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Subject:Re: creating online Help for Java applications From:Todd Snarr <todd_snarr -at- AUTOSOFT -dot- COM> Date:Fri, 7 Nov 1997 08:40:48 -0700
I just posted a similar message 5 minutes ago on WinHlp-L. Someone mentioned JHelp and asked if anyone knew of similar tools. I've dabled a little with JHelp and Jelp.
>does anyone know of any Java HATs besides JHelp? that software doesn't >support
>higher level html tags. . .<Sigh>
You're right about JHelp. It conforms to HTML 2.0 specs. RoboHTML conforms to HTML 3.2 specs. A developer at my company was already using JHelp on a project, so I gave her some sample HTML files that I created from the RoboHTML tutorial (just to try it anyway). When we linked these HTML files into one of our Java-based applications, a couple turned out distorted (some fonts were messed up) and some turned out fine. We played around with the distorted files for awhile (and even relinked the files several times) but couldn't fix it. That's about all we did with JHelp. Another note: JHelp is not very clear on how to make a TOC. I'm not even sure you can create a graphical, hierarchical TOC (similar to a WinHelp file) in JHelp. I'm sure you can, but their documentation was not clear on this.
For these reasons, I started looking into Jelp, which is basically a help system (not an authoring tool) written entirely in Java. It shares much of the same features with WinHelp--searching, topic browsing, contents in treeview, etc. Unlike HTML, Jelp does not require a browser and can be embedded seamlessly in any Java application or applet. The package consists of two components: JelpPublisher and JelpViewer. You use the JelpPublisher to convert your RTF files created by RoboHelp (or any other authoring tool) into Jelp "booklets." These booklets are basically your help content coverted into 100% Java. The JelpViewer component is packaged along with your application (it's distributed royalty free). It's used to display your Help booklets. A copy of JelpPublisher, last I heard, is $495.
I downloaded a beta of Jelp and successfully converted one of my RoboHelp projects (an RTF file) into a "Jelp booklet." There were a few formatting discrepancies and bugs (e.g. no support for hanging indents, some pop-ups didn't display long enough, scroll bars too slow, etc.), but most of these should be fixed with the 1.1 release at the end of this month. We successfully linked up the JelpViewer (which showed all my converted topics in a hierarchial "tree" format) into a beta version of one of our Java-based products... and it worked.
Sorry, version 1.1 will not support tables...I've already asked about this. However, Createsoft is currently re-writing much of the internals to include table support and indexes. These features are supposed to be included in the 2.0 version around mid 1stQTR 98 (which is still before JavaHelp).
A couple of notes: You may notice that Jelp claims their system is "context-sensitive." JHelp does also. Maybe I'm off here, but "context-sensitive" to me means getting help on just a particular field in a dialog box (in a pop-up)...and not getting help on the entire dialog box. I guess I get this from the Windows world. I'm not sure how to "cleanly" implement this level of Help with a Java-based application. Visual Cafe and JBuilder (we've evaluated both) say nothing in their documentation about linking up field level help in a Java-based application. Maybe this will be more clear with additional releases (and with the release of JavaHelp next year). Until then, Jelp meets our immediate needs and we'll probably be going with that. If you want to develop HTML-based files right away, then JHelp might be better...maybe others on the list know of some JHelp workarounds or can offer some other solutions.
Salt Lake City, UT
todd_snarr -at- autosoft -dot- com