Re: Creating Context Sensitive Help

Subject: Re: Creating Context Sensitive Help
From: Janet Myers <myers032 -at- tc -dot- umn -dot- edu>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 17 Jul 2002 07:56:23 -0500

Welcome to the list Priyadarshi,
And best of luck with the project.
To give you our best answers, we'll want to know if the help is for a
Windows application or if it's browser-based (html-based help) and what
level of context sensitivity you need (page/display or field level).
Your deadline for creating the help will be relevant to the tools you
use and the way you ultimately create the help.

If you check the archives for Techwr-l, you can find many arguments for
NOT creating help from the hardcopy manuals (and, I'd agree with most of
them). If you're under a deadline or just want to learn how to create
help in the first place, it's easiest to start with the user guide and
then refine the content as you have time or inclination.

I use Robohelp Office, so I have a lot of flexibility for creating
HTML-based help, but if you are creating Windows help, RoboHelp Classic
(or whatever it's called) is sufficient. Since Robo... is all I've used
since I stopped coding directly with Word footnotes, I can't comment on
it's merits compared to other methods. For a new user who knows Word, I
think it's fairly easy. RoboHelp adds its own toolbar and stylesheets (I
change the style formats).

----one quick method for creating help---
If your Word documents use standard styles, you can create Windows help
very quickly in Robohelp Classic by importing them into a new help
project and selecting the options for using heading styles to create
topics. This way, each subsection (headings 1-4, or whatever level you
choose) becomes a topic. I just tested this and created a (not elegant)
help file in about 5 minutes from a 50 page manual.
>From here, I can convert the Windows help to HTMLHelp or Webhelp using
the RoboHelp Office converters.

Once I have a basic help set up, I'll work on: formatting (I don't like
RoboHelp's standard template), adding or removing topics, adding or
removing graphics, and indexing (if you're user guides are indexed
with Word fields, the topics will already be indexed, but you may want
to amplify them). For the 50 page guide in my example, I'd expect to
take anywhere from 8-30 hours to develop an acceptable Help system (but
I've done this a a new user, don't expect to take less than 40

For context-sensitivity, I can either assign context IDs and give the
references to the programmers, or I can get a Map file from the
programmers and apply their IDs to the relevant topics. After building
the help system with the context IDs, I test the against the
application. You'll need to test with each new build for Windows
applications, to make sure the programmers haven't accidentally
duplicated IDs when they add new features.

If you have other questions, let me know.
Janet Myers
myers032 -at- tc -dot- umn -dot- edu

Priyadarshi Tripathy wrote:

> Dear Fraternity,
> This is my maiden mail to TECHWR-L. I have been assigned to
> prepare a feasibility plan for creating a context sensitive help
> for a comparatively huge application. All that I have with me is a
> readymade User Guide (of nearly 400 pages) in word doc and its pdf
> version.
> Is employing of a tool like Robohelp the only way to create a
> context sensitive help? If yes, kindly suggest me how much time
> should it take to create such an online help, keeping in mind
> things like I am very new to Robohelp and the application is a big
> one. Also pease suggest me the appropriate version of
> Robohelp(Classic/enterprise/ or any other).
> Thanks in advance.
> Priyadarshi Tripathy
> From New Delhi, India.

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