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General Online Help Information - Table of Contents

Which Help Format?

WinHelp (.hlp) has been around since the early '90s and has now largely been superseded by HTML Help (.chm). But there is one crucial point about HTML Help that may determine which of the two formats you go with: users must have Internet Explorer 4.0 or later installed to view HTML Help files.

Of course you also can install the Internet Explorer and the HTMLHelp running time files in the surroundings of the customers. A listing of the HTMLHelp version with the respective version of the operating system can for certain be a help to you here.

In 2002 Microsoft shipped a new help format, Microsoft Help 2.0, to replace HTML Help 1.x. Unfortunately this was never released to the general public as originally planned and became the help system for Visual Studio .NET, MSDN Library and Technet products.

All the above help systems are now in maintenance mode. There are no new features planned for them.

Furthermore I recommend you to use HTMLHelp (CHM files) at this stage (2006).

The Assistance Platform client (HelpPane.exe) is a new Help engine designed for Windows Vista. It is not compatible with any previous versions of Windows. Read further information about Windows Vista Help engine support.

Finding a Help Authoring Tool

Help Authoring Tools

Need to find the Help Authoring Tool (HAT) that best meets your needs? Then visit, which has been designed specifically for that purpose (scheduled to go live on 16 October 2006). Full instructions will be available at that time.

What's the difference between manuals and online help?

With manuals a text is actually written. Mostly this is supplemented by pictures, the table of contents and index we all know from books and other printed media. PDF is actually a printed manual (and a bit more), in which one can search for full-text.

Also with online assistance we find exactly the same. Help Authors often copy the sections of a printed documentation in according sections to developed online assistance.

But I think, there is to do something more when developing online help ...

I think, one must gain experience and work after customer's request. A keyword from the last time is "single-source" (write once, read anywhere). You know what I mean:

XML is a few years old, but standardisation needs time and it's a new technology.

One use-case of single-source and online help is DocBook (transforming XML to Microsoft HTMLHelp).

Further Information - Links



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