Re: Converting Windows Help Files to OS/2

Subject: Re: Converting Windows Help Files to OS/2
From: Michael Priestley <mpriestley -at- VNET -dot- IBM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 15 Jan 1996 12:59:40 EST

Alexander Von_obert <avobert -at- TWH -dot- MSN -dot- SUB -dot- ORG> writes:

>> Though to be honest, I think it's easier to
>> tag them by hand.

> with other words: considering the IPF compiler as something like an
> assembler, you must write OS/2 help on an abstraction level like PC
> programs were written some 20 years ago.

Um, no. First off, there are WYSIWYG editors available, just as there
are for RTF. However, you do sacrifice some control when you use an
editor; tagging directly allows you more flexibility (the same as RTF).
The difference here is that tagging directly in RTF is a readability
nightmare, whereas tagging directly in IPF is pretty straightforward.

Second off, it is decidedly _not_ "an abstraction level like PC programs
were written some 20 years ago". Even assuming PCs were around 20 years
ago. It is at the same abstraction level as HTML, which is a decidedly
modern innovation, and also decidedly simpler than programming, at any
abstraction level.

>developed a OS/2 application, I felt like in a straight-jacket. The extensions
>you mention show that IBM still is a mainframe company: Many ways for
>programmers so go crazy, hardly any consideration of user needs.

Re-read my list. 90% of the extensions were built in (no need for
programming). I would guess that you were blinkered by your RTF
experience, and never gave IPF a real chance (especially based on your
comments below). And, while IBM does still make mainframes (they're
a cash cow), there are about 10 million satisfied OS/2 users who would
balk at calling them a "mainframe company".

>Try to change fonts or use colored text in OS/2 help.

To change fonts:
:font facename='Courier' size=10x8.
To change color:
:color fc=red bc=green.
(gives you foreground color red, and background color green. oog..)

Mind you, I don't encourage people to go crazy with fonts and colors in
online docs (the "Christmas tree" effect). But if you really want to,
then it's pretty straightforward to do.

>The concepts you mention are quite complex and surely too complex
>for normal users without programming experience.

I started using IPF as a technical writing intern with no programming
experience; my only computer experience was with my Atari 520ST (looks
and feels like a Mac); my educational background was English, Philosophy,
and Drama; I did not find the concepts too complex to use. And
the documentation for IPF (in the Warp toolkit) is a heckuvalot better
now than it was at the OS/2 2.0 level I used when I started.

> I am sure we can agree on at least one point: Mapping the Winhelp
> features to the features of OS/2 help or vice versa can have only
> limited success.

Even here, unfortunately, we disagree. IPF is a content-based
markup language; it's pretty straightforward to map it to an appearance-
based markup language like RTF. Moving in the opposite direction is
considerably tougher (and it's why none of the existing RTF2IPF utilities
works perfectly, although Smart tools does handle it reasonably well).

So: IPF to RTF is easy (not many tools available because few people want
to, but the tools available work well).

RTF to IPF is hard (many tools available, but most of them don't work
particularly well).

I hope this makes sense,

Michael Priestley
mpriestley -at- vnet -dot- ibm -dot- com
Disclaimer: speaking on my own behalf, not IBM's.

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