Re: online help for java applet?

Subject: Re: online help for java applet?
From: David Knopf <david -at- KNOPF -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 1 Jul 1999 08:08:36 -0700

Hi Elise,

You're certainly right that compiled HTML Help won't be the ideal solution
for your Java applet. Not only will you encounter the problems you mention,
but also your users would only be able to access the help using Internet
Explorer. Since your application is a browser-based Java applet, I am
guessing customers should be able to run it in Navigator, too. Not possible
with a CHM file.

WebHelp is a possibility, but if context sensitivity is an important
objective for your system, I'm not sure you'll find it a good solution,
either. The main requirement for implementing context sensitive help is an
API that the developers can use to link the application to your help system.
There is no API for WebHelp. Therefore, if you want to create
context-sensitive entry points for your WebHelp system, you'll have to do
that more or less manually by defining a frameset file for each entry point.
(One per screen would mean 3300 frameset files for you to create.) In
addition, there is are no tools to help you automate the process of moving
information from FrameMaker to WebHelp.

My advice is that you strongly consider the suggestion from your tech that
you look at JavaHelp. JavaHelp is specifically designed to support authors
and developers who need to create online help for applications and applets
written in Java. It defines an extensive API that your developers can use to
implement context-sensitive help.

You're right that there is a limitation in the current JavaHelp release that
prevents users from printing directly from a JavaHelp help system. There are
three reasons that I think your platform decision should not be guided by

1. First, it's a short-term limitation. Within the next few months, I think
the JavaHelp software will be updated and will support printing. Sun has
said as much at several recent conferences.

2. Even with the printing limitation, your users can print the information.
First, they can copy anything out of the help and paste it into Notepad,
Word, etc., and then print from there. Second, because you are planning to
produce and ship PDF files, users can certainly print anything they want
from the PDFs.

3. I think we often exaggerate the importance of printing to end users. A
recent survey conducted by a large software developer produced some
interesting results. Users were asked how often they print from the online
help. Only 5% said they did so frequently. Another 15% said they did so
occasionally. The rest didn't bother. (Now, obviously, this wasn't a survey
of your users, so YMMV.) The general point is that, if printing is important
to a small subsegment of the audience, the short-term lack of printing
capability in JavaHelp should not disqualify it from consideration.

Last, you mention that your documentation set is quite large and that you
are creating it with FrameMaker. More good news for you! You really ought to
take a look at WebWorks Publisher from Quadralay (
Using WebWorks Publisher, you can define a conversion template and generate
your JavaHelp help system directly from your FrameMaker source files.

I hope this information is helpful, but please feel free to post any
follow-up questions.


David Knopf
Knopf Online
Tel: 415-820-2356
E-mail: mailto:david -at- knopf -dot- com

RoboHELP Certified Trainer & Consultant
WebWorks Publisher Certified Trainer

Hands-on RoboHELP training classes
every month in Chicago, Dallas & San Francisco

| -----Original Message-----
| From: Technical Writers List; for all Technical Communication issues
| [mailto:TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU]On Behalf Of Kaplan, Elise
| Sent: Thursday, July 01, 1999 6:47 AM
| To: TECHWR-L -at- LISTSERV -dot- OKSTATE -dot- EDU
| Subject: online help for java applet?
| We are developing a graphical front-end to our software product. The GUI
| front-end is a java applet that runs in a browser window. Here in the doc
| group, we have been working on producing HTMLhelp to support the GUI.
| Today, however, we learned that the java applet can't link to an
| individual
| file within the .chm, only the default location in the .chm itself. We
| really need some context-sensitivity than this--our application includes
| 3300 screens.
| The tech who has been working on the issue suggested javahelp, but I don't
| think this delivery will be acceptable because javahelp currently does not
| support printing. Our users definitely need the ability to print selected
| information as a reference.
| I've been thinking of investigating webhelp, as I've heard good
| things about
| it. Anybody have any other suggestions? We will be using Frame, and will
| also be using Frame's conditional text to produce a PDF online
| reference for
| our customers who are using the greenscreen front-end. Our documentation
| set is about 10,000 pages.
| Thanks in advance for any wisdom you can offer
| Elise Kaplan
| CommercialWare
| Ekaplan -at- asaint -dot- com <mailto:Ekaplan -at- asaint -dot- com>
| <>
| ==================================================================
| =========

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

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