1. It's Not Just Help, It's HTML Help "Users don't use help." "People don't want to read long documents online."
How often have you heard these statements? It often seems that the two abiding truths in the world of the Help author are "no one reads manuals" and "no one uses help." For the online content provider, one of the central truisms seems to be "no one wants to read on a computer."
But who is this mythical "no one"? Does such a person really exist? The evidence suggests otherwise.
On the one hand, a significant proportion of the World Wide Web explosion centers on the search for content, for information, even for complete documents and electronic books. One extremely popular author's online release of his latest mystery caused a virtual traffic jam online; medical sites are bombarded by requests for downloads of complex medical texts; ebook initiatives are springing up everywhere;. and the most popular online bookstores have added electronic delivery options.
At the same time, online Help is growing in unprecedented ways. User assistance is being added to everything from stock portfolios to online museums, whether distributed over the Web or on CDs-Certainly "someone" is reading online and using the new generations of Help. And the most exciting possibilities of all arise from the merger of the two worlds, combining the best of HTML with the best of online Help—quite possibly, in a new format from Microsoft® that is called compiled HTML Help.
HTML Help goes miles beyond the boring yellow pages with tiny type that have become the de facto Windows help standard. The "HTML" components possess the capability to be both dynamic and interactive, presenting a style as strong as the content. Web technologies enhance the system with cascading style sheets (CSS) for control over layout, and with dynamic HTML (DHTML) that allows the author to customize contentand design presentations that literally move the information to meet theuser's needs. These enhancements are not merely aesthetic tricks, but legitimate tools that allow the writer to appeal to the needs of all types oflearners and all sorts of situations. These needs are also addressed by thestrong architectural and navigational components that the "Help" part ofthe equation brings to the table. Drawing on the Windows help tradition,HTML Help supplies built-in tools for creating indexes, full-text search (FTS),and tables of contents that are synchronized to the user's current page.
As its name implies, HTML Help is designed for online Help in the Webera. It is the new standard in Microsoft Windows 98® and 2000® and is evermore commonly used in applications that run on these platforms, includingMicrosoft® Office. While the Office systems are easily identifiable asHTML Help, many other HTML Help systems are less easy to spot. Most ofthe Microsoft Home products push the HTML Help envelope in their formatand approaches. But more surprising (and more difficult to see) arethe third-party tutorials and online books being published with HTML Help.An amazing wealth of content-rich, visually complex works are now beingpublished from the HTML Help platform, including encyclopedias and worksof literature—and the online fanatic's guide to at least one wildly populartelevision show!
And the best part of the HTML Help revolution is that it's not difficult tojoin in. While the full world of HTML, Help, CSS, and DHTML is stunninglywide, you need not master it all to create rich, useful, and attractive HTMLHelp systems. In this book, you can learn everything you need to get startedand successfully produce your own HTML Help system enhanced with Webtechnologies. After that, the only limit is your own imagination.Basic ideas & their corollaries
The basic idea underlying this book is that HTML Help can and should bean enhanced format for online user assistance and information publishing,taking advantage of the best of both HTML and online Help.
HTML Help merges the world of the Web and the world of online userassistance (commonly known as "Help" or "what you get when you pressF1"). Online help has a long history of developing useful content (whetheror not "anyone" reads it). On the other hand, the enormous growth of theWeb in recent years suggests that users prefer and are more comfortablewith the Web model of information gathering than with the traditionalHelp models. HTML Help offers the best of both worlds.
One of the easiest paths to that "best of both worlds" scenarios is throughcompiled HTML Help, which is the method discussed in this book. Ingeneral, HTML Help can mean any system that uses standard HTML pagesto create an online help system; in practice, HTML Help most often refersto Microsoft's version of compiled HTML Help, while other systems arereferred to as HTML-based Help. HTML-based Help systems have theadvantage of running on any computer with any Web browser; however,generic HTML-based Help does not offer any easy way to create a table ofcontents, indexing, or search facilities. In addition, the user must have asmany .htm files as there are pages in the Help system. (Some third-partysystems supply the navigational components, but the multiple filerestriction remains.) Also, Help systems designed to run "in any browser"must deal with an incredible number of variations in the ways that differentbrowsers implement Web technologies such as HTML, DHTML, and CSS.In practice, these variations force authors to create "browser-sniffing" scripts,multiple implementations for multiple platforms, or design only for thelowest common denominator, doing away with tables and frames (not tomention DHTML and CSS).
Microsoft's system, referred to as compiled HTML Help, requires users tohave Internet Explorer® 3.01 or above on their systems, although they need not use it as their default Web browser. The Internet Explorer installation(a standard component on Windows 98 or 2000 machines) allows HTMLHelp to provide built-in contents, index, and searching facilities. It also letsyou use most of the special capabilities available to HTML, CSS, and DHTML.Since HTML Help uses the Internet Explorer engine, it avoids the difficultiesof testing and coding for various browsers. Finally, the compiled versionallows you to distribute only a single file (.chm) for your help system.The corollaries
One of the strongest lessons learned from the popularity of the WorldWide Web is that style aids substance, that the two are inseparable partners.HTML Help used for user assistance or online publishing must havecontent; but there is no reason why it should not also have style and sizzle.
Writers can use HTML Help's access to Web-publishing features such ascascading style sheets and dynamic HTML to quickly and efficiently addboth style and substance, customizing the content and presentation tothe user's needs. And the Web-based approach of HTML Help opens thefield to people who are not dedicated tech writers and Help authors. As"everyone" becomes familiar with basic HTML, HTML Help will open anew world of online publishing to anyone with basic HTML knowledge.A note on terminology
The full Microsoft system can be referred to either as compiled or compressedHTML Help. The most common term to date is compiled HTMLHelp. However, these systems are not compiled in the strictest sense (thefinal file doesn't run on its own but requires the Internet Explorer engine),but they are compressed (compare the total size of all the included files tothe total size of the final .chm file). Microsoft documents are beginningto refer to these systems as "compressed HTML Help," but most of theMicrosoft Web site and most technical writer conversations use "compiledHTML Help." The term used in this book is "compiled HTML Help."The enhanced proposition
The information in this book is based on knowledge that I have gained intwo years of creating real-world HTML Help systems for the Hewlett-PackardTMCompany. The first of these systems shipped in 1998, when HTMLHelp was definitely bleeding-edge technology. Many of the lessons I learnedwith that first system are presented as examples in Chapter 2, "So HowDoes It Work," in the hopes that they will keep you from "bleeding" quiteas much as you first enter the wonderful world of HTML Help.
Since its first release in 1998, my original HTML Help system has been repeatedlyenhanced as it lived through a variety of upgrades, spin-offs,repurposings, and external adoptions; the lessons learned fromthese changes provide the real-world testing backing up the theories andtechniques described throughout this book. Over time, the systems have been well received by customers, developers, and other writers. Perhapsthe greatest tribute is the number of fellow Hewlett-Packard writers aroundthe world who have not only adopted my basic system, but have consistentlymade it their own with adjustments and enhancements as new technologiesbecome available and as new minds envision new approaches. Ibelieve that the ability to consistently "grow" an HTML Help system is oneof the truest benefits of this technology.A complete process
The presentation of HTML Help in this bFrom the Back Cover:
The first complete guide to state-of-the-art online Help with HTML Help, DHTML, and CSS!
The best way to create Help systems for Windows software is with Microsoft's advanced HTML Help system-and the best way to use HTML Help is to leverage the power of DHTML and Cascading Style Sheets at the same time. Building Enhanced HTML Help with DHTML and CSS shows you how to use all three technologies together. Written by one of the first developers to create an industrial-strength HTML Help system, it delivers proven methodologies and instructions for building world-class help systems with both Web technologies and traditional publishing strategies. The book's step-by-step coverage includes:
Along the way, Jeannine Klein identifies the most common problems that occur in real-world HTML Help construction-and presents detailed, proven solutions. Whether you're a technical writer, documentation manager, or developer, if you need to deliver the best possible help, Building Enhanced HTML Help with DHTML and CSS is the complete sourcebook you've been looking for.
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Book Description Prentice Hall PTR, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 1st. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0130179299
Book Description Prentice Hall PTR, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0130179299
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