Microsoft Corp. announced that its standards-based HTML Help technology is available for free download (connect-time charges may apply). Beta versions of the Microsoft( HTML Help ActiveX(TM) Control, HTML Help Workshop and HTML Help Window are now available from the Microsoft Web site and the CompuServe HYPERTEXT forum (GO HYPERTEXT). HTML Help combines the rich visual and interactive experience of HTML and ActiveX technologies, publication-quality layout from cascading style sheets, and the rich feature set for online documentation provided by Microsoft WinHelp.
HTML Help is the new standard for online documentation for the Active Platform and, eventually, all Microsoft products. HTML Help combines informational content written in HTML with the rich feature set of WinHelp, a standard for online documentation, including table of contents, keyword index and full-text search. HTML is also used to store descriptions of the table of contents and keyword index using the WebMap format (previously known as Sitemap), part of the Web Collections proposal being reviewed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
HTML Help technology consists of the following components:
- HTML Help ActiveX Control. This provides the navigational user interface (e.g., table of contents, index and associative links) and additional functionality. Web authors can add this control to their sites and deliver detailed help to visitors. Software developers can use this control to deliver online documentation for their Web-based applications.
- Layout Engine. This component of Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.0 can be used with any browser or application that supports ActiveX.
- HTML Help Window. This allows software developers to display HTML in a customized, resizable window, independent of the user's browser.
- Compressed HTML. This combines all content types such as HTML, ActiveX Controls, Java(TM) applets, scripts, graphics, multimedia, full-text search indexes and keywords, and compresses them into a single file, reducing disk space requirements and simplifying deployment.
- Microsoft HTML Help Workshop. This is an authoring kit for HTML Help containing many of the tools necessary for creating and maintaining an HTML Help system.
The Layout Engine and Compressed HTML, along with the complete feature set for the beta release components, are scheduled to be available in the first quarter of 1997.
"Microsoft HTML Help technology reflects Microsoft's commitment to supporting and promoting open standards, including HTML, ActiveX and Java," said John Ludwig, vice president of the Internet platform and tools division at Microsoft. "Companies deploying major applications based on Internet technologies require professional-quality online documentation. HTML Help empowers Help authors with all the capabilities of HTML and the Internet, and introduces local and remote links, information types, efficient disk utilization and incremental enhancement of existing content."
Industry Supports HTML Help
Leading independent tool vendors that are supporting the HTML Help technology with their Help authoring tools include Blue Sky Software Corp., HyperAct Inc. and WexTech Systems Inc.
"Blue Sky Software is happy to fully support the emerging Microsoft HTML Help standard with its flagship products, RoboHELP 4 and WinHelp Office 4," said Jorgen Lien, president of Blue Sky Software . "The award-winning RoboHELP 4 bridges the gap between traditional Windows operating system-based Help and the new HTML-based Help. With its new 1 Click Single source technology, RoboHELP 4 automatically creates Microsoft HTML Help, Windows-based Help, printed documentation, and intranet and Internet Web sites, all from a single source. By choosing RoboHELP 4 today, Help authors are investing in a Help authoring tool for Windows-based Help that will carry them into the future of HTML-based Help."
"HyperAct offers two great products that support HTML Help -- SiteXtras and HTMheLp," said Reuben Halevi, president of HyperAct "HyperAct's upcoming SiteXtras 1.5 scans and analyzes HTML-based Web sites and creates a WebMap keyword index and table of contents. SiteXtras also offers HTML optimization, site-wide search and replace, and site maintenance reports. HTMheLp 4.0 converts WinHelp-based sources to HTML, converting WinHelp keyword and CNT files to WebMap keyword index and table of contents. HTMheLp maps RTF styles to HTML styles and converts links, pop-ups, graphics and popular macros. Customization options allow users to use frames and background images and to create graphic navigation bars and other popular HTML features. HTMheLp also converts HTML to WinHelp."
"Three aspects of Microsoft HTML Help are making our clients very excited," said Steve Wexler, president of WexTech Systems. "The first is that it is HTML-based, so Help authors can create rich content. The second is that it gives developers direct access to the Layout Engine in Microsoft Internet Explorer. This provides authors complete control over the Help system environment for Windows, Macintosh and UNIX. Finally, Microsoft's freely redistributable HTML Help ActiveX Control provides some great 'must-have' functionality. We're pleased to be providing support for this emerging standard in Documentation Studio and Helpsite."
Consultants specializing in online documentation are also finding that HTML Help lets them better meet their clients' requirements.
"Being able to use HTML for all online documentation delivery is a real cost benefit to my clients," said Mary Deaton of KNOWware , a consulting firm specializing in online information. "Writers can learn one authoring language to prepare content for Help, reference material, an intranet or the Internet. With ActiveX and the Visual Basic(R) programming system, Scripting Edition (VBScript), we can now create interactive multimedia within our online systems without having to change authoring environments. This opens up whole new vistas for delivering users information they need to be successful with software products."
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