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  1. #1
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    Writing help files (Word 97 & 2002)

    Our "real" programmer just quit, leaving me to complete the project he was working on. He had been building an HTML help file for his project (I think using Help File Workshop) but had not been able to make it context sensitive. I see a note in one of his e-mails saying that this was because Word 97 itself is looking for a WinHelp file. Can anyone tell me why he might have been using HTML help files instead of WinHelp files? For instance, does Word 2002 use HTML instead of WinHelp? If so, that would explain it, as our company plans to start using Word 2002 instead of 97 "soon." On the other hand, if Word 2002 also looks for WinHelp files, is there a software package I would use to create WinHelp files? Any input would be appreciated.

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    Re: Writing help files (Word 97 & 2002)

    This is another HUGE topic that deserves a forum of its own (IMHO). I'm just getting started with Windows Help myself and am demoing several products. The granddaddy of them all is RoboHelp. They had a recent promotion ($249 or something). Normally the thing sells for $999 or a ridiculous price somewhere close.

    I think your ex-programmer is correct. Word 97 is not aware of the newer HTML Help file format and expects to find the contextIDs for controls, etc. in a Windows Help file indicated in the project properties "Help file name:"

    A web search for HTML or Windows Help will load you down for a while.

    Also, IMHO, despite some of the claims to the contrary by various Help authoring tool makers, you'll need to get another programmer. The problem isn't that you or any non-programmer cannot create help files and a help system. The problem is creating one that meets the needs of the entire user-base. Yes, anyone can create a help file with these authoring tools, but they aren't very useful. It takes a lot of planning and a lot of work to do it right.
    Kevin <IMG SRC=http://www.wopr.com/w3tuserpics/Kevin_sig.gif alt="Keep the change, ya filthy animal...">
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    Super Moderator jscher2000's Avatar
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    Re: Writing help files (Word 97 & 2002)

    RoboHelp claims to create either WinHelp or HTML Help from a specially-tagged RTF file. I haven't used the product in 5 years, so I really can't vouch for it at this point. Back when I used it, there was no HTML help!

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    Re: Writing help files (Word 97 & 2002)

    Actually I didn't say I was a NON-programmer, just not a "real" one. "Real" programmers get paid for their work! It's only very recently that programming has become part of my official duties. On the other hand, I did spend many years as a "real" writer, and I suspect that writing experience may trump programming experience when it comes time to communicate with users.

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    Re: Writing help files (Word 97 & 2002)

    Well, speaking from experience, writing help files is very different from creating the program that uses the help files. I thought it was fairly easy to build help files using the old method, at least once you knew what they were supposed to say. Creating the ContextIDs and getting the hotspots right was more of a challenge but not too bad. I haven't played with building HTML help, mainly because I have yet to see a good example of an HTML help file. I'm sure they exist, but the ones that come with Office certainly don't qualify. <img src=/S/nope.gif border=0 alt=nope width=15 height=15>
    Charlotte

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    Re: Writing help files (Word 97 & 2002)

    Well, the good news (from my point of view) is that I won't have to write help files for 97. This is because we're switching to 2002 RSN, and I convinced the powers that be that with everything else I have to do, it wouldn't make sense to spend a lot of time on something that would be obsolete almost immediately. On the other hand, right now it looks as though I'll still be creating help files for 2002. Does anyone know of any good books on how to create HTML help files for 2002? I've been working with hyperlinked docs (both Word and HTML) for years, but I need to know how to interface Help with Word -- especially how to get that annoying little paperclip to suggest the right questions & jump to the user-selected topic.

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    Re: Writing help files (Word 97 & 2002)

    Sound like you're qualified.
    Do a google search. You'll find all the info (books, tools, etc) you need to create HTML help files. BTW, Office 2002 products can use the old Winhelp (AKAIK); but if you can design a good HTML system, all the better.
    Kevin <IMG SRC=http://www.wopr.com/w3tuserpics/Kevin_sig.gif alt="Keep the change, ya filthy animal...">
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