14 Replies Latest reply on Jul 20, 2011 10:38 AM by MateoNYC

    help system for Web-based application

    lenkannapell

      I'm using RoboHelp 8 HTML to create help for a Web-based application. Ideally, I'd like to have the utility of HTML Help (chm), where context-sensitive help allows a user to simply press (say) the F12 key (or press a "?" icon, as with with Microsoft Word) to invoke help on that particular field or dialog.

       

      Unfortunately, Web-based applications call for WebHelp, since I have to create help for Safari/Firefox/IE/Chrome/etc. users. WebHelp doesn't support context-sensitive help, and I'm looking for a way to get as "light" (easily and quickly deployed) a help system as I can. Again, WebHelp is the de facto, but I'm curious if there are other deployments for help systems I haven't considered. And if there is anything outside RoboHelp that does this well, I'm all ears. Thanks,

       

      Len

        • 1. Re: help system for Web-based application
          MergeThis Level 4

          Peter Grainge's info on calling WebHelp, http://www.grainge.org/pages/authoring/calling_webhelp/calling_webhelp.htm seems to refute your statement: "WebHelp doesn't support context-sensitive help."

           

           

          Good luck,

          Leon

          • 2. Re: help system for Web-based application
            lenkannapell Level 1

            Thank you, Leon - I see that popups are partially supported (can't go from link to link), but maybe this will be good enough. However, I'm trying to create an application with minimal developer hassle, so a developer would have to do very little to program the help.

            • 3. Re: help system for Web-based application
              Jeff_Coatsworth Adobe Community Professional & MVP

              Sure it can do CSH - I'm doing it right now with my workflow!

              • 4. Re: help system for Web-based application
                lenkannapell Level 1

                Thanks, gents - I realize I may not be communicating the problem clearly. From the RoboHelp 8 HTML help:

                 

                "Field-level (What's This?) topic (WinHelp and Microsoft HTML Help projects) Briefly describes a field. A user accesses the topic by clicking a question-mark icon, and then clicking a field in a dialog box. In RoboHelp, field-level topics are called What’s This? topics.


                "Note: WebHelp, WebHelp Pro, FlashHelp and FlashHelp Pro do not support field-level Help. WebHelp window support is available only with the context-sensitive Help API (Application Programming Interface)."

                 

                What I'm looking for: In WebHelp, hovering my mouse over a field, then pressing F1 or a ? to invoke help. I think this is technically "field-level help," and I'm curious how to minimize developer involvement. Thanks,

                 

                Len

                • 5. Re: help system for Web-based application
                  Captiv8r Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                  Hi Len

                   

                  FWIW, even Microsoft is backing away from What's This type of help.

                   

                  You can somewhat accomplish it by creating dialog or page level help. Then sprinkle Bookmarks through the topic and maybe you can coax exit points from the application or page to the bookmark location of the WebHelp. Heck, I suppose you could fudge What's This help by mapping each field to a topic/bookmark (or even individual topics - shudder) and have your developer link to them in a small specific window. But if you were to do this, you would be asking for MORE developer involvement and not LESS as you wish.

                   

                  Sorry, any form of Context Sensitive Help will require the developer to be involved. Unless you want to become the developer yourself, there simply isn't much you can do to work past it.

                   

                  Cheers... Rick

                   

                   

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                  • 6. Re: help system for Web-based application
                    Peter Grainge Adobe Community Professional (Moderator)

                    The help you have quoted is wrong. It should read that webhelp and so on does not support What's This help. There is plenty of information on my site about calling context sensitive webhelp.

                     


                    See www.grainge.org for RoboHelp and Authoring tips

                     

                    @petergrainge

                    • 7. Re: help system for Web-based application
                      Jeff_Coatsworth Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                      Just checked - the text is fixed in my copy of the help.

                      • 8. Re: help system for Web-based application
                        lenkannapell Level 1

                        Thanks again - I guess I need to ask a fundamental question: What is the difference between What's This? and context-sensitive help? If I have this straight:


                        What's This? (field-level help) example: MSFT Word: Click Insert tab -> Hyperlink, and in the Insert Hyperlink dialog, hover your mouse over Bookmark and press F1. This brings up field-level help (a single html file is invoked, w.o. any apparent help system launched) for only the Bookmark function.

                         

                        Context-sensitive help example: Repeat, except an entire help system (e.g., WebHelp is launched), with the Bookmarks help file invoked.

                         

                        Please correct me if this is awry. If What's This? isn't supported on WebHelp, can someone provide an example of creating context-sensitive WebHelp? In RoboHelp 8, I can select an image, navigate to Insert -> Image Map -> Rectangle, and and create an image map for a topic. When a user clicks this image map, WebHelp is deployed, and the help topic is displayed. Fine - except I don't want the entire WebHelp project launched - just this topic.

                         

                        I have seen home-grown combinations of html, css, and JavaScript that function very well for invoking field-level help on a topic; this looks like a good candidate for replacing WebHelp, except I don't see any professional authoring environment for it. Thanks for your patience.

                        • 9. Re: help system for Web-based application
                          Jeff_Coatsworth Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                          No, your example is a bit mixed up. What's This help is an older style of "tool tip" help that would cause a "?" to appear as your mouse hovered over a field or button. Later this was replaced by this sort of image (e.g. www.sagebrush.com/vista4_1.gif ). What you're seeing with the MS Word example you cited is not dependant upon which part of the Insert Hyperlink screen you hover over - it always launches the same help topic. This is an example of CSH in action. It's more like "screen-level help" rather than "field-level help."

                           

                          Like Rick was saying, you could simulate the field-level help appearance by either treating each "call" from the application as a separate topic (not showing the full help- just the one topic) or by calling 1 topic for the screen and then placing bookmarks within it to jump to the appropriate spot that refers to the help for the desired field.

                          • 10. Re: help system for Web-based application
                            lenkannapell Level 1

                            Thanks, Jeff - I now see the difference between field-level help and CSH. Rick's example was summarized by Jeff:

                             

                            Simulate the field-level help appearance by either treating each "call"  from the application as a separate topic (not showing the full help-  just the one topic) or by calling 1 topic for the screen and then  placing bookmarks within it to jump to the appropriate spot that refers  to the help for the desired field.

                             

                            How is it possible to simply show one help topic (vs. the entire WebHelp) when help is invoked? That seems contrary to how WebHelp is supposed to work. Believe me, that's what I'm after...thanks,

                             

                            Len

                            • 11. Re: help system for Web-based application
                              Jeff_Coatsworth Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                              In my case it's done through Javascript calls in our program to the MapID in RH. Within our programs, when a user presses F1 on any field they get this sort of screen (example)

                              example.png

                              I've customized the "Show" link that normally appears to read "Contents/Search/Index" - when the user click on it, expands into the full help (example2) that opens in their browser.

                              example2.png

                              There are a bunch of ways to invoke CSH - check out Peter Grainge's site (www.grainge.org) and Adobe help for more info.

                              • 12. Re: help system for Web-based application
                                Captiv8r Adobe Community Professional & MVP

                                Hi Len

                                 

                                Basically it's like this. WebHelp is nothing more than a collection of HTML pages that each contain different "Topics". This means that each page has a unique URL which may be used to view it. Normally, WebHelp is presented with the surrounding frameset (also known as the Skin) and the Topic is shown in the Topic pane of the Frameset.

                                 

                                What Jeff has shown is what you might get if you just link to the URL of the topic. I say *MIGHT* because whether you see the "Show" link is configurable and you can generate WebHelp where it's not factored in.

                                 

                                So you have many options of linking to your help. You can link to a single topic where only that topic appears. You can link to the WebHelp generically and the end user finds their own way to the information they are looking for. You can link to a Bookmarked location inside a topic either on its own or within the frameset. And if you are using the WebHelp API, you can specify your own Window that will be used. Otherwise, your developer can create the window using their own means.

                                 

                                Cheers... Rick

                                 

                                 

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                                • 13. Re: help system for Web-based application
                                  lenkannapell Level 1

                                  Thanks, gents. I realize I'm a bit obtuse on this, so I still need more info:

                                   

                                  Jeff: In the (quite helpful) example you provided, you are able to launch one topic at a time through "Javascript calls in our program to the MapID in RH." Having the help file launch in the same pane as the TOC/Index/Search pane looks like a good way to do this, even if it's a workaround.

                                   

                                  I guess the bottom line has already been answered: I will need a developer to take the MapID coordinates for a topic and put them in the code. Not a big deal, but if the MapID changes, I need to pester the developer. Trying to avoid this - and yet that's one of the strengths of WebHelp, that very little developer help needed.

                                   

                                  The big picture: Go to http://sharpfin.nmfs.noaa.gov/website/EFH_Mapper/map.aspx

                                   

                                  When you click the "?" keys, you get help instantly on the topic; no bulky WebHelp gets launched. I realize this example is the golden combination of html, css, JavaScript, and the developer who created this application noted it took a long time to create - it's fully manual. But if there was a way to take the best of this process and make it into an authoring format, sure seems like a winner for everyone. Off the soapbox

                                   

                                  Len

                                  • 14. Re: help system for Web-based application
                                    MateoNYC

                                    Len,

                                    This might be useful to you - earlier this week, MindTouch announced a "F1" type button and help system for web applications, which sounds pretty interesting.  Some of the comments also mention the ability to import CHM files, which I know is important to RoboHelp and Framemaker users.  

                                     

                                    Matt