Microsoft HTML Help Authoring Kit" by
Steve Wexler. It explains all the elements of HTML Help Workshop,
including the ones you have listed. The book contains a CD, but the
programs you have downloaded are almost certainly more up-to-date than
those on the CD.

> In your opinion, is MS HTML Help Workshop a hassle to use? Is it
> buggy? Do you encounter a lot of errors with it? Or does it work
> fairly precisely and smoothly?

It works for me, but my experience is limited. I'd recommend it as a
good, inexpensive learning tool, and well worth your time.
Ivan Weiss
Vashon WA

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