Lynn Gold (figmo) wrote,
Lynn Gold
figmo

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Behind again, but for a good reason

Last week I was so busy writing for work I got behind in LJ again.

The assignment? Create some kind of MS Windows-based online help system for a product. I was handed this task last Tuesday with a deadline of Friday, but preferably Thursday.

Given my background (primarily UNIX with some Mac), this is like the equivalent of saying, "We want you to learn Farsi or Arabic, but we don't know which, even though they look alike to us. Oh, and by the way, you have to be fluent in the "right" language by Friday."

I checked into the filkhaven chat room looking for help and found it.
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Last week I was so busy writing for work I got behind in LJ again.

The assignment? Create some kind of MS Windows-based online help system for a product. I was handed this task last Tuesday with a deadline of Friday, but preferably Thursday.

Given my background (primarily UNIX with some Mac), this is like the equivalent of saying, "We want you to learn Farsi or Arabic, but we don't know which, even though they look alike to us. Oh, and by the way, you have to be fluent in the "right" language by Friday."
<LJ-CUT TEXT="How I accomplished this task.">
I checked into the <lj comm="filkhaven"> chat room looking for help and found it. <LJ-USER="the_magician"> pointed me at some Microsoft stuff -- in particular, HTML Help Workshop. This program proved utterly useless for developing help, as it was totally non-intuitive, its help was not helpful, and it choked on vanilla HTML files.

The next day someone else on the channel (Mary Bertke) pointed me at where I could download a demo version of "Robohelp," which is the Gold Standard of Microsoft-style online help generation. Robohelp was good for creating the HTML files, but when I used it to compile them (yes, you have to <I>compile</I> Microsoft HTML Help), the compiler put a tag line in red on the bottom of every page that inferred, "This person used a demo version of Robohelp to generate these pages. If they weren't such a cheapskate they'd buy it."

This is all fine and dandy, but Robohelp costs <I>over $2k</I> for <I>just one license</I>! Given that I'm contracted to a startup, and given the tininess of the help (around 10 pages), I cannot justify telling the company to buy it. Hence we return to HTML Help Workshop.

Once I figured out how to not get HTML Help Workshop to generate the TOC (it was rendering it backwards), I was able to generate and preview help. I also figured out where the pseudo-HTML source files lived so I could tweak them using Emacs. The index was much easier to work with in Emacs than in either tool, so I did it that way.

Once generated, I was able to send it back into work, and they were most pleased.

After that I "only" had five books to finish up and get out to review before I left Friday. Actually, I could probably have put them off till Monday or Tuesday, but I chose to push and get them done so I could a) enjoy Silicon with no pressure hanging over me and b) coast through this week.
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