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Subject:Re: Win95 Help vs WinHelp From:Trevor Grayling <TREVOR -at- MDLI -dot- COM> Date:Fri, 4 Aug 1995 10:23:04 -0800
Here are some notes I typed up from the WinHelp Conference in Seattle last
February. (Note that there may have been some changes to WinHelp 4.0 since
* Windows '95: The next release of Microsoft Windows.
* WinHelp: Online help created with any version of Microsoft's help compiler.
* WinHelp 4.0: Online help for Windows '95, created with version 4.0 of the
Microsoft help compiler.
WINHELP 4.0 - NEW FEATURES/ENHANCEMENTS
Notes: (1) If you compile a help file using WinHelp 4.0 AND use the new
features, the .HLP will NOT run under Windows 3.1. (2) You can set a switch
in the WinHelp 4.0 compiler to compile 3.1 help files that do NOT use any new
features - these .HLP files WILL run under Windows 3.1. (3) WinHelp 4.0 WILL
run existing, unmodified WinHelp 3.1 help files.
CONTENTS TAB /WINDOWS HELP DIALOG BOX
- Dialog appears when users first open a help file OR when they click the
Contents button on the help toolbar.
- Sections are represented as books, individual topics as pages.
- User clicks on a book to see the pages underneath, or clicks a page to
access a topic. The user's view can be expanded/collapsed, like in an
- Can include sections/pages from multiple .HLP files.
- Can have up to 9 TOC levels.
- Implemented using a .CNT file which MUST be shipped with the .HLP file.
User-interface annotations, or "balloons," for dialog boxes are integral to
WinHelp 4.0: Any part of a dialog box can be associated with a balloon.
Because these balloons are in fact WinHelp pop-ups, they can contain direct
hyperlinks to help screens for additional information.
INDEX TAB /WINDOWS HELP DIALOG BOX
- Replaces current "Search" dialog.
- Can create a 2-level index (primary entry with any number of secondary
- Can include keyword (index) entries from multiple .HLP files.
- User can specify the .HLP file whose index entries they want to view.
- "Show Topics" area is gone. If an index entry has 2 or more hits, a
dialog box appears where the user chooses which topic to view.
- Can specify that a topic accessed from the Index tab is displayed in a
- Implemented using a .CNT file which MUST be shipped with the .HLP file.
FIND TAB /WINDOWS HELP DIALOG BOX
Microsoft has created an extensive full-text search capability for WinHelp
4.0. The user can search for unique words, word combinations, word
fragments, and so on. Find develops and displays a list of help topics that
contain the word hits. It can also find "similar" topics if these have been
indexed as such by the author. Extensive support is built in for many
languages, including Japanese.
This feature is useful where WinHelp is used in an online-publishing role,
but that it may not be useful in an online-help role where the information is
structured in a hierarchy and may make sense in particular contexts only.
For this reason, help developers can exclude specific HLP files from being
searched and can even remove the Find feature altogether from their online
- Can create real Win95-style buttons that depress when clicked without
having to create bitmaps.
- Can specify button text.
- Buttons execute one more macros.
- Compiler automatically assigns key accelerators to these buttons.
SECONDARY WINDOW ENHANCEMENTS
- Can add all the standard help buttons to a secondary window.
- Can use right mouse button to access help functionality.
- Can define up to 255 different secondary windows (up from 5.)
- Can have up to 9 secondary windows open at the same time (up from 1.)
- Can specify that a secondary window is "auto-sized" so that it is only as
large as the text it displays.
- Can have a "Back" button in a secondary window (but it only takes you back
within that window.)
- Can specify that an index or find entry jump is displayed in a secondary
GRAPHICS SUPPORT ENHANCEMENTS
- Supports 16 color, 256 color, and 24-bit (million) color bitmaps without
any extra work.
- Includes built-in bitmaps for things like bullets, em dashes, and so on.
- Can have "transparent" bitmaps where the background color "shines" through
a white background.
- Can change the color of a pop-up window.
- Supports the WingDing font.
- User can print a range of topics by selecting a book or a page from the
Contents tab. Each topic begins a new page.
- User can print pop-up windows by using the right mouse button.
- New macros give authors total printing control - can print any
range of topics in any order.
Procedures in a help file can contain hyperlinks or buttons that are direct
shortcuts to UI features. For example, if a procedure states that a specific
dialog box needs to be open, the user can click a hyperlink or button in the
help screen to bring up the real dialog box.
- Author can display a specific dialog from any application.
- Author can display a specific file in any application.
- Implemented as a macro; can be triggered by clicking a button or hot spot.
- Requires author to hard-code programmer's dialog ID.
- Used in Microsoft's help for Windows 95.
- Balloon help for dialog boxes done right: User moves mouse over dialog box
element, presses right mouse button, selects "What's that" and sees a
- Uses topics from .HLP files; these topics can contain links to other
ADDITIONAL HELP CHANGES
- Can specify a "help family." This determines which .HLP files are included
in the Contents and Index tabs. Author specifies the default "help family."
But the end-user can add or delete help files to the family.
- Can directly select and copy text (but not graphics) from a help screen.
- Can access most help functionality by pressing the right mouse button.
- Can copy and print pop-up windows using right mouse button.
- Can change font size (small, regular, large) using the Options menu. Author
defines what "normal" is.
- Hyperlinks can access other help files without needing an identifying
- Can display a dialog box listing "Related" topics that come from multiple
.HLP files. "Related" topics contain the same keyword (index) entry.
Implemented using "KLink" macros.
- Can display a dialog box listing "Associated" topics from multiple
.HLP files. "Associated" topics contain a specific footnote that
you define (which users never see). Implemented using "ALink" macros.
- Can specify your own error message if WinHelp looks for associated links
and none exist.
AUTHORING/COMPILER IMPROVEMENTS AND CHANGES
- New WinHelp 4.0 compiler (HCRTF.EXE) is now a Windows application.
- Compiler includes editors for .HPJ and .CNT (contents) files.
- Can compile existing WinHelp 3.1 projects.
- In debugging mode, can include topic numbers in a topic's title bar.
- Can print out a list of keyword entries from ANY .HLP file, including
other people's. This lets the author create KLinks to specify "Related"
- New error message specifies which bitmap WinHelp couldn't find when
- "Much faster" compilation.
- Term "context string" changed to "Topic ID."
- 26 new macros were added to support new WinHelp 4.0 functionality.
MICROSOFT'S STYLE AND DESIGN FOR WINDOWS '95 HELP
Much of the documentation for using Windows 95 is online only. Some basic
information appears in a 100-page User's Guide.
- No separate glossary.
- No tutorials.
- No "advanced" information included.
- All procedures displayed in secondary windows that are "auto-sized."
Microsoft is apparently not using the Main window for anything.
- Procedures are task-oriented, written in minimalist style, and do not
contain overview material.
- Procedures for less-often used functions rely on shortcuts. Such a
procedure might include a step that reads "Click" followed by an icon.
The user clicks the icon, and the actual dialog box appears. Or, the user
clicks the icon, and a Wizard appears - for example, the "Printer Setup"
- Win95 creates a \WINDOWS\HELP directory where Microsoft puts all of their
help files. They "recommend" that developers put all their .HLP and .CNT