Hacking Author-it Webhelp

Finding the right solution for a problem isn’t always easy but sometimes, if you are very lucky, the solution will fall straight into your lap. Such was the case with our switch to Author-it even though we didn’t fully realise it at the time. I’ve covered our reasons for switching from FrameMaker to Author-it elsewhere, and once we had converted our content we started to look at how we could get the most from the other output formats available. We already had ideas on how we could use the provided HTML based publishing formats to provide a better solution to the problem of finding information, and we were planning on generate HTML versions of the entire documentation set to be …

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Author-it Web Help Configuration Wizard

For version 5.3, Author-it released new web help templates and having played with them a bit I have to say I like them. However I was struggling to see how to enable some of the options that you can see in the example Author-it provide, so off into the HTML and CSS files I headed to see if I could see anything useful in there. And there is, several of the options are commented out in the HTML code and with a little bit of poking and prodding I got some of them to work. Pretty straightforward, if you know HTML and CSS that is. But what if you don’t? Well the good news is that the ever productive Hamish …

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Lessons learned

It’s all go at McLean Mansions but that’s nothing new for the first week in May with my sister celebrating her birthday on the 5th and my sister-in-law celebrating hers on the 7th. Of course that means presents and nice meals in restaurants, so we were out for dinner on Monday evening, and we’re back out tonight. Twice in one week! I know, I know, such a heady life I lead. It’s not all fun and games though, I’ve spent the rest of my evenings either watching football, working on a client website, and royally screwing up my Windows PC (thank heavens I have a Macbook as well). Add in a fairly mental week at work and a rapidly filling …

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Designing websites

As well as my full-time job, in my spare time I also design and build websites. It’s something which fits well with my skillset as a technical communicator, and allows me an insight into the world of development as well and has mirrored my career every step of the way. The first company I worked for sent me on a training course to learn how to create web pages and, since then (13 years ago), I’ve continued to follow the trends and techniques involved. I’ve been through using tables for layout, to the introduction of frames, the launch of Internet Explorer and the first release of CSS. The parallels between the theories of technical communications and those of web design …

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UA Conference Notes – Day 2

Notes and thoughts from Day 2 of the User Assistance Conference Session 1 – Juliette Fleming – XML Tagging and Search Facets An early start for an interesting session in which Juliette outlined how Oracle have introduced search Facets to their online help system. Essentially a facet is a tagged chunk of information or help topic, and their help system has been coded to make the most of these by using the tags to decide in which context the help topic should be used. This allows their help system to display information, for example, for a given product version, language, product and topic type when the user clicks to get help from the application. The facets are also used to …

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UA Conference Notes – Day 1

Notes and thoughts from Day 1 of the User Assistance Conference Session 1 – Tony Self – Emerging Help Delivery Technologies It’s been quite a while since I heard Tony speak but as ever he provided an entertaining, if somewhat limited, presentation. Covering the various types of help viewing technologies he nicely summarised some of the available choices including the features to look out for, including the ability to wrap up an online help system in its own application (using technology like Adobe AIR). It was interesting to hear some Web 2.0 features making their way into online help technologies, including voting and commenting facilities which would give you direct feedback from the people using your help system. Session 2 …

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Recently Read

12 Lessons for Those Afraid of CSS and Standards “It took me two years to break out of the comfortable prison of layout tables, and another two years before I could use CSS to produce layouts that were originally intended for tables.” “The buzz about Web 2.0, CSS, and myriad other subjects of the bleeding edge can become a dull roar to those left ill-equipped for industry changes because of work habits adopted in good faith years before. It is my hope that the experience I’ve shared will help some folks to find a way back to the top of the heap—which is where the web needs you.” But don’t be afraid, Ben Henick offers some lessons that will help …

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On being busy

A returning theme but one which I always feel compelled to explore. Hey, who said “avoidance tactic”! Shutup. I am, at present, in the midst of three new designs, all for different people. One has a wireframe complete but is awaiting graphics from which I’ll key the colors and style, one is purely a CSS rework which is always an interesting challenge, and the third I’m not entirely sure about but want to get a mockup or two done asap so I can get on and discover any limitations that exist in the proposed platform. I’m trying to pull together a post, or article, that pulls together minimalism in documentation, single sourcing and extreme programming methodologies as there are areas …

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CSS for layout

… and why you should use it. Separating content from structure and style is a common theory, widely accepted to those of us either using or investigating single source solutions for our documentation. The same theory has been applied to web development and offers similar benefits. CSS-based web design developed in parallel with the growing movement towards (and promotion of) the use of standards on the web. The web standards movement was a direct response to the increasing problems faced by web designers as they struggled to keep pace with the bespoke features introduced by the browser software of the day. Advocating support for the W3 maintained standards around, initially, HTML it soon found a band of supporters who were …

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Blueprint

Blueprint is a CSS framework, which aims to cut down on your CSS development time. It gives you a solid CSS foundation to build your project on top of, with an easy-to-use grid, sensible typography, and even a stylesheet for printing.

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