Re: Online help via local browser?

Subject: Re: Online help via local browser?
From: Bob Morse <morse -at- GLOBALDIALOG -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 4 Apr 1996 16:38:01 GMT

Karla McMaster <mcmaster%pcmail -dot- cti-pet -dot- com -at- cti-pet -dot- com> wrote:
>As I have mentioned in this forum before, I am looking at the prospect of
>delivering online help/documentation ... in the UNIX environment.....
>[S]omeone mentioned the other day--why not do html, and send a licensed browser
>with the software, with which users would access the local help file.

>Has anyone ever done this, considered it, know of any pitfalls?

Yes, I did that last year for a client, who just listed a Web browser as one of
the "system requirements" (rather than shipping one w/product pkg). I thought
it worked out pretty well, and the hypertext capabilities really enhanced the
exposition (separation of general-level overviews from detailed how-to stuff
made it more readable, and the hypertext jumps and "Back" key let 'em browse
as many details as they wanted).

Within the app (in X-Windows), the client's programmers coded the Help key to
sequentially launch the browser (by variable--the app path and executable were
"configuration options") and load the help file. The "launch & load" took a few
seconds (minor irritation), but the convenience of having it on-line and the
value of the hypertext outweighed that. To minimize the load time, just try to
avoid graphics (slick logos & such); for necessary illustrations just use simple
line art saved as 2-bit b&w GIFs (smaller files, quicker loading).

We also used a standardized navigation aide that we duped to the top of each
section (if you can imagine the blue type and underscores):

[ Contents ] . [ < < Prev ] . [ < Prev ] . [ Next > ] . [ Next > > ]

The difference between " < < " and " < " is a matter of rank: the single arrow
jumps to the top of the previous or next section of the same rank (outline level),
while the two arrows jump to the previous or next higher-ranking section.

Overall, I enjoyed doing it, thought it worked well, and believe the client and
users were pleased with the results.


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