Re: Trends in Help Authoring

Subject: Re: Trends in Help Authoring
From: "Chuck Martin" <cm -at- writeforyou -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 16 Mar 2004 10:05:35 -0800

<dan -dot- gallagher -at- pulsartech -dot- com> wrote in message news:232333 -at- techwr-l -dot- -dot- -dot-
> Hi Folks,
> Is it correct to assume that today's version of winhelp will be dead in
> water soon? I know my HAT (Help Authoring Tool) will need to change after
> MS eventually changes their help compiler.
> But my main concern is if winhelp is disappearing altogether and if I
> should be concentrating on learning html based help (wave of the future?)?
> A guy at macromedia (robohelp) said I can use html based help in place of
> the winhelp I currently produce. Hence my question.
> I'm not one that likes to make waves, but if winhelp is a dying animal I
> would like to get ready for the change. The software people here don't
> how I make the help, as long as the customer can press F1 at any time and
> invoke some help. They can reference to my help whether it's winhelp or
> html based right? I also need to learn more about the workings of help, as
> now I simply know how to use the HAT only (ForeHelp 5), I don't know the
> process of it all.
While Microsoft worked to supplant WinHelp way, way back in the late 90s (I
forget the exact year) because they seemed to thing that everything should
be HTML, WinHelp is still more often than not the onine user assistance
format of choice for compiled Windows applications if for no other reason
that it's essentially the only format that provides the What's This?

Even Microsoft uses hybrid systems: HTMLHelp for the familiar tri-pane
content and WinHelp for What's This? help.

Then again, neither platform is adaptable for embedded user assistance,
although many developers host such content in an HTML rendering engine pane
within the application window.

While WinHelp isn't used as much or as often, it'll still be with us for
some time to come. The real decision on what platform to use shoudl be
driven by what will best serve your product's users: what will best get them
the information they need, when they need it.

I hope this isn't stepping over the line of list no-nos, but you can get
some much more comprehensive answers from many industry experts at the
annual Online Help Conference, which is in just a few weeks now. (I'm even
speaking this year, on online communities for user assistance professionals,
and of course techwr-l will get prominent mention.) You can the the
Microsoft line directly from Microsoft representative or you can get
opinions that may or may not differ from other speakers, tool
representatives, and attendees.

Chuck Martin
User Assistance & Experience Engineer
twriter "at" sonic "dot" net

"I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. The day
may come when the courage of Men fail, when we forsake our friends and
break all bonds of fellowship. But it is not this day! This day, we fight!"
- Aragorn

"All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given you."
- Gandalf


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