Review--JavaHelp Jumpstart Conference

Subject: Review--JavaHelp Jumpstart Conference
From: Mark Giffin <mgiffin -at- EARTHLINK -dot- NET>
Date: Wed, 5 May 1999 14:24:06 -0700

Brief Report on the
JavaHelp Jumpstart Conference
May 3, 1999
San Francisco (Burlingame), California

I attended this one-day JavaHelp conference produced by Winwriters, and here
is my brief report.

I'm disappointed in JavaHelp, and I have concerns that it may not go
anywhere any time soon. The conference itself was fine, and the
presentations had some educational value (even with many blown demos), but
in the morning session I decided JavaHelp probably wasn't worth using yet
for the Java application I'm documenting, so all the presentations from
vendors of JavaHelp tools didn't have much immediate value to me.

Many of the presentations spent a great deal of time describing all the
limitations of JavaHelp and the Sun "reference implementation." One of the
most glaring problems is that you can't print (3 to 6 months to fix it, says
Sun). Another is that it's usually slow (probably a general Java problem).
Another is a strange difficulty in displaying graphics. Another is 3.2 HTML
display only, no Javascript, no fancy stuff.

My impression of the vendor support for JavaHelp is that they are noticeably
lukewarm. All of them are simply using the existing JavaHelp "reference
implementation," which isn't a real product, as far as I can see. It's given
away as an example by Sun. I assumed that by the time of this conference
JavaHelp would be in good shape, speeded up, and vendors would have some
cool variations on it. Nope. And even Blue Sky, known for its blitz-oriented
marketing, hasn't sent me a peep about their great new JavaHelp tools. My
guess is that there isn't a big demand for it.

So I'm probably sticking with plain-vanilla HTML help (not Microsoft "HTML
Help") for now. I'm lucky I don't have clients who desperately desire
platform-independent online help that also has bells and whistles. It may be
possible to throw something better together with a lot of work, browser
plug-ins, etc., etc., but I'll wait for someone else to do it. I'm busy with

One of the best things for me was finding some notes that someone left
behind, scribbled on one of the hotel-provided pads of paper. They were
keeping score, and I quote:

Total number of live demo errors


Pathetic jokes to begin presentations


Gratuitous potshots at Microsoft


Mark Giffin
mgiffinDELETE -at- earthlink -dot- net
Glendale, CA, USA

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