Using the Help Generator > Help Editor

The Help Generator help authoring software has been designed to give help authors maximum productivity when creating a help system. The sections on this page are intended to give you an outline and navigate to the relevant information in the help.

On the step by step page you can see all that is needed to complete a first small help project.

Overview

Help projects - create new or open existing

The HTML Help project (.hhp) file organizes all elements of a help system. It contains pointers to all of the HTML topic, image, index, and contents files in a help project. You can also add links to your files and assign information types. You can use the Help Generator both on new and existing HTML Help (.hhp) compatible projects.

Tip
If you are currently using WinHelp (.hlp) or don't have the source project as .hhp, converting existing help projects explains how you can use the Help Editor on it anyway.

Editing the Help Project

The Help Editor looks like a mix of Microsoft Expression Web (or FrontPage) - for managing the help project's content - and Word 2010 ribbon - for editing HTML topic pages, so it should feel very familiar and easy to work with.

Help Topic Pages

A good way to add content pages is by rightclicking a parent node in the table of contents, selecting New and after typing the node title selecting a template. That way, the new page will automatically be 1. hooked into the content tree, 2. get the same title as the node and 3. insert other template content, such as a link (breadcrumb) to the parent node, see Creating Topic files .

Editing pages is very similar to how you would do it in Word 2010 using the ribbon . If a certain action seems stuck, or not accessible you may switch to Code mode to edit the HTML code directly.  

Being such an easy and useful mechanism, we try to support drag and drop wherever it seems useful.

A help system with style

Cascading style sheets (.css files) make it easy to apply and maintain styles on multiple topic files or Web pages. Once a stylesheet has been applied to a set of pages, changing a style on the stylesheet updates that style on each page the stylesheet is linked to. The Help Generator editor adds a style.css to your project and uses it in the templates and quick.parts.

Read Designing a Help System to get an idea of the considerations for creating a new help system. Help Generator gives you a nice start for style sheet (fonts, text bloks, colors, ...), topic templates and quick parts (Tip, Related Topic, etcetera). Support for the actual writing of the help content is described in Creating Help.

Table of Contents

The table of contents provides users with a hierarchical view of the content. Users click a topic listed in the table of contents, and are taken directly to the information they are looking for (see also Planning a table of contents).

Index and Keywords

A comprehensive keyword list or index is one of the most helpful navigational tools that you can provide for users. It can help them locate help topics even if they are unfamiliar with the terms used in your program. Planning an index gives you the background for setting up a useful index. Index Entries on Page shows how to review, add, edit and remove in the most direct way.

Search

A Search tab allows a user to search through every word in a compiled help (.chm) file. The Search tab lists words that appear only within the help topics. To find a topic, users must specify a word as it appears in the help topic they're trying to find.

Managing files

The Project Folder shows all files and folders in your project. You can add files to the Project Folder using the Help Editor, but also using Windows Explorer.

Customizing the Help Viewer

You can customize the HTML Help Viewer (which is used to display the .chm content) to support the functionality you want your users to have in your help system, such as favorites tab, advanced search and extra buttons.

Help Project Options

Help Project options and help viewer settings are stored in the .hhp file. All relevant settings can be set using the Project Options dialog available from the Backstage tab.

Publish compiled (.chm) or web based help

You can publish help as HTML HelpWeb Based Help, or printed Documentation in Word or PDF. 

Generating Topic Pages

A central element to achieve this is topic page generation by scanning the application's user interface. This is available as an add-in for Visual Studio 2005 and higher Winforms and WPF, VB6, and  MS Access. Using the add-in all topic pages are generatedin one go. The Help Capture tool can be used to generate topic pages of individual forms at run-time.

Help Generator authoring software