13 Replies Latest reply on Feb 26, 2007 10:18 AM by Sugit'

    So What Now with Help Formats ???

    Tamilyrn
      Well... the launch of Vista and the death of Winhelp has really shafted us... and I'm sure a lot of others too. Current situation as I understand it is :

      1) Winhelp is dead.

      2) HTML Help is supported but is functionally inferior in the following ways :
      - Window position cannot be specified as a percentage of the screen (pixels only) which is awkward for secondary windows as we need to support everything from 1024x768 to 1920x1280.
      - Context sensitive help support is dreadful compared to winhelp - no formatted text, bullets, graphics, hyperlinks, etc...
      - Microsoft refuse to allow CHM files to be launched over a network so a server install is out (without a naughty registry hack).

      3) Webhelp is supported but rumoured to be on the way out in terms of Robohelp support. Is this true ? Its also extremely clunky to ship with software due to number of files and, AFAICS, offers no context sensitive help functionality. I guess we could get round the former by using .MHT files but reasonable support for context sensitive help is a must.

      4) The Windows Vista Help directory seems to use 'h1s' files. What on earth is this ? For sure Vista has nicely formatted Context Sensitive Help but how ? Is this the new, much publicised MS Help format ?

      Basically, we need a sensible single file help system for the app and context sensitive help with hyperlinks & formatting. Anybody have suggestions on what the trend is here - is there even a single format solution for what must be a common applications requirement ?

      Are Adobe planning their own Winhelp support now that MS have ditched it ?
      Are MS planning a new Help System ?

      Thanks,
      Iain.

        • 1. So What Now with Help Formats ???
          Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional
          Welcome to the forum.

          1] WinHelp is dying but not yet dead. What Microsoft are doing is making the viewer something the end user has to download. They are doing that in a bid to strangle it to death and it will die, just not right now. The viewer is not available right now though.

          2] CSH is dreadful? I think you are referring to What's This help which is not quite the same. Your developers can call ordinary help topics to provide CSH with all its usual formatting. It's not so much that Microsoft refuse to allow CHMs to be run across a network as cannot because of security risks. Would you send them a thank you if they allowed a CHM to destroy your PC?

          3] WebHelp is on the way out in terms of RoboHelp support? I don't think Adobe would have released a new version a few weeks back if that was the case. Also each topic can be called to provide CSH as described in my topic on Calling WebHelp. That is not the same as What's This help which seems to be less and less popular now.

          4] Vista Help methods have not been made available to the wide world. There have been posts on that in this forum and on HATT if you want to find out more.

          Flare offers its own single file system but I believe it requires the .NET framework, are your customers willing to install that? I cannot imagine any HAT vendor will create its own WinHelp but they may work on their own system as Flare has. However when and if are unknowns, not just from Adobe. As to MS, see above.

          • 2. Re: So What Now with Help Formats ???
            RoboWizard Level 4
            Hi Tamilyrn and welcome to our community

            Sounds as if you are a bit confused.

            1) Winhelp is dead.

            While Microsoft probably wishes that were the case, it's not. 16 bit WinHelp files still work under Vista and 32 bit files WILL work at some future point after downloading the 32 bit WinHelp engine. So they want it to go away and they are making it painful to continue, but it will still work.

            2) HTML Help is supported but is functionally inferior in the following ways :
            - Window position cannot be specified as a percentage of the screen (pixels only) which is awkward for secondary windows as we need to support everything from 1024x768 to 1920x1280.

            Point taken and not workaround I'm aware of. Possibly a developer could control this by programmatically calculating where to place the help window.

            - Context sensitive help support is dreadful compared to winhelp - no formatted text, bullets, graphics, hyperlinks, etc...

            Unless I'm mistaken, you may certainly use these features in CSH topics pulled from a .CHM file. Just take a look at IE, for example.

            - Microsoft refuse to allow CHM files to be launched over a network so a server install is out (without a naughty registry hack).

            Yes, Microsoft is suggesting WebHelp type solutions for this.

            3) Webhelp is supported but rumoured to be on the way out in terms of Robohelp support. Is this true ?

            That would be news to me.

            Its also extremely clunky to ship with software due to number of files and, AFAICS, offers no context sensitive help functionality.

            Not true - You can do CSH using WebHelp. When I conduct RoboHelp HTML classes, we actually have a module where we create it and link it to a web based application.

            I guess we could get round the former by using .MHT files but reasonable support for context sensitive help is a must.

            Not sure what a .MHT file is.

            4) The Windows Vista Help directory seems to use 'h1s' files. What on earth is this ? For sure Vista has nicely formatted Context Sensitive Help but how ? Is this the new, much publicised MS Help format ?

            Vista help is a new format and as far as I know there is nothing publicized about exactly how help authors will go about creating it. They are still working on the client we will see. Similar to the HTML Help and WinHelp display engines.

            Cheers... Rick
            • 3. Re: So What Now with Help Formats ???
              RoboWizard Level 4
              Oops... Sorry Peter. Didn't see you standing there.
              • 4. Re: So What Now with Help Formats ???
                Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional
                Always good to provide an answer in two languages!

                • 5. Re: So What Now with Help Formats ???
                  Tamilyrn Level 1
                  Thanks for the replies.

                  Just to be clear regarding context sensitive help, which is by far our principle problem.

                  Are we saying that there is a way with HTMLhelp (or indeed Webhelp) to create 'point and shoot' formatted context sensitive help. I've taken a quick screen grab of the type of thing I'm talking about here : http://www.labcenter.co.uk/csh.gif

                  If so, I'm guessing that this is done at the level of having a full topic for each CSH message and launching that topic wholesale in a window ? That being the case, is it then necessary for the developer to handle window size/position etc. ?

                  Thanks.
                  • 6. Re: So What Now with Help Formats ???
                    Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional
                    It will not have the bubble text like appearance that you currently use and yes it will launch the help going direct to the required topic. Yes the developer will need to handle size etc.

                    • 7. Re: So What Now with Help Formats ???
                      Pete Lees Level 2
                      Iain,

                      If you're not averse to using a free third-party ActiveX control for context-sensitive help, you can use KeyHelp to display feature-rich HTML popups in borderless windows. See this page for details:

                      http://helpware.net/htmlhelp/how_to_whatsthis.htm

                      KeyHelp was developed by Ralph Walden, formerly Microsoft's lead Help developer, so its provenance is unimpeachable. Of course, it was developed precisely to overcome the text-only limitations of HTML Help popups.

                      Pete
                      • 8. Re: So What Now with Help Formats ???
                        Level 7
                        I find it fascinating that Microsoft distributes winhelp.exe (16-bit
                        WinHelp) as part of Vista but stubbornly refuses to distribute winhlp32.exe
                        (32-bit WinHelp). Apparently Microsoft still needs/wants to use WinHelp
                        popups so they're keeping the 16-bit WinHelp executable as part of Vista.

                        So now here's my question... Robohelp has its own .dll (RoboEx32.dll) that
                        it allows us to distribute. My understanding is that this is what allows us
                        to have the tripane view. Having been mostly away from help development for
                        the last several years but about to enter the fray again, what happens if I
                        develop a RoboHelp Help2000 project and load project.hlp, project.cnt and
                        the RoboHelp .dll file onto a Vista machine (which only has winhelp.exe)??
                        Does this work?

                        Thanks

                        Mike
                        "Tamilyrn" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
                        news:eqi2o6$klv$1@forums.macromedia.com...
                        > Well... the launch of Vista and the death of Winhelp has really shafted
                        us...
                        > and I'm sure a lot of others too. Current situation as I understand it is
                        :
                        >
                        > 1) Winhelp is dead.
                        >
                        > 2) HTML Help is supported but is functionally inferior in the following
                        ways :
                        > - Window position cannot be specified as a percentage of the screen
                        (pixels
                        > only) which is awkward for secondary windows as we need to support
                        everything
                        > from 1024x768 to 1920x1280.
                        > - Context sensitive help support is dreadful compared to winhelp - no
                        > formatted text, bullets, graphics, hyperlinks, etc...
                        > - Microsoft refuse to allow CHM files to be launched over a network so a
                        > server install is out (without a naughty registry hack).
                        >
                        > 3) Webhelp is supported but rumoured to be on the way out in terms of
                        Robohelp
                        > support. Is this true ? Its also extremely clunky to ship with software
                        due to
                        > number of files and, AFAICS, offers no context sensitive help
                        functionality. I
                        > guess we could get round the former by using .MHT files but reasonable
                        support
                        > for context sensitive help is a must.
                        >
                        > 4) The Windows Vista Help directory seems to use 'h1s' files. What on
                        earth is
                        > this ? For sure Vista has nicely formatted Context Sensitive Help but how
                        ? Is
                        > this the new, much publicised MS Help format ?
                        >
                        > Basically, we need a sensible single file help system for the app and
                        context
                        > sensitive help with hyperlinks & formatting. Anybody have suggestions on
                        what
                        > the trend is here - is there even a single format solution for what must
                        be a
                        > common applications requirement ?
                        >
                        > Are Adobe planning their own Winhelp support now that MS have ditched it
                        ?
                        > Are MS planning a new Help System ?
                        >
                        > Thanks,
                        > Iain.
                        >
                        >
                        >


                        • 9. Re: So What Now with Help Formats ???
                          Captiv8r Adobe Community Professional & MVP
                          Hi Mike

                          Unfortunately, most of us here don't have Vista yet and many (including myself) are a bit hesitant to upgrade until we are certain that our applications will definitely work with it. As a result, we aren't sure that this will work. So I suppose my question to you would be the following:

                          Do you have Vista installed? If so, what happens when you try what you are asking? If you don't have it installed, I'm guessing your question is more along the lines of "What if?" No?

                          Sorry I don't have any hard and fast answers here. But that's the breaks when something like Vista comes along and many simply aren't using it yet.

                          Hopefully another author that has actually tried this setup will chime in here with some reasonable observations of what will be seen.

                          Sincerely... Rick
                          • 10. Re: So What Now with Help Formats ???
                            Level 7
                            At this point, I don't have access to Vista. But I'm about to begin adapting
                            my content from Word through RoboHelp for application help and I have a
                            definite preference for WinHelp... I've resisted HTML Help (.chm) because I
                            don't feel it serves the user nearly as well as WinHelp and until now, that
                            wasn't a problem.

                            Scuttlebutt elsewhere indicates that Microsoft is likely to make
                            WinHlp32.exe (or whatever they're going to name it) available for download
                            sometime between now and the end of the month. I'm assuming they're
                            overhauling it so we'll see what it's like soon. It's unfortunate that
                            they're not going to allow application developers to distribute that
                            executable, though... guess we'll just have to figure out a way to launch a
                            "user-initiated" download during the install process.

                            Incidentally, I posted in the WinHelp forum as well because I realized that
                            it was probably a more appropriate forum for this discussion.

                            Mike
                            "Captiv8r" <webforumsuser@macromedia.com> wrote in message
                            news:er04hl$i35$1@forums.macromedia.com...
                            > Hi Mike
                            >
                            > Unfortunately, most of us here don't have Vista yet and many (including
                            > myself) are a bit hesitant to upgrade until we are certain that our
                            > applications will definitely work with it. As a result, we aren't sure
                            that
                            > this will work. So I suppose my question to you would be the following:
                            >
                            > Do you have Vista installed? If so, what happens when you try what you
                            are
                            > asking? If you don't have it installed, I'm guessing your question is more
                            > along the lines of "What if?" No?
                            >
                            > Sorry I don't have any hard and fast answers here. But that's the breaks
                            when
                            > something like Vista comes along and many simply aren't using it yet.
                            >
                            > Hopefully another author that has actually tried this setup will chime in
                            here
                            > with some reasonable observations of what will be seen.
                            >
                            > Sincerely... Rick
                            >


                            • 11. Re: So What Now with Help Formats ???
                              Sugit'
                              quote:

                              Originally posted by: Tamilyrn
                              Well... the launch of Vista and the death of Winhelp has really shafted us... and I'm sure a lot of others too. Current situation as I understand it is :
                              (...)
                              2) HTML Help is supported but is functionally inferior in the following ways :
                              - Window position cannot be specified as a percentage of the screen (pixels only) which is awkward for secondary windows as we need to support everything from 1024x768 to 1920x1280.
                              - Context sensitive help support is dreadful compared to winhelp - no formatted text, bullets, graphics, hyperlinks, etc...
                              - Microsoft refuse to allow CHM files to be launched over a network so a server install is out (without a naughty registry hack).
                              (...)

                              One thing I like about WinHelp is the "non-scroll area" at the top of a topic.
                              In HTML Help this can only be done in a laborius way with sub-frames. And it makes the Help very slow.
                              • 12. Re: So What Now with Help Formats ???
                                RoboWizard Level 4
                                Hi Sugit and all
                                quote:

                                One thing I like about WinHelp is the "non-scroll area" at the top of a topic.
                                In HTML Help this can only be done in a laborius way with sub-frames. And it makes the Help very slow.
                                Framesets aren't the only game in town for accomplishing this. Take a look at fellow Community Expert Roger Nilsson's site: Click here

                                Roger analyzed how Microsoft accomplished NSR in HTML using only .CSS and explains it at the link.

                                Cheers... Rick
                                • 13. Re: So What Now with Help Formats ???
                                  Sugit' Level 1
                                  Thanks, that might be useful!