Essentially, a Help file is nothing more than a collection of topics. However, Help files typically have a few extras, such as a table of contents, index, and full-text search. The index and lull-text search, if you choose to use it, is generated for you automatically when you compile your Help. You build the table of contents, and have each link in it lead to a specific topic (although you can have topics that aren't in the table of contents, and can be reached only by clicking a link in another topic).
As explained earlier, sophisticated Help is designed with professional tools (or a collection of shareware and freeware utilities). However, if you're completely new to Help, you can learn a fair bit by creating a basic, barebones Help file and using it in a Windows application. Along the way, you'll learn some of the basic concepts that you need to create Help files in any application.
Before you begin, you can download and install the HTML Help SDK from http:// msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/htmlhelp/html/hwMicrosoftHTMLHelpDownloads.asp. However, because the HTML Help SDK doesn't provide much of an editor, it's easier to prepare your files before you use it.
■Tip For a detailed reference that includes advanced topics with HTML Help SDK, read the PDF tutorials at www.mvps.org/htmlhelpcenter/htmlhelp/hhtutorials.html.
You can start by planning your table of contents. In this example, the table of contents includes these topics:
The indents represent different levels of hierarchy. In other words, the last two topics are contained inside the Introduction topic. Stand-alone topics are represented as pages, whereas topics that contain subtopics are usually shown as a folder or book (although technically you can customize both of these images). Each of these items is linked to a topic page, including the Introduction topic. Figure 22-7 shows the table of contents as it will appear in the Help window.
- 02) Introduction
[3 The Value Of Help
Figure 22-7. A basic table of contents
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