TechWhirl (TECHWR-L) is a resource for technical writing and technical communications professionals of all experience levels and in all industries to share their experiences and acquire information.
For two decades, technical communicators have turned to TechWhirl to ask and answer questions about the always-changing world of technical communications, such as tools, skills, career paths, methodologies, and emerging industries. The TechWhirl Archives and magazine, created for, by and about technical writers, offer a wealth of knowledge to everyone with an interest in any aspect of technical communications.
The product I document comes in three flavors: Windows, Unix and Linux. Currently we distribute the help files as WebHelp because it's compatible with all three platforms. So we generate the help once and we're done. (Not really - we have to make changes to take platform differences into account. But about 90% of the content is unchanged.)
Basically, HTML is the only "standard" that applies across all the platforms you mention. While it's possible that a customer might have the Acrobat reader on their Unix box, it's almost certain that there's a browser. This means that creating user assistance in HTML (either using a tool like RoboHelp or by hand) is the "safest" route. I've been trying to think of a third platform agnostic format (besides HTML and pdf) and am having a hard time doing it... There's always ASCII text :-)
As for the second part of your question, it depends... For my product, all the help topics (individual HTML pages) are installed in a particular directory on the server, so it's possible that we could send out updated HTML pages for the topics. Changes to the TOC or index would require sending other files... But this would require instructing the user where to dump the files unless the product had some sort of "auto-update" feature, like the (evil) Windows Update tool.
In any event, while it's possible, it seems pretty messy, and isn't something we've tried to do here.
From: bounce-techwr-l-129804 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
[mailto:bounce-techwr-l-129804 -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com]On Behalf Of Mailing
Sent: Friday, February 20, 2004 6:32 AM
Subject: WebHelp -- used where?
I've seen passing mention of WebHelp as something you'd
put up on your company web site.
What do others use it for?
What Help format would y'all use if you had to support
a product that's used by people who would administer
it from Windows, Linux, Solaris, HP-UX, and AIX machines?
Put another way... is there any format *other* than WebHelp
that could be used in that situation?
Say a patch/fix for the product comes out.
If a few Help pages needed to change, say two or three added,
is there a way to have them just slide into the customer's
existing installation of WebHelp? Or must we supply them
a complete new set of hundreds of pages and ancillary files,
just to get those few new pages in and available?
I assume the latter, but would like to know if the former