Re: Acrobat Help Files?

Subject: Re: Acrobat Help Files?
From: Bill Burns <BillDB -at- ILE -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 16 Jul 1999 11:19:18 -0600

Heidi writes:

> My department recently began discussing alternatives to the
> standard Windows Help format. We are beginning to document
> software products that will rely on Web-based technology. We
> have discussed several variations of HTML Help as a
> solution, but none look particularly stable. We are considering
> distributing PDF files with bookmarks and keyword links as
> the Online Help. Has anyone tried this? What are the pros
> and cons? Any other comments are welcome....
If you want to see two really good examples and arguments against using PDF
for help, check out Acrobat's and FrameMaker's help systems. These aren't
help systems as much as online documents in PDF format. (Or maybe they're
double-plus unhelp systems?) They are slow to load, and I find it difficult
to find information quickly.

Which versions of HTML-based help have you considered? MS HTMLHelp is
certainly stable enough (as stable as anything else MS ships). If you can
ship a browser with the product, you may consider this as an option.
Otherwise, you might consider a homegrown HTML solution instead of looking
at the tool vendors. A bit of DHTML can go a long way, and if your
developers can provide an index applet, you might be able to produce
something better than the popular tools currently provide.

In any case, I wouldn't go with Acrobat if you need to provide quickly
accessible information. It's fine for something that users can browse and
print, but not for task-based just-in-time help.

Bill Burns - Eccentric Technology Consultant
International Communications Design & Development
billdb -at- ile -dot- com
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