Solutions for In-Program Help and Demos for Health Industry Backend Apps?
October 13, 2004 5:24 PM   Subscribe

I have been asked to develop in-program help and demos for an IT company (working in the Health Industry, backend stuff).

a) For the help system, what's the best approach? I know there's windows help format, html help and other (more) proprietary stuff, but have no experience with any of them (I have plenty of experience with HTML, CSS and Flash). What help format / application would you choose? Portability and easy updating are pluses. End users will be mostly on Windows.

b) For the demos I'm thinking RoboDemo, but wonder if there's anything easier, or opensource, or some other reason to choose it instead of R.D?
posted by signal to Computers & Internet (4 answers total)
For the help system I'd personally go with plain ol' HTML+CSS, using standard web dev tools, rather than RoboHelp. However, a lot is going to depend on what the developers have already done.

Mind you, it's been a fair while (years) since I had to do help systems.
posted by aramaic at 5:59 PM on October 13, 2004

RoboHelp is bloated and overengineered and really only useful for help authors who have a pathological aversion to writing any markup or code whatsoever and want to do everything in Word.

The MS free download HTML Help Workshop is all you really need if you know your way around HTML/CSS and can keep a directory hierarchy organized. It just puts your HTML help files in the standard MS help interface by wrapping them in a .chm file and adding the regular contents/index tabs. You canb learn how it all works in a day or so. The old MS .hlp format has been pretty much superceded by HTML help, thankfully. The Windows help API, especially in .NET development also assumes .chm format, these days, so the application developers might thank you for that, too.

If by "portability" you mean the ability to distribute and install the help files independently of the application(s) they support, .chm is definitely the way to go in Windows.

The "mostly on Windows" part worries me. If you need a fully featured help system that's multi-platform, your only choice is a browser based something that you'll probably have to engineer from scratch, and that's more work.

I'm not very familiar with demo production, but I know some folks who like DemoShield.
posted by normy at 11:28 PM on October 13, 2004

RoboDemo is bloated that's why Macromedia are developing captivate
posted by X-00 at 11:51 PM on October 13, 2004

The "mostly on Windows" bit smells fishy to me, too. Have you looked at DocBook? I personally think it's got only minor advantages over coding up a directory structure full of HTML, but if you're potentially targetting multiple document formats it might be worthwhile. Of course, you won't get any context sensitive help from your application apart from creating links to the appropriate pages of documentation, but I don't know how important that would be for your application.

I don't know a thing about building sales demos, so I'll stay out of that.
posted by majick at 11:58 PM on October 13, 2004

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