Java Help Options

Subject: Java Help Options
From: "McKenna, Colleen" <cmckenna -at- SPSS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 7 Oct 1997 09:58:56 -0500

In response to Bruce's query about Java help systems:

We recently finished a 100%-Java application (called TextSmart), into
which we incorporated Java online help. We ran into the same problem--
we found only one choice for a Java-based help system, since our product
had to ship in the 3rd quarter of 1997. (Most of the big-name Java help
systems are still in Beta or pre-Beta.)

We used a little application called JHelp with success. Here is the URL:

JHelp is basically a browser that displays HTML files, with a few
"extras" like index commands built in.

We included context-sensitive help topics linked to Help buttons in the
interface. I am not sure, though, how much work hooking this up involved
for our programmers. I do know that our programmers liked JHelp; they
thought it was easy to implement and the code was simple to figure out.

From a writer's perspective, we found JHelp pretty easy to use, but
there are some quirks. It only supports HTML version 2, and it does not
support tables, so we had to put in a few tables as graphics. It does
not change the color of visited links (or at least we couldn't figure
out a way to make it do that), so users cannot tell which topics they
have already visited. The index is a little messy too, because if you
have several topics indexed under the same index keyword, JHelp just
links to the first topic it finds with that index keyword. Our solution
to this was to create at least one unique index keyword for each topic.
TextSmart is a fairly small application, though, so for us it wasn't
huge problem. We indexed the print manual more thoroughly.

After lurking for several months, this is my first posting-- Hello!

Colleen McKenna
SPSS, Inc.

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