Re: Need Advise for Converting to HTML Help

Subject: Re: Need Advise for Converting to HTML Help
From: "Martin, Chuck" <chuckm -at- EVOLVESOFTWARE -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 2 Feb 1998 14:31:02 -0800

On Monday, February 02, 1998 8:17 AM, Robyn Faulkner
[SMTP:rfaulkne -at- BTC -dot- ADAPTEC -dot- COM] wrote:
> The Engineering group at our company is requesting that we convert our
> existing Win Help Online Help (Windows 95 and NT platforms) to an HTML
> Help format. Has anyone done this before? If so, what has been your
> experience? What are the drawbacks? Benefits? Are there issues with
any
> particular browser an end user maybe using?
>
The question is: why? Will your users really benefit? Here's the deal in
brief with HTML-based Help:

- Both major players (Microsoft and Netscape) claim that their product
is cross-platform--but they are also both browser specific (HTMLHelp
requires IE, NetHelp requires Communicator).
- You must distribute and correctly install additional files to display
HTML-based Help, while the WinHelp engine already exists on every copy
of Windows.
- Although I don't know all the details, Microsoft's HTMLHelp seems to
be rather buggy (logs of messages--too many to keep up with--on the
WINHLP-L list about bugs that Help developers run into), and I don't
think it still, at version 1.1 now, has all its features in place.
- Netscape's NetHelp has no compiled version, so you will have to dump
hundreds, perhaps thousands, of small HTML files on an end-user's hard
disk. Huge waste of space.
- Do you engineers thank that this is a "must do" because the Internet
is where it's at? Or because Microsoft has decided that it is going to
HTMLHelp? If so, that's not necessarily a good reason to foist it on
your end users. For the majority of Windows users, HTMLHelp totally
unfamiliar. It sort of tries to be like WinHelp, it may act sort of like
web pages, but it's really a hybrid beast.

You might want to check out the WINHLP-L archives
(http://www.cpub.com/winhelp-l/winhelp-l.htm) for more information. In
late 1996 I wrote an article for the WinHelp Journal about HTMLHelp and
NetHelp. It may still be available for viewing at the WinWriters site
(http://www.winwriters.com).

Bottom line: focus on your end users, not the latest technology.
(Imagine that, coming from me, such a technogeek who, although he has
both a PalmPilot and a Windows C machine, is still drooling over the
upcoming PalmPCs.)


--
"You don't look American."
"Everyone looks American, because Americans are from everywhere."

- Doonesbury
Chuck Martin, Technical Writer
Evolve Software | Personal
chuckm -at- evolvesoftware -dot- com | writer -at- best -dot- com
www.evolvesoftware.com | www.writeforyou.com




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