Re: WebWorks Publisher limitations; the state of Frame Help

Subject: Re: WebWorks Publisher limitations; the state of Frame Help
From: Craig Sanders <csanders -at- BEST -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 3 Sep 1998 10:24:29 -0700

Hello, Mark!

Which version of WebWorks Publisher are you using?

The reason I ask is that version 4.0 contains templates for a variety of online
help formats: HTMLHelp, WinHelp, JavaHelp, and OracleHelp. If you haven't
already, you might want to look at the new product.

In response to your evaluation of Publisher:

Mark Dempsey wrote:

> I've been trying to get an online help system from Webworks publisher's
> translation of FrameMaker files with only limited success.
> The advantages of Webworks:
> 1. Much better batch processing of many files than Frame's individual
> file conversion to HTML. Style construction and mapping are complex,
> with only rudimentary doc's, but are serviceable. You can, for example,
> exclude conditional text from your help file (and specify which
> conditions).

I agree that Publisher affords far superior overall conversion capabilities.
And yes, template design is complex with poor support from the documentation
(this is changing as I write this). Regarding your specific comment about
conditional text tags: I have designed and produced single-source docs in Frame
that contain both classic doc material (print or straight HTML) and the
associated online 'Help' material. When I do my conversion runs, I simply
separate out the two using Publisher's conditional tag feature. This way, I can
use a single authoring tool and write both manual and online help material

> 2. Excellent transformation of Frame to HTML. Since Frame has absolute
> tabs, and HTML has relative tabs, you'll still have to tweak the output,
> though. (The solution would be to have Webworks compare tabs to rulers
> in Frame and make the correct substitution in the HTML output. I'm
> forwarding this to Quadralay...)

Agreed: This is a knotty problem. But this is more a limitation of HTML than of
Publisher. I am curious to see what Quadralay's response will be.

> Disadvantages:
> 1. The output is *not* a help system as fully featured as HTMLhelp
> (Microsoft) or NetHelp (Netscape). It does not contain an index, for
> example (unless that's one of the Frame files you converted). NetHelp
> is a must for me because it requires Netscape to work (as HTMLhelp
> requires Internet explorer) and only Netscape is available across all
> UNIX platforms (IE is in beta for Solaris only, as far as I know).

You can use the HTMLHelp template provided with Publisher 4.0 to produce true
HTMLHelp, including the ActiveX TOC. In fact, when you install Publisher 4.0,
the Microsoft HTMLHelp Workshop is also installed. This application is called
by Publisher when you do your conversion run and actually compiles the HTMLHelp
for you. However, this does not address the cross-platform compatibility issue
your also raised. My suggestion would be to have a look at the new JavaHelp and
OracleHelp templates provided with Publisher 4.0. You might also want to have a
look at Therein you will find some notes about an
upcoming product (CD Express) that provides both a true cross-platform
capability, plus a client-side search engine, plus a dynamic update utility
using the Internet.

> 2. The appearance of Webworks help is unnecessarily amateurish, IMHO.
> For example, if you have a screen that must scroll, the navigation
> buttons are not in a frame by themselves, so they disappear.

Agreed. However, remember that if one frame in an HTML frameset controls
scrolling in another frame, you must use some methodology to maintain state
(that is, one frame must know what another frame is doing). Characteristically,
this is done using cookies. You can do this, and you can set up Publisher to
automatically incorporate the required scripting (I've done it), but there are
some nasty gotchas waiting in the bushes. The worst is that IE 4.0 does not
support cookies in a disk-based environment. If you want, have a look at for a truly slick
implementation of just this. I modified the public domain code provided at this
site to produce just what you are talking about. All of the JavaScript required
for the implementation was designed into my Publisher templates, and
incorporated in the HTML automatically at the time of conversion.

> 3. You cannot use Webworks output for NetHelp (a real help system with a
> frame for navigation buttons, and an index) without some extraordinary
> tweaking (so far, more than I'm willing to do).

Agreed. I believe the decision to do this was based on Netscape's action in
dissolving the NetHelp department (No further development work is being done by
Netscape in this arena). However, it's not impossible that a NetHelp template
might suddenly become available from Quadralay.

> Incidentally, I'd like to hear from anyone who's developed online help
> using WebWorks. How do you make it work?
> Finally, I've just been to the Seybold convention where the Adobe people
> say they're in negotiations with a Virginia development company to
> provide a real help tool for converting Frame docs. Is this true? Is
> this vaporware?

I wouldn't mind hearing more about this either.

Hope all this helps,
Craig Sanders

> Anyone know?
> --
> Regards,
> -- mailto:Mark -dot- Dempsey -at- osi -dot- com
> --
> -- Mark Dempsey
> -- Technical Publications
> -- Objective Systems Integrators
> -- 101 Blue Ravine Rd, Folsom, CA 95630
> -- 916.353.2400 x 4777
> From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000==


"We do not see things as they are...
we see things as we are."
-Anais Nin

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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