Help+Manual News

Free Trial: Premium Pack Toolbox with Normalize Styles

The Toolbox application included with the Premium Pack skin suite is a Swiss Army knife for Help+Manual projects and skins as well as a configuration utility for the Premium Pack skins. The upcoming 3.23 version of Toolbox has a powerful new feature called Normalize Styles that can radically accelerate two important tasks:

  • Integrating content imported from HTML and CHM files into your project stylesheet
  • Removing inline/manual formatting to clean up your projects’ XML source for translation

This is already fully compatible with the new Tidy XML feature in the upcoming Help+Manual 7.3 update, so if you are already using the 7.3 beta you can use the latest version of Toolbox with it. You can download a free trial version of Toolbox with these features here and try it out before it is officially released with Premium Pack 3.23:

Premium Pack Toolbox Free Trial

If you are a registered Premium Pack user you can use the trial version without restrictions. Otherwise you can test it on Help+Manual projects with a maximum of 20 topics. The trial will not disable your current version of Toolbox if you have one and expires two weeks after installation.

Integrating imported HTML into your stylesheet

When you import HTML files or a CHM help file to a Help+Manual project your formatting comes in as inline or “manual” formatting that cannot be directly controlled by the styles in your project. Normally, you need to create styles based on the formatting and then manually apply them to all the paragraphs in your project where you want to use the style.

So long as the text imported from HTML or CHM is tagged with style names, Normalize Styles eliminates many hours of tedious work by doing this automatically. All you need is for a paragraph or any text within the paragraph to be tagged with a style name. It will then apply your selected paragraph style to the entire paragraph. At the same time it eliminates manual formatting so that your paragraphs are fully under the control of the project stylesheet. But it also optionally allows you to keep text already formatted with other styles and manual bold, italics and underlining. And you can also automatically apply specified styles to hyperlinks and toggle links.

 

Normalize entire project

The second tab of the Normalize Project Styles tool is called “Entire Project”. It automatically normalizes all the text in your entire project, removing manual formatting and putting everything under the control of the styles defined in your project stylesheet. This can be very useful when you are preparing your project for translation, because it significantly reduces the number of redundant inline XML tags and attributes that can make life more difficult for the translator.

This even applies if you are using the new Tidy XML feature introduced in Help+Manual 7.3, because your project may still contain a lot of manual formatting “cruft” accumulated during normal day-to-day work (and it is fully compatible with Tidy XML). In our tests, Normalize reduced the tag volume in a 750-topic project by a further 25%, even after Tidy XML had been applied.

If you use styles systematically, this function too can save you hours of tedious work because you no longer need to manually tidy up all the manually-formatted paragraphs in your project after locating them with Project Report. And here too, you can protect text already formatted with other styles and manual bold, underline and italics.

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Help+Manual 7.3 Beta with TidyXML

We are glad to announce that Help+Manual 7.3 Public Beta is available for download! Version 7.3 implements a slightly modified XML format that is more translation-friendly. We had announced this feature before, now you can try it for the first time.

You can download and install the 7.3 beta version like any previous 7.x update from this direct link:

http://download.ec-software.com/help-and-manual-setup-v730-beta.exe

The link will be kept active during the beta phase and will be updated 2 or 3 times a week.

 

About TidyXML

As you know, Help+Manual saves a project in XML format, enabling external translation programs to parse the XML and translate it. The XML code, that Help+Manual creates, however, is a bit more complicated than many translation programs would like to have it. It is best explained with an example…

Please run Help+Manual and paste the following 2 lines of text into a topic:

Now let’s switch the editor to “XML View” and have a look at the XML code created for these 2 lines:

 

The XML colored in yellow is the code created for the two lines. These are 2 paragraphs (<para> tags in XML) and several separate text elements (<text> tags in XML). A translation program that parses the XML code, does not see the visual representation like you do in Help+Manual. It sees the XML structure only and has to make sense of it.

 

Changing the XML format

Version 7.3 has a switch that you can activate to apply a new and cleaner (tidier) XML syntax. The switch applies per help project and is placed under Configuration > Common Properties > Miscellaneous Options.

To activate the function, perform the following steps:

  1. Make a backup of your help project (!)
  2. Make sure the backup can be restored any time
  3. Open the help project and navigate to the configuration section as shown below
  4. Enabe the option “Write translation-friendly XML“, then click “Apply to all topics

 

 

The difference in XML

The new XML syntax writes <text> tags only where necessary. If the text style is identical with the paragraph style, the text is simply placed between the <para>…</para> tags, making it much easier to read for an external translator. Explicit <text> tags are inserted if the text has a different format than the paragraph. Furthermore, style classes are inherited. The new XML syntax omits redundant “styleclass” attributes for <text> tags and links.

The entire XML structure becomes smaller and more readable.

This new XML structure, however, is not compatbile with older versions of Help+Manual. While you won’t lose content when opening such a converted help project with an older version of H&M, the style inheritance is not recognized and the format might look distorted. Do not open a converted project with an older version of Help+Manual!

 

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Using Help+Manual WebHelp on MS Azure

Experienced Help+Manual user Garry Robinson has just published a terrific tutorial explaining how he deploys and maintains Help+Manual WebHelp documentation on Microsoft Azure sites. In addition to the basics, he also explains how Dropbox and other similar services can be used to keep the site up to date.

Garry reports that the performance is outstanding, even with the lowest-tier Azure web service that he is using.

Visit the tutorial here:

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/publishing-websites-azure-garry-robinson

Azure website configuration

 

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Learn Technical Writing Online with Help and Manual

We’d like to point you to a new online training course about Technical Writing with Help+Manual, created by Subash Sarath, a technical writer, software developer and Help+Manual user.

This is an online class consisting of several dozens of video tutorials and is best described as a Technical Writing Course for Beginners using Help+Manual.  The focus is more on technical writing than on the nuts and bolts of Help+Manual.

Having used Help+Manual more than any of the other HATs, in the course I teach a fairly good amount of Help+Manual besides fundamentals of Technical Writing. If you or anyone you know is interested in learning Technical Writing or wants to become a Technical Writer, then this is the course for you. You may follow this link to the course.
Subash Sarath

The class curriculum includes among other chapters:

  • Technical Writing Style and Technical Writing Grammar
  • Formatting Content
  • Capturing and Editing Images from the screen
  • Creating more topics for your help file
  • Compiling and Generating the Online Help
  • Generating other forms of Help

 

The online course costs $225 regular (a special offer for $199 in December 2016 is planned) and offers unlimited access to all videos in the class.

Check out the link to the course with several short free preview videos:

http://learn-technical-writing-fast.teachable.com/p/become-an-awesome-technical-writer-with-help-manual

 

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Major Update: Premium Pack 3.20 and 3.21

Premium Pack version 3.20 is now available, and since the initial release we have also put out a small 3.21 maintenance release that corrects some issues reported by users. This is a free update for all current Premium Pack 3 users. It is the largest update to date, with significant new features and improvements for the V3 Responsive skins and the V2 skins for both WebHelp and EWriter books.

How to get the update:

You can download and install the updated version with the same download link and installation password from the mail you received when you purchased your copy of Premium Pack 3. If you no longer have this please contact support@ec-software.com and we will help you out.

See the Premium Pack product page for more details on Premium Pack 3 and visit our online store to purchase.

New in the V3 Responsive Skins

  • New handling of multiple TOC entries for topics
    Navigation now works perfectly for multiple TOC entries for the same topic. Previous, next and breadcrumb links go to the correct TOC entries, not to the first entry for the topic.  Chapters consisting of a single topic work correctly. You can also link to specific TOC entries with both URLs and topic links.
  • Support for user JS code, URL parameters and session variables
    Add code to be executed automatically after each topic loads. Pass parameters to your code with URLs and store them in session variables that persist for the current session or across sessions. Hide and show topic content on the basis of session variable settings.
  • Tap images and layout tables for mobile devices
    Tap images make normal images behave like toggles on mobile devices. A double-tap expands the image to the screen size with pinch-zoom. Layout tables hide tables that would break mobile layouts and replaces them with a tap bar. Tapping displays the full scrollable table on top of the help. You just need to add a class name to activate both functions.
  • Support for Google Web Fonts with H+M editor integration
    You now integrate Google Web Fonts in your WebHelp output and also use them directly in Help+Manual so that you see the fonts you are using while you are editing. Setting them up and using them is quick and easy.
  • Expand All option for Keyword Index pane in desktop mode
    Setting the new INDEX_DESK_EXPAND variable to true a fully-expanded keyword index is now generated in desktop browsers.
  • SmartCache for topics and popups
    Topics and popups are cached after the first visit in the current session, but the first access always loads from the server to ensure the user never sees an old version.
  • Support for formatted headers from the topic
    Include the formatted header from the topic in the header of V3 skins, enabling the inclusion of images inserted in individual headers. This is activated with a new Skin Build Options setting in the Publish screen.

New in the V2 WebHelp + EWriter skins

  • Support for user JS code, URL parameters and session variables
    Add code to be executed automatically after each topic loads. Pass parameters to your code with URLs and store them in session variables that persist for the current session or across sessions. Hide and show topic content on the basis of session variable settings.
  • Elimination of Flash for copying permalinks
    The Copy Permalink function no longer users an Adobe Flash component. This has been replaced by modern HTML5 functions. Among other things, this prepares for Google Chrome’s upcoming blocking of background Flash usage.
  • Preservation of help state during and between sessions
    Navigation pane width and state, header state and the current scroll positions of the keyword index and search results are now preserved for the user during the current session. Navigation pane width and header state are preserved between sessions.

New in the Premium Pack Toolbox

  • Editing templates for skins with spaces in their names didn’t work in some editors like Sublime Text. The editor opened multiple blank files with the names of the template name components.
  • Added a sortable Last Edit Date column to the Baggage Files section so that recently edited files can easily be sorted to the top of the list.
  • A large range of executable Windows script and batch file extensions are now automatically identified as editable “code” files when they are in the baggage so that they are opened in the code editor when you double-click them.
  • Changing build options on new baggage files added in the current session didn’t activate the Save Project button.
  • Changing the ID of build options in skins showed incorrect dialogs that needed to be clicked away before the ID could be changed.

Fixes added with the 3.21 Maintenance Update

  • V3 skins, FOUC:
    On some slow servers there could be a FOUC (Flash Of Unformatted Content) on the first load of the WebHelp.
  • V3 skins, IE bug:
    If the user had DOM Storage turned off in Internet Explorer options the WebHelp would come up completely unformatted. This could also happen on older versions of IE with buggy support for DOM Storage.
  • V3 Skins, tooltips:
    There were some hard-coded tooltips in the navigation buttons of the topic header so that changing the variable definitions didn’t change the tooltips.
  • V3 Skins, right-click on topic links:
    A right-click on a topic link executed the link and then displayed the context menu. This now only displays the context menu.
  • WebHelp/EWriter skins, Boxed Aqua skin:
    The file name for the box header background was hard-coded in the template and could not be changed with the configuration variables settings
  • WebHelp/EWriter skins, print preview:
    Print Preview failed to complete correctly due to a conflict with the new support for session variables.
  • WebHelp/EWriter:
    Identification of DOM Storage support for the new session variables updated to account for weaknesses in Internet Explorer.
  • Language Files:
    Some minor corrections in the German versions of the language files.
  • Premium Pack Toolbox:
    An incorrect error message was displayed when removing project and HTML options from the skin. Undoing such a removal now automatically restores the removed value if done while still in the same screen.
  • Premium Pack Toolbox:
    The program could hang on Open Project if the last folder visited was a network folder that had become unavailable, for example on a laptop no longer connected to the network.

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TidyXML and the Roadmap to Help+Manual 7.3

This topic is all about translation of Help+Manual projects. As you know, Help+Manual saves a project in XML format, enabling external translation programs to parse the XML and translate it.

The XML code, that Help+Manual creates, however, is a bit more complicated than many translation programs would like to have it. And we are going to change this with the next update(s). I mentioned this detail in the 7.2 maintenance update already, here’s more about it. It is best explained with an example…

Please run Help+Manual and paste the following 2 lines of text into a topic:

tidyxml-pic1

 

Now let’s switch the editor to “XML View” and have a look at the XML code created for these 2 lines:

tidyxml-pic2

 

The XML colored in yellow is the code created for the two lines. These are 2 paragraphs (<para> tags in XML) and several separate text elements (<text> tags in XML). A translation program that parses the XML code, does not see the visual representation like you do in Help+Manual. It sees the XML structure only and has to make sense of it.

What makes it difficult for translation programs and translators are the <text> tags in particular. It would be much easier to read and less error-prone to translate if the XML structure was more simple and – nested. For example, the very same text could be represented by an XML code like this:

tidyxml-pic3

 

You see in the picture above, that there is just a simple <para> tag that starts the paragraph. There is not even a style attribute to it, which makes Help+Manual assume that the paragraph style will be formatted with the default style “Normal”. Text follows immediately after the <para> tag, no extra <text> tag is used here. The text will as well be formatted with the default style “Normal”, to be exact: with the same style that is already defined by the <para> tag. Just when a text part with a different style comes along, an additional nested <text> tag with modified style attributes is inserted.

This simplification of the XML code makes it much easier to translate those two sentences with an external translation program. It’s not only more compact, but the translation program doesn’t have to worry about moving plain text around. It’s just plain text between and opening <para> and a closing </para> tag. The same rule applies to links and other objects with meta information: easier to read, easier to re-group text, easier to translate.

There is just one caveat with this new more compact XML code: it is not backwards-compatible with older versions of Help+Manual. So we decided to implement it in 3 steps:

  1. Version 7.2 (that last update out already) implemented the first step and has a modified XML reader to be able to read the simplified XML code. If you have installed 7.2 already, give it a try! Open H&M, switch to the “XML view” and paste the XML code below into the XML editor:
    <para>This is <text style="text-decoration:underline;" 
    translate="true">text</text> with style Normal. The word &quot;
    text&quot; is underlined.</para>
    <para styleclass="Heading1">This is <text style="text-decoration:underline;" 
    translate="true">text</text> with style Heading1. The word &quot;
    text&quot; is underlined.</para>

    When you switch back to WYSIWYG view, the result should look more or less like in the first picture – depending on your own style settings for “Normal” and “Heading1”. Version 7.2, however, does not write this XML code. That’s planned for the next update.

  2. Version 7.3 will implement an optional switch for TidyXML. We expect a relatively long beta-phase for this update and the TidyXML switch will remain off by default and can be switched on per help project for extensive testing. If you don’t do anything, Help+Manual 7.3 will behave as before. If you switch it on, it will create the new XML code.
  3. After version 7.3, we plan to keep the switch, but might eventually switch it on by default for new projects, once the function is mature and widely tested.

 

Help+Manual’s XML code has been back- and forward compatible through many versions. We have introduced additional attributes, new objects and new features (think: publishing tasks) over the years, but basically, you can still open a help project created with version 7.2 with an old version 5.0 of Help+Manual. It will work, topic content is the same.

The new TidyXML format breaks this backward compatibility and the step-by-step introduction decreases the risk that people who still work with older versions will run into a problem when opening or editing content.

Stay tuned for the announcement of a 7.3 beta to test it. We will publish it in this blog.

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Help+Manual 7.2.0 Build 4033

We have updated Help+Manual 7.2 to build 4033 by today. This build-update fixes a problem with the project report and with the table of contents.

Selection of multiple topics in the table of contents with CTRL + mouse click did not work. Several users also reported that the project report did not work in the local browser and generated just an empty page. This bug was new with 7.2.0 that has not been detected during the beta phase, unfortunately. We are sorry for the inconvenience!

Please download the update to Help+Manual 7.2 build 4033 from our download page and install over your existing installation of Help+Manual.

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Help+Manual 7.2 Maintenance Update

We are glad to announce the release of Help+Manual 7.2 ! After v7.1 earlier this year, this update is another big “minor” update that is free for all 7.xx users. Plus, there is an important update for the Premium Pack to version 3.20!

XSS vulnerability in Webhelp fixed

Version 7.2 fixes an XSS vulnerability in Help+Manual’s Webhelp output (standard skins only). It was possible to inject arbitrary Javascript commands by creating a fake url that pointed to a Webhelp system. Premium Pack skins were not affected by this problem. We strongly recommend to update your version and re-publish any Webhelp output that is placed on a public web server.

New features and modifications

  • The Keyword Index Tool (available in Pro/Server only) has an XML export and import function.
  • PDF/manual designer: the options page for the PDF keyword index contains a new setting “Avoid duplicate page numbers in Index”. This option is on by default and will avoid printing the same page number multiple times if the same keyword occurs in two or more consecutive topics that happen to start on the same PDF page.
  • Program Options: configuration setting for temporary compiler files (CHM, eBooks) implemented. This can improve compilation speed when the help project is located on a server share with a slow connection.
  • Projects saved in Dropbox are now permitted (uncompressed HMXP projects are opened read-only, compressed HMXZ projects are editable with warning).
  • Webhelp/CHM/eBooks: when doing a HTML-based export, H&M checks for duplicate IDs (anchors, image, table, toggle, videos) and reports a duplicate ID in the compiler log. Also implemented: <p> tags with “Normal” style now have a dedicated class name.
  • Project Report / Styles Report: this report always reported code examples as individually formatted text (they of course are). Now, the “Code Example” style is reported as individual formatting only if there are more changes than font color and font style (bold/italic/underline). Other styles are reported as individual formatting if there are more changes than just the font style (bold/italic/underline).
  • Improved multí-monitor handling: Dialog windows are positioned relative to the main window – this improves multiple instances on different monitors. Please note that after the switch to version 7.2, the initial dialog window positions might be wrong on your computer because of this change. This automatically fixes itself when the dialog windows are repositioned.
  • Replace images with copy & paste: when the editor selection marks exactly 1 image or toggle image and you hit CTRL+V or click Paste, H&M asks to replace the picture and saves it under the original file name. This makes it easier to update screenshots with copy & paste, for all properties of the image (caption, zoom, tags, hotspots, etc) are kept intact.
  • Spelling check: updated format of OpenOffice 4 spell checker dictionaries is supported.
  • Topic options: the drop-down field for the topic anchor (available for TOC items) can now be manually edited, it is possible to enter a non-existing anchor. If a TOC entry points to a non-existing anchor, the topic anchor field shows a red background to indicate the missing anchor.
  • PDF/print: word break options for slashes and backslashes / \ were changed – the slash and backslash does no longer permit a break after. Example: this line does/not break after “does/”.
  • ePUB cover images: IPP images are now supported as ePUB cover images. If an IPP image contains text objects (text, callouts, buttons) with variables, the variables are replaced and the image is repainted before it gets exported.
  • TidyXML: the XML topic parser is prepared for reading a more compact and more translation-friendly XML format that we are going to implement in the next update after 7.2. More on this new feature in a later post on this blog!
  • Windows EXE eBooks: plenty of new features!

New features in EWriter eBooks

H&M’s output format “EWriter eBooks” (self-executable eBooks for Windows) is getting more and more popular as a replacement format for CHM files. We have implemented new features to make it more flexible:

  • Separate viewer and data files: Help+Manual can optionally output the eBook data and the executable viewer separately. If a help system consists of several books, this saves space and makes it easier to update the data.
  • The eBook viewer has larger menu button and larger icons for systems with 120, 144 and 192 dpi. The buttons switch automatically on high-resolution monitors.
  • New shortcut: CTRL+0 changes zoom back to 100%.
  • The default extension for topic file names was always “.htm”. Now the eBooks take the default extension from the Webhelp configuration.
  • eBook menu configuration: when entering a new entry and changing it to “Menu Divider”, the entry kept its previous caption, which resulted in a menu text in the final EXE eBook, not a divider.

Bug fixes

  • Webhelp standard skins: XXS vulnerability fixed
  • Find & Replace: partial replacement of images names could run into an endless loop.
  • PDF: page referrer icons were too large on Windows systems > 96 dpi. Furthermore, the page icon is now tied to the preceeding text link and cannot accidentially break to a new line.
  • PDF: when a nested snippet was used inside a snippet that was placed on a hard-coded manual page, the nested snippet used style mode “Screen” and not style mode “Print”.
  • PDF, table printing: if a table with visible borders was nested within another table, the last cell border at the bottom of inner table was not painted correctly.
  • HTML (all HTML-based publishing formats): if an image with hotspots was placed on a paragraph with hanging indent, the hotspots were set off by the indent.
  • Help context numbers > 2147483647 were not exported to Webhelp and EXE eBooks.
  • Dropdown toggles: if the toggle text/heading was made up of multiple styles, parts of the toggle did not work.
  • Variables in the field <%TOPIC_DESCRIPTION%> were not resolved.
  • Team Foundation Server: H&M now saves the password.
  • Webhelp, full-text search: when compiling Webhelp from the command line with multiple instances of Help+Manual, all running at the same time, it was possible that the full-text seach index was not created.
  • SVG images: text drawing problem with overlapping text fixed.
  • Bugfix in Winhelp (.hlp) import for damaged images, that could crash the import.
  • AuthorIT import: help context numbers were wrong.

Major Premium Pack 3.2 Update

Together with Help+Manual 7.2 we have also released version 3.20 of the Premium Pack add-on. This is a major upgrade with a number of powerful new features and improvements. These include a WordPress plugin, support for Google Web Fonts, advanced support for developers and new ways of displaying tables and images on mobile devices.

Download

Please download the update to Help+Manual 7.2 from our download page and install over your existing installation of Help+Manual.

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Delphi Developer Days 2016

Being Delphi developers ourselfs, we are a proud sponsor of the Delphi Developer Days!

Delphi Developer Days 2016 is a four-city Delphi tour in the United States, Europe, and Scandinavia. Each Delphi Developer Days event includes two days of Delphi sessions with Cary Jensen and Nick Hodges. They present both joint sessions, in which they explore in-depth topics together, as well as simultaneous tracks, where they break out into separate rooms to present diverse topics. All attendees will receive a Delphi Developer Days course book, containing more than 300 pages of material presented during Delphi Developer Days.

Chicago, Illinois: November 14-15, 2016
Copenhagen, Denmark: November 24-25, 2016
Frankfurt, Germany: November 28-29, 2016
Baltimore, Maryland: December 5-6, 2016

dddlogo
Delphi Developer Days 2016

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Publisher & Product Awards: H+M Is the Top Help Tool on ComponentSource

cs-award-2016-product-top-100-large

cs-award-2016-publisher-top-50-large
We are proud and excited to announce that EC Software has once again received both the Top 50 Publisher and Top 100 Product Awards from ComponentSource, one of the leading online shops for professional development software.

In addition to this, Help+Manual is now the top-selling help authoring tool at ComponentSource by a wide margin. Help+Manual ranks 67th in the overall sales ranking for all products in the ComponentSource store.

ComponentSource Publisher Awards page:

https://www.componentsource.com/help-support/bestselling-publisher-awards-2016

 

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