Re: Windows Help Demise

Subject: Re: Windows Help Demise
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- IQUEST -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 6 Mar 1996 08:14:00 EST

At 09:16 AM 3/5/96 CST, you wrote:

>I attended a workshop on On-line Documentation given by JoAnn Hackos
>a few weeks ago. At that time, she announced that Microsoft had
>announced it would no longer support WinHelp.

>MS planned to begin some sort of help system that would use SGML.

>I may have the details garbled, but I know the main idea is correct--
>WinHelp is going away.

Yep, it's true. And no, it isn't going away, any more than DOS is going
away, or that Windows 1.0 is going away.

Lots of people have noted this and some have begun a slow panic, but the
facts are much more encouraging. First, Microsoft has never supported
WinHelp.exe. Not ever. Try calling them on the phone and you'll see what I
mean. The help compilers have never been considered shareware or freeware,
yet they were available on Microsoft's Web site and BBS.

Microsoft's plans were rather hurriedly cobbled together once the World Wide
Web became popular and Microsoft began plans for its own set of HTML
augmentations. Not one to overlook an opportunity to ram its own interests
down other people's throats, MS has decided that since it should be the
numero uno in HTML, it should encourage all of us to write its brand of HTML
into help files.

It's rubbish and probably a forlorn hope by Microsoft. It's too far out,
anyway, and the market will have decided long before that just what form of
HTML is acceptable. And just as Windows 3.X help files can be read by
Windows 95, the next Windows incarnation will read, at a minimum, Windows 95
files, just to keep the backward compatibility that keeps Microsoft in
business. Slash out the ability to run old apps under the new system and MS
might as well cash in its pile and go home, because there'd be no buyers.

By way of comparison, Windows 95 has been out for many months now, but none
of my clients have immediate plans to develop in Win95, nor have any of them
commissioned me to write a WinHelp 4.0 file. Since older files run just fine
in Win95, it seems unnecessary right now. Most clients are a conservative
lot and don't want to push any envelope edges anyway.

Bottom line is...don't worry. Old WinHelp is likely to be around for years yet.

Tim Altom
Vice President
Simply Written, Inc.
317.899.5882 (voice)
317.899.5987 (fax)

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