Re: Status of HTML-based Help

Subject: Re: Status of HTML-based Help
From: Carla Lotito <Carla_Lotito -at- BAAN -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 22 Feb 1999 13:06:44 -0500

I have converted a large winhelp system to html (800 topics) and can give
you the following points to consider. I doubt Microsoft will go back to
anything but html help. Maybe in a few years, bugs will be corrected, but
for now, all you can do is be aware of the issues, and find workarounds when
you can.

Conversion can go well if you know what to expect, as long as you plan for
it. Something you may consider is taking a Javascript course - it will be

Here's a number of issues to look at when you are converting:

* alinks are converted as jumps (if you have secondary windows on
them, you'll have to redo them)

* popups are also not converted - if you use popups you will have to
redo them and these are more complicated than in Winhelp

* Secondary windows are not converted - you will have to manually
insert the code everywhere

* modular help systems are a pain - several bugs arise if you don't
have the exact same window definition in every project, contents files do
not always work, strange errors appear sometimes

* Merged .cnt files are harder to change - unlike winhelp, you do have
to recompile your help project when you change your .hhc

* HTML Help version 1.2 still has problems when you code merged .hhc

* If you are planning on producing both compiled and uncompiled help,
you'll find that some ways of coding won't work when not compiled - have to
decide which way you are going and what code you should or should not use.

* Lots of files created, harder to manage - files are automatically
named - harder for you to find where everything is... If you are using
Robohtml, files are named according to topic name, but if you have several
translated files, you would probably opt for numbers.

* Context id references are not automatically converted - you'll have
to recode them in an .h file and inside the .hhp file.

* Custom buttons such as Close in a secondary window more difficult to
implement than in winhelp.

* Startup macros are nonexistent (I can't find any references to them

* CSS files work but not if you are accessing a topic explicitly and
displaying it in a secondary window. For example, if there was a topic that
a user could only access from clicking jump text to display in a secondary
window, the CSS does not work in that window.

* Compiler error messages are quite bad - no detail whatsoever.

* You'll need to provide hhupd.exe with every installation of your
help file and run it to make sure users can read it and have the correct


* Performance in HTML Help is much slower than winhelp, takes more
"juice" from your machine, slower to open

* Printing does not work correctly

* Information types do not work

Hope this gives you a starting point. Analyze your help file, find out which
features you need to reproduce, then estimate the time based on that. Once
you start, you'll get the hang of it and learn fast what you need to do.

Good luck!

Carla Lotito, Technical Writer
Baan Canada Inc.
"A writer pulls words from within, just like a spider threads a web from
itself". (Kane)

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Bob Johnson [SMTP:bob -dot- johnson -at- CELERITYSOLUTIONS -dot- COM]
> Sent: Monday, February 22, 1999 11:48 AM
> To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
> Subject: Status of HTML-based Help
> My supervisor and I were discussing conversion from Winhelp to HTML-based
> Help (probably MS HTMLHelp; we're an NT shop). The latest information
> I've
> had is that HTML-based Help is still a little short of full development,
> even though MS has released its version.
> I do have a copy of _Intercom_, STC's magazine, from last summer, with an
> assessment of HTML-based Help, but that information is at least 9 months
> old. I'm wondering where the development of HTML-based Help stands in
> early
> 1999.
> And though I said we're probably oriented toward the MS version, I'm
> interested in hearing about all forms that are in development. After all,
> there's no way of guessing which will become the standard in the future.
> I'd welcome both personal views, and recommendations for print/online
> sources of information on this issue.
> Bob Johnson
> Technical Writer
> Celerity Solutions
> Dedham, MA
> From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=
> =

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

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