How to Create a Web Help System
Why You Need Web Help on your Website
Web Help (or browser-based Help) is a help system that can be uploaded to your web server or put into a shared folder of your local area network, so other people can access it using a regular browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Apple Safari, etc. Thus, a Web Help system is actually a set of HTML files containing help topics from your help project. Of course, it should also include the table of contents and the keyword index to provide easy navigation for the end user.
A Web Help system can be used as an alternative to or together with HTML Help in the CHM format. While HTML Help in the CHM format is mainly used as a local help system for a desktop application in the Windows environment, a Web Help system is available to your users on the product's home page. This will help you reduce time and efforts spent on customer technical support because you can simply direct your users to a web page with the troubleshooting section that is located on your Internet website. Moreover, a Web Help system is probably the only document that contains lots of keywords relevant to your product, which can help you get more target traffic from major search engines as well. That is the reason why many software vendors from Micro-ISVs to larger companies do create and publish a Web Help system on their websites.
Web Help is a Must-Have Format for Web-Based Software
Today, more and more applications are created as web-based software rather than as desktop applications. There are quite a lot of different Internet services that we use every day and most of those popular websites do provide online help systems to their users. And it is really great when an average user who gets in trouble can quickly solve their problem without contacting technical support and waiting too long for the reply. Moreover, as it was mentioned above, having a Web Help system on your website, you can simply give customers who need technical support a link to the corresponding topic in the online help system.
So if you are working on web-based software, creating a Web Help system is probably your only choice. Now, let's see how HelpSmith can help you in preparing all the required files of such a help system the way that you do not have to manually code lots of HTML pages, but can concentrate on writing help topics.
Create Web Help from your Existing Help Projects
There is NO reason why you cannot reuse help topics and other information from your existing help project and create a Web Help system directly from it. HelpSmith allows you to automatically create Web Help by exporting help topics, the table of contents and the keyword index from your help project: simply click the "Create Web Help" command on the "Project" menu or click the corresponding button on the toolbar (similarly to when you export your help project into other help formats) and HelpSmith will prepare all the required files.
All you have to do is just upload all the files of your Web Help system to your Internet web server or simply copy them to a shared folder if you want other people in your corporate network to access it.
With HelpSmith, you can also modify the default Web Help layout by applying custom fonts, colors, text labels, and other settings according to your own needs.
Supply Technical Documentation in Multiple Help Formats
Thus, you can dramatically simplify the process of supplying technical documentation in multiple help formats: create Web Help, CHM HTML Help, Printed Manuals and all that is from the same source help project.
Being a complete help authoring solution, HelpSmith allows you to create a Web Help system by writing help topics from scratch in a full-featured word processor, by exporting your existing help projects into the Web Help format, or by importing help topics from Microsoft Word RTF documents, HTML files, or plain text files that can be written in different ANSI and Unicode encodings.