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Microsoft announced at the WritersUA 2006 Conference last week that the WinHelp engine will not even be available for download for their Vista operating system. (They are planning to release the Vista OS the first quarter of 2007.) That was Microsoft's official announcement.
My boss was at the conference and called me as soon as she heard it. (We have about 100 WinHelp projects to convert.)
Many people who were at the conference have posted the news in various lists and forums. A highly credible posting from people who were at the conference is posted here:
"Not so fast with the goodbyes," WinHelp pleads!
Remember that both government entities and large businesses take a long time to switch from one version of Windows to another. There are cost issues and security issues at stake. My current contract is with a company that runs Windows 2000 and Office 2003 - works like a charm.
It is likely that if your company is not on XP now, their next upgrade will be to Vista - but that could be two years away. I would definitely prepare them for a help conversion down the road - it should be part of their Windows conversion planning. But until Vista is on the users' workstations, WinHelp will keep doing its job.
(I miss working with WinHelp. HTML just isn't the same...)
Same here, and you've got a great point about the government and large corporation employers. My state agency here in Texas is just now getting off of Windows 2000/Office 97 and moving to XP/Office 2003, and we're one of the more up-to-date ones. It took us until 2002 to get off Windows 95, and it was 1998 before we moved from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95. Vista probably won't arrive here until 2010 or 2011 at the earliest. It's not just large organizations - it's every business that has trouble justifying expensive upgrades. My agency regulates over 400,000 employers in the state. Based on the requests we get for our resource materials, many of the small to medium-size companies, non-profits, and local governmental employers are still on Windows 95, 98, and NT. Some are on Windows 2000, and a smaller percentage uses Windows XP. The need to control costs being what it is these days, I just don't foresee a great rush to adopt Vista or purchase systems that are capable of running Vista properly. It'll be a trend, sure, but not a rush. Thus, legacy Help systems, and the ability to maintain and update them, will continue to be very important for a significant time.
That having been said, I've had the opportunity at the World Congress on Information Technology (held here in Austin, Texas) to see what I guess is the beta version of Vista in action at the ATI booth, and it looks great. For anyone who loves the Mac OS X operating system, you'll like Vista, and switching between Vista and OS X machines will not seem jarring at all. The new Help system in Vista is also impressive - although it's not clear how much it might change between now and Vista's release, it has a lot of visual appeal. It's much like a really souped-up and customized HTML Help file - when you click on a topic, you get a nice green Aqua-style (thanks again, Mac OS X) progress bar and a caption letting you know that the Help content is loading. You can't view the source on the nav pane, but you can for the topic pane, and just like everyone has reported, it's full of XML-compatible tags and so on. Overall, Vista (just like the name implies) is very visual, very graphics-intensive, very nice to look at.