RE: Trends in Help Authoring

Subject: RE: Trends in Help Authoring
From: PD -dot- Lees -at- btinternet -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 2004 04:05:10 -0700


Dan,

> Is it correct to assume that today's version of winhelp will be dead in
> the water soon?

I checked this with Microsoft a few months ago, when someone in another
forum raised similar concerns. The response from Microsoft's Lead Program
Manager for Help was:

"Microsoft has not announced an end-of-life plan for WinHelp, nor have
they announced any changes in the availability of WinHelp in future
versions ... there are no plans to pull WinHelp at this time ... we
believe it needs to be available to support legacy applications in the
Longhorn timeframe."

("Longhorn" is Microsoft's codename for the successor to Windows XP,
scheduled for release in 2005 or 2006.)

> But my main concern is if winhelp is disappearing altogether and if I
> should be concentrating on learning html based help (wave of the
> future?)?

I think this is definitely a good idea, as almost all the major online
help formats are HTML-based. For Longhorn, Microsoft is planning an
XML-based help system (see http://tinyurl.com/2ox2u).

> The software people here don't care how I make the help, as long as the
> customer can press F1 at any time and invoke some help. They can
> reference to my help whether it's winhelp or html based right?

Your developers would need to use a different API to display help, but
Microsoft tried to take this into account in its design of the HTML Help
API, which is modelled on the WinHelp API.

> I also need to learn more about the workings of help, as now I simply
> know how to use the HAT only (ForeHelp 5), I don't know the process of
> it all.

A good approach would be to create a small .chm file using HTML Help
Workshop (http://tinyurl.com/gle) and Char James-Tanny's HTML Help
Workshop tutorial (http://tinyurl.com/3b8lf). Of the books currently
available on HTML Help, Jeannine Klein's "Building Enhanced HTML Help with
DHTML & CSS" is probably the best.

Pete

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