Help+Manual News

HelpXplain Animated Infographics Beta Program

Try out HelpXplain now by joining the beta program

HelpXplain is an exciting new program from EC Software that takes the pain out of making HowTo tutorials and other animated infographics for the web. You can see some examples and join the beta program here:

http://helpxplain.com/

HelpXplain takes the pain out of making HowTo tutorials

HelpXplain can make a whole range of different web-based infographics, but for documentation authors its ability to make animated HowTo tutorials is nothing short of revolutionary. Instead of trying to get every step of a “performance” right you just make a series of screenshots that the program then links together in an editable screencast with an animated, editable mouse cursor. Let me put what this means this into perspective from the point of view of a documentation author.

From typewriter to word processor

I’ve been working with HelpXplain for a while now while writing the help for it. For me as a help author there is one aspect of it that stands out from all the others. It reminds me of the huge aha experience I had the very first time I saw a word processor. The one thought I had was: “I am never going to have to retype anything ever again.” That was huge. For writers of all kinds, it is still 99.9% percent of the benefit of using a word processor instead of a typewriter. Everything else that modern writing tools do is nice to have, but all those additional functions are still nothing compared to the ability to edit and change your text without retyping everything.

From video screencasts to HelpXplain

HelpXplain is the first time that I have had a similar experience as a documentation author. It is really comparable. Like everyone else, I experimented with using video screencast tools like Camtasia and Captivate. Like everyone else outside of very large, very rich companies, I abandoned them very quickly. They only make sense if you have a huge amount of time to work on little video tutorials, and if someone is willing to pay you a reasonable hourly rate for that time. Both of those things are simply unrealistic expectations for most technical writers working in today’s market. It just doesn’t happen. You’re not going to have that much time to work on a tutorial, and even if you do nobody is going to pay you for it.

Video: When you had to do it just right

But that’s not the only problem with video screencast tools: They are very stressful and thus unpleasant to work with, because you have to get everything right. If you make a mistake while making the video you have to start again. And again. And again. And again. And if you ever need to add something you have to remake the entire screencast. Again. I found this so unpleasant that I would do pretty much anything to avoid having to make video tutorials even if I did have the time and reasonable payment for them. To be honest, I would probably even pay to not have to make them.

HelpXplain: Work at your own speed, correct later at leisure

That is why HelpXplain is such a revelation for me, personally, quite separate from the fact that this is an EC Software product. Once you get the hang of it, making little HowTo tutorials is literally as easy as making a series of screenshots — which is what we are doing anyway. And it is completely stress-free: I don’t have to get my timing right and I don’t have to worry about needing to set up everything right. Between screenshots I can take my time to make any changes I want in the program. And not only that: If I ever need to change or add something I can do that at any time, without having to redo the whole thing.


HelpXplain New Dialog

There is no doubt that making tutorials with HelpXplain is radically faster and more pleasant than struggling with a video screencast tool. In fact, for myself, I could say that it is infinitely faster, because with HelpXplain I am actually making the tutorials, whereas with video screencast tools I wouldn’t be making them at all. Not in the real world.

HelpXplain can do a lot more. But if you’re a documentation author, taking the pain out of making HowTo tutorials for documentation simply makes it a must-have.

Tim Green

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Help+Manual 7.4.0 Released!

We are excited to announce the release of Help+Manual 7.4,0 and encourage you to install this update over your existing version of Help+Manual. Version 7.4.0 is a free update for all registered 7.xx users.

Fix for the Windows 10 menu-display slowdown

A couple of weeks ago, several users reported that the display of popup menus had slowed down considerably, while nothing has changed in Help+Manual. It turned out that a recent Windows 10 update is responsible for the slowdown: in particular, it is the tiny popup animation in menus, that is delayed considerably.

We have addressed this issue in version 7.4 by removing the tiny popup animation from menus, if the corresponding option in Help+Manual is set. If you are using Windows 10 and find that popup menus have become slower, please enable this option in Program Options:

 

Changes in 7.4.0

PDF Output

  • TrueType fonts located in TrueType collection packages can now be embedded. Package disassembly and embedding works automatically when you opt to embed TrueType fonts.
  • Before version 7.4, TrueType collection fonts were embedded as Type3 fonts, which generated a slightly blurry typeface. The Type3 fallback option is still present, but is used only, if a TrueType font fails to embed.
  • Italic simulation has been improved. Some fonts (example: Tahoma Italic) do not exist. The italic version is simulated in Windows and to achieve the same effect in PDF, Help+Manual simulates the italic version in PDF as well. However, characters were often too dense. The simulation has been improved.
  • Font Awesome: this is a popular custom symbol font, that uses mostly Unicode characters. However, it is not a “symbol” font per se, but declares itself as a regular font. Symbol characters written with Font Awesome could not be embedded in PDF. Now, Font Awesome is treated as a “symbol font” and if you enable the option “Export Symbol text as glyphs“, you should get the symbols in PDF.

Miscellaneous Changes and Bugfixes

  • Performance optimization (program options switch) now affects the animation of context menus: the menus are no longer faded in, when this option is set. A recent Windows 10 update has caused menu animations to slow down considerably.
  • Webhelp: the Zoom Search script has been modified, the Zoom search entry field now contains an autofocus attribute.
  • HTML Styles: Nested tables sometimes inherited the style from the outer table, if the inner table did not define a table class, but the outer table did.
  • Synchronize tool: bugs in synchronizing the folder structure are fixed
  • AuthorIT import: images had the wrong title text
  • Month names in genitive form did not work. This value can be retrieved by the DATELONG variable and DATE(format).
  • eWriter eBooks (menu editor): custom page link addresses were not displayed.
  • Word/DOCX export: Images with multi-line captions are now supported and images in tables now shrink (like in PDF), if the table is too wide for the document. In some rare cases, images with captions were clipped in Word. Bugfix: images with captions that started with a blank line, caused the Word document to be invalid, it could not be opened.

November 12, 2018: Update (Build 4603) 

  • This update solves a problem with the Italian OpenOffice spell checker dictionary.

 

Please download the update to Help+Manual 7.4.0 from our download page and install over your existing installation of Help+Manual.

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eWriter 1.2 released – Free HTML-to-eBook Converter

eWriter is a converter application to turn HTML pages into a self-contained Windows executable. This output format is completely integrated into Help+Manual as eWriter eBooks. The eWriter converter application is the free stand-alone version.

About eWriter

eWriter creates portable websites in a single compact Windows file with an integrated server and viewer. eWriter “books” can be viewed on any Windows device, even on old and outdated versions of Windows. They support direct contextual references from your applications to display specific pages and to scroll to anchors on your pages. Unlike a normal website, repeated calls to an eWriter book will all open in the same window.

How to create an eBook with eWriter

This version 1.2 update now includes the option to create data-only eBooks that can be opened with a separate viewer – similar to the functionality in Help+Manual.

Download

You can download eWriter stand-alone edition directly from our website:

https://www.helpandmanual.com/ewriter.html

 

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Help+Manual 7.4.0 (Beta) addresses PDF Font Embedding

Help+Manual 7.4.0 Beta is available for download from this direct link:

https://www.helpandmanual.com/download/help-and-manual-setup-v740.exe

Please note that this is a beta version, not a stable release.

Changes and New Features

Version 7.4 addresses mostly PDF export. We have implemented font embedding for TrueType fonts that are part of a TrueType Collection.

Most fonts in Windows are TrueType fonts. And most TrueType fonts are stored in a separate font file with the file extension .ttf. To save space, some TrueType fonts are bundled in TrueType collections, font files ending with .ttc. These font collections contain more than one TrueType font (character descriptions are shared). To embed such a font into PDF, the collection package needs to be disassembled and the single TrueType font must be repackaged for embedding. This was not possible in version 7.3.6 and earlier, and is now up for testing: all TrueType fonts should now be embedded properly, whether they are located in a single font file or part of a font collection.

When you test version 7.4 beta, please change your PDF export settings as shown in the figure below:

If you find font embedding problems, please report them to our support!

Detailed changes in 7.4.0 Beta

  • TrueType fonts located in TrueType collection packages can now be embedded. Package disassembly and embedding works automatically when you opt to embed TrueType fonts.
  • Before version 7.4, TrueType collection fonts were embedded as Type3 fonts, which generated a slightly blurry typeface. The Type3 fallback option is still present, but is used only, if a TrueType font fails to embed.
  • Italic simulation has been improved. Some fonts (example: Tahoma Italic) do not exist. The italic version is simulated in Windows and to achieve the same effect in PDF, Help+Manual simulates the italic version in PDF as well. However, characters were often too dense. The simulation has been improved.
  • Font Awesome: this is a popular custom symbol font, that uses mostly Unicode characters. However, it is not a “symbol” font per se, but declares itself as a regular font. Symbol characters written with Font Awesome could not be embedded in PDF. Now, Font Awesome is treated as a “symbol font” and if you enable the option “Export Symbol text as glyphs“, you should get the symbols in PDF.

 

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Premium Pack 3.45 Update

Version 3.45 of the Help+Manual Premium Pack add-on adds a new set of V3 WebHelp and EWriter skins using the popular Samurai Red color theme and corrects some minor issues.

How to Get the Premium Pack Update:

You can download and install the updated version with the credentials you received when you purchased. 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 Samurai Red Skins

Changes and Fixes

More information

See the Premium Pack information page for general details and purchase information and the Premium Pack web-based documentation for full instructions.

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Help+Manual 7.3.6 Maintenance Update

As part of our commitment to continuous improvement, we have released a maintenance update for Help+Manual 7.3,6. We encourage you to install this maintenance release over your existing version of Help+Manual.

 

Bug Fixes and Improvements in 7.3.6

General / User Interface

  • Project report with unused images: toggle icons for expanded view were reported as “unused”, although they were in fact used by the project.
  • Dropdown toggles: if a dedicated “Print” icon was specified for the toggle object, the icon file was not automatically copied to the project folder.
  • Publishing Tasks Dialog: The More menu has an additional entry to directly open the specified output folder of the selected task. Bug fix: task options were not saved for EXE eBooks.
  • Insert Image Hotspots dialog: DEL key did not work in edit fields

HTML Publishing

  • YouTube videos did no longer work in CHM files: Because of changes on the YouTube servers, that dropped support for MS Internet Explorer 9. When viewing a CHM file, the display engine in the HTML Help viewer is MSIE. The internal MSIE viewer is now by default elevated to run as IE10, which fixes the problem with YouTube videos in CHM files.
  • Inline CSS in HTML-based export formats: We have removed most of the (remaining) inline CSS for bullet lists, numbered lists and tables. Help+Manual now exports lists as text with classes, referring to the paragraph classes they belong to. When exporting “lists as lists” (not recommended), Help+Manual does not apply any inline CSS anymore, to make it easier to format list with custom global CSS.
    Tables are exported with style classes: tables refer to global table styles instead of using inline CSS.
  • Date and Time variables: The variable <%DATELONG%> now returns month names in the genitive form, instead of the nominative form.  In English and many other Roman languages, there is no difference between the genitive and the nominative form, so you might not notice any change. In some languages like Russian, however, the months are spelled and pronounced differently in genitive form.
    Furthermore, we have implemented a new formatted variable: <%DATE(formatstring)%>
  • Webhelp export: Topic IDs that start with an underscore (“_”) are now excluded from the sitemap. These topics are generally excluded from the full-text search and should not occur in the sitemap, either.
  • Wingdings bullet #158 was internally saved as #382 and was exported wrong in HTML
  • HTML export (all formats): The list of baggage files was exported too early. It was not possible to overwrite the default CSS file (default.css) with a custom version, because that CSS was created after the baggage files export.
  • EPUB and Kindle eBooks: In the page template and TOC template defaults, the white background color “#FFFFFF” has been removed. In the default CSS style sheet, the black text color for base styles has been removed. Both changes should enable the ePUB reader to switch the colors in night mode.

PDF Publishing

  • Better integration of Type3 font encoding. Vertical offset for the Segoe UI font in Type3 embedding mode fixed.
  • Some rare character spacing problems fixed
  •  If the specified print manual template does not exist, Help+Manual stops with an error instead of gracefully using the default template.
  • Bug with multiple IFDEFs in single-column tables fixed: if the first item was an IFDEF and the last item was an END and there were multiple IF-END but not nested, the row was removed.

 

Update Build 4521 (July 3, 2018):

  • Small bugfix for XML browser preview of project source files
  • Table header colors were not exported for tables without style

 

Please download the update to Help+Manual 7.3.6 from our download page and install over your existing installation of Help+Manual.

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Premium Pack 3.44 Maintenance Update

Version 3.44 of the Help+Manual Premium Pack add-on is a maintenance update. It adds a couple of minor new features and corrects some issues reported by users.

How to Get the Premium Pack Update:

You can download and install the updated version with the credentials you received when you purchased. 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.

Changes and Fixes

More information

See the Premium Pack information page for general details and purchase information and the Premium Pack web-based documentation for full instructions.

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New share buttons on our news blog

Today we implemented the social media plugin Shariff, which enables website users to share their favorite content without compromising their privacy.

Facebook, Google+ and Twitter supply official sharing code snippets. These original share buttons automatically transmit data of your visitors to the social network sites as soon as they visit your website. Visitors do not even need to click on a share button for this and therefore have no choice, if they want their data to be sent.

The German computer magazine CT has developed Shariff (/ˈʃɛɹɪf/), a social media plugin that fulfills the strict data protection laws in Germany and the European Union.

For more information about the Shariff project check out the original GitHub project page.

These social media buttons below are for your convenience – a single click will share this post to your favorite social media site. But as long as you don’t click any of these buttons, they won’t leak visitor information to 3rd party sites. In other words: Facebook has no idea that you are currently viewing this page. If we used the regular Facebook share button, they would know.

Enjoy your privacy while reading this blog!

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Help+Manual 7.3.5 Maintenance Update

As part of our commitment to continuous improvement, we have released a maintenance update for Help+Manual 7.3,5. We encourage you to install this maintenance release over your existing version of Help+Manual.

Known Issues and Bug Fixes in 7.3.5

  • PDF: a few minor problems fixed – keyword references sometimes not clickable, font embedding problem with TrueType fonts, page referrers not aligned properly when using the PDF/A option. Two minor glitches in the manual designer have been solved as well.
  • HTML Help/CHM: internal script has been updated to fix the problem that full-text search words contained in text toggles did not expand the toggle objects automatically.
  • Find & Replace: when searching for images, the found and selected image was sometimes not visible, but outside the viewport.
  • Topic Editor: Copy & paste of multiple table cells had slowed down the topic editor after mulitple paste operations. Protected text was difficult to read if the protected text span multiple words on a justified paragraph.
  • Custom topic status:  when changing the text of a custom status, the change is now propagated to topics as well.
  • Feature images: when a feature image was missing, the publishing report did not report an error and the reference for the missing image was still included
  • Project Report: to function to move unused images to a backup folder did not work if the list of images was very long

Please download the update to Help+Manual 7.3.5 from our download page and install over your existing installation of Help+Manual.

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Premium Pack 3.42/3.43 Maintenance Update

Versions 3.42/3.43 of the Help+Manual Premium Pack add-on is primarily a maintenance update. It is recommended for all Premium Pack users because it corrects several small but potentially annoying issues.

How to Get the Premium Pack Update:

You can download and install the updated version with the credentials you received when you purchased. 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.

3.43 Additional Corrections

V3 Skins Maintenance Update

Extended support for the full version of the Zoom web search indexer

More information

See the Premium Pack information page for general details and purchase information and the Premium Pack web-based documentation for full instructions.

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