Has anything replaced MS HTML Help?
Discussion started by Fei Min L. Lorente , on 19 November 03:13 PM

Apologies if I'm posting this in the wrong place; I know we're changing the name/scope of this group, but I can't remember if the new discussion group is up and running yet, so...if anyone wants to re-post this for me or tell me where to re-post it, I'll do so.

Our software group is looking into developing a user interface using MS Visual Studio, and we'd like to have integrated help with it. It will be installed on a customer's computer; no internet required, so online help is out of the question. We're aiming for Windows platforms only, and search capabilities are required (and we'd rather not code that ourselves). I'll state the obvious and say that we need a TOC. Context-sensitive help is a very nice to have (almost a requirement, but we're willing to let it go if it's too much work).

The obvious answer is MS HTML Help which creates a .chm file that can be installed with the software, but we have a few concerns: it has an outdated look that we can't change, and rumour has it that it's not being maintained by Microsoft any more, not since 2012.

Can anyone confirm that Microsoft is abandoning HTML Help? If so, is there a replacement from Microsoft, either available or coming soon? Can someone suggest an alternative help that meets our requirements? Does someone want to say something in support of using HTML Help?

Fei Min Lorente

You will need to be a member of this group first before you can post a reply.
James Thomas
No real standard has emerged. WebHelp--which is basically uncompiled HTML help with some java tossed in; you more flexibility than with CHM, particularly in terms of appearance. Some people are even using wikis. CHM is still floating about out there--though it is very difficult to access a CHM across a network.

We use webhelp, authoring with Adobe TCS4 (Frame 11 and RoboHelp 10). We're finally starting to get some decent results--while the two programs work well enough independently, the interface between them is problematic, particularly if you use conditional text.

Wednesday, 04 June 2014 16:57
Fei Min L. Lorente
Thanks for the insider information, Belinda. It's always useful to hear from someone who is currently using a product.

Fei Min
Thursday, 21 November 2013 12:10
Li Huang
Yes, to single sourcing between FM and RH, license is required. In my company, we are using the license for the Adobe TC Suite 4.0 (FM11 and RH10). If you are using standalone FM and RH, I guess there would be problem in single sourcing. But this needs to check with Adobe whether standalone applications work the same as those in the suite.

In my company, we adopt the single sourcing one year ago. Frankly, we encounter many problems, such as the low image quality, the formatting issue after importing into RH from FM. For the heading, currently, we use numbering in the chapter title and 1st level section heading in FM and hide them up after importing into RH.

For integrating the help into the product, we appoint the topic file that the product accesses to open the whole help system. In other words, we just pass the output help system to developers for integration, and the build machine does not have the FM/RH installed.

We have a help template that contains the company information (e.g. logo, support info). So these info are included in each help topic.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013 20:49
Fei Min L. Lorente
Thanks Mary and Belinda. I should mention that the documentation will be created in structured FrameMaker, so RoboHelp is an option, but I've only seen it demonstrated (about 5 years ago), and I've only used it to produce output (about 7 years ago), so I'm not up-to-date with the latest version, and I've never used it in depth. We would have to acquire two licenses (one for me and one for the build machine), but I have a few questions besides the question of whether my company would agree to purchase them: RoboHelp used to have trouble formatting nested lists, and I think it had a problem with the numbering on headings? I could be mis-remembering, but could you tell me any gotchas that you've encountered with RoboHelp? And another requirement I forgot to mention is that we have to be able to generate the output from a command line; in other words, whatever we use to convert FrameMaker to help files has to be done from a batch file because it'll be performed by a build machine. Right now I'm using Mif2Go to convert FrameMaker to HTML Help, but it can also do RoboHelp (with the addition of RoboHelp).

Mary, thanks for the vote of confidence in HTML Help. And yes, it's always fun exploring new territory. :-)

Fei Min
Wednesday, 20 November 2013 12:05
Mary Ditter
I cannot speak for Microsoft support, but I can say that we continue to create and use HTML help in our software products.

We also use RoboHelp to create our help systems.

HTML Help has enabled us to create context-sensitive help that is searchable, and indexed. We also conditionalize content for reuse in our many different versions of similar software products. These are also stand-alone systems that do not rely on internet access.

In addition, use of interactive graphics in our help has increased its contextual responsiveness, beyond the standard. Regarding the out dated look, up-to-date graphics in the help content can go a long way toward addressing this.

We have not had any issues with non-support from Microsoft. Perhaps because it works well enough, no support issues have occurred.

Good luck, it sounds like a fun venture.
Wednesday, 20 November 2013 10:29
Li Huang
First, I'd like to mention that I am not the sales of Adobe company. :-)

Adobe RoboHelp can create help system that can be integrated into the product. Also, you can choose some help topics for CSH. The help system is installed with the product, no need for internet. Our company product is not using MS Visual Stuido for user interface.

RoboHelp support multiple output format, including WebHelp and chm.

Besides, you can use Framemaker and RoboHelp for single sourcing. I guess you are known about it.

Hope this can be of any help.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013 20:35