HTML Help and NetHelp

Subject: HTML Help and NetHelp
From: Carl Millholland <millholland -at- ACRONET -dot- NET>
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 1997 09:06:08 -0600

Yesterday, someone posted a query about Microsoft's HTML Help. Will it
support context-sensitive help, can you port RTF files and so forth?

There's an excellent interview (10/16/96) on the Web with Ralph Walden,
development lead for HTML Help, by Cheryl Lockett Zubak at:

Walden was also the lead developer of Windows Help.

It not only answers these two questions, but provides about as much
information about HTML Help as one will find anywhere. The pages include
pointers to another Zubak interview with the Netscape folks developing a
completing NetHelp SDK.

HTML Help and NetHelp have implications for technical writers well
beyond Windows Help. Walden, for example, says the HTML Help takes as
much from MS's MediaView as from WinHelp. Both use Web browsers as
electronic media delivery systems. But, the next Windows iteration will
merge the Web Browser and the desktop. The other day I used an ActiveX
plug-in for Netscape (NCompass) to run MS Excel *inside* Navigator 3.0.
How's that for browser-desktop convergence?

Both Microsoft and Netscape have packages available for review. While I
haven't looked at NetHelp, it appears to be little more than another
HTML editing tool. HTML Help, on the other hand, is robust. It's also
pre-beta and certain not ready for prime time. They're looking at 1Q97
for a complete release. If you download the pre-beta application, except
several out-of-the-blue program crashes and be ready for a few cold

Anyone interested in learning about HTML Help, will find much more
information in the Walden interview than by downloading pre-beta
software. I think the jury is still out on NetHelp, as they appear to
have presented a workable but limited SDK. Of course, they're not going
to just let MS just walk way with the prize, either.

Carl Millholland
Technical Publishing Services
11400 47th Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53142
(414) 697-9948

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