HelpScribble's default output format is the classic WinHelp .hlp file. These files can be used on any computer running Windows 3.1 or later. Performance is excellent, even on slow computers. By choosing the WinHelp format, you will not leave any customer or prospect without easily accessible documentation. WinHelp is fully supported by Windows 3.1, 95, 98, ME, NT4, 2000 and XP. Windows Vista, 7, 8, and 8.1 can only display WinHelp files after the user downloads the WinHelp viewer from Microsoft. Windows 10 and 11 cannot display WinHelp files. If support for Windows Vista and later is important for your application, you should consider the HTML Help format.
With HelpScribble, you can choose which help format you want to use. And you can change your mind at any time, in both directions. You do not have to make any special changes to your help project to use either format. Simply make another choice in Project Options, and recompile your project. HelpScribble takes care of all the technical details. When you download HelpScribble, you will see that we included its help file in both WinHelp and HTML Help format.
A help file consists of a series of topics. A topic is a single page in the help file. When you press F1 in a Windows application, you will be shown one topic from its help file. Each topic generally explains one specific aspect of the application: a menu item, a small dialog box, etc. Most topics contain links to other topics which provide information about related aspects of the application.
In HelpScribble, you can create new topics by selecting Topic|New from the menu. Then you use HelpScribble's built-in word processor to type in the topic's text. To create a link to another topic, simply right-click on that topic in the list at the left, and pick "Create Link" from the pop-up menu. That is all there is to creating a help file.
A useful strategy is to first create all the topics using Topic|New. Type in their titles, but do not type in the actual text yet until all topics have been created. By first creating empty topics, you can focus on the general structure of the help file. When that is done, you can focus on the content of the individual topics. This also makes it easy to create links between topics while writing the body text, since you will have already created all topics.
You can easily build the table of contents of your help file using the built-in Contents Editor. Click on the "Header" radio button, type in the "Title" and click the add button (green plus sign) to add a header. Adding topics is even easier. Simply double-click on them in the list showing all the topics in your help file.
HelpScribble will automatically build the index for your help file. All you have to do is specify the appropriate keywords for each topic. You can do this directly in the topic grid in HelpScribble's main window, or by using HelpScribble's convenient Index Editor.
With the Browse Sequence Editor, you can create lists of topics that can be browsed using the <<< and >>> buttons in WinHelp. Browse sequences are most useful if your help file contains a reference section. You could create a browse sequence with all the reference topics in alphabetic order.
You know the Chinese proverb which says that a good picture is worth more than a thousand words. While any help authoring tool allows you to insert screen shots and other pictures, with HelpScribble's SHG editor you can make your pictures much more powerful. You can add clickable regions to your images that, when clicked, will show a help topic with more information about the area that was clicked on. New users will not know the name of all the features in your application, but they will know how to point at a picture.
HelpScribble's SHG editor makes this very easy. If you have already made the screen shot (or whatever image you want to use), simply open the bitmap file in the SHG editor. If you have not yet made the screen shot, press Alt+Print Screen (to capture the active window) or Print Screen (to capture the entire screen). Then switch to HelpScribble's SHG editor and use Edit|Insert Bitmap. Either way, you are now ready to add clickable regions.
To add a hotspot (clickable region), simply draw a rectangle on the bitmap with the mouse. Just like you would do in a paint program. Then you can set the hotspot's properties in the right hand pane of the SHG editor. Usually, you will only give the hotspot a name for easy reference later and select the topic it links to from the drop-down list.
Add a few more hotspots, save the SHG and use HelpTools|Insert Bitmap to add it to your help project.