A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Amazing DHTML: But is it Useful?

Dynamic HTML is not another HTML standard, but is a term used to describe techniques by which Web pages can be made dynamic using JavaScript, Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), and the Document Object Model (DOM). It works on the more recent versions of Internet Explorer and Netscape.

HyperWrite (2005). Design>Web Design>DHTML


Beyond Software Manuals and On-line Help: Interactive Help

Software user guides have traditionally provided assistance when the user requested help. Context-sensitivity enabled help systems to predict the most appropriate topic to present. For Windows applications, the move from Microsoft WinHelp to the new Microsoft HTML Help format allows user instructions to be presented in the same window as the application. This offers technical authors some extraordinary opportunities to provide intelligent, predictive, interactive help without the user having to request it. In this paper, we will explore one of the first such interactive help systems (for the Archivist e-mail archiving software), and see where the technology is moving.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2003). Articles>Documentation>Interaction Design>Help


Bookmark (Anchor) Linking Tip

You can link to any tag within the page by quoting its ID. For example, if you have a paragraph with an ID of "intro", then you can link directly to that point without having to insert a bookmark.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2007). Articles>Web Design>Information Design>HTML


Review: Cladonia Exchanger XML Editor 3.2

Having spent some time working with Cladonia's Exchanger XML Editor, I can attest to the claim that this is a good, solid, well-featured and extensible XML editor. However, the software is not suitable for authoring documents. It is designed for working with XML data in many forms, but it is not designed for textual content. Let me explain.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2006). Articles>Reviews>Software>XML


DITA for Help

Can DITA be used as a Help authoring technology? Superficially, of course it can! The DITA Open Toolkit includes an HTML Help transformer, an Eclipse Help transformer, and an HTML transformer (which can also generate some sort of Table of Contents). So isn't it obvious then? DITA is perfect for Help authoring. Or is it? Looking a bit deeper, it's not so obvious. Can I include context-hooks in my content? Can I specify a popup link? Can I build a modular Help system? If I can't, then DITA is probably not suitable for Help.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2007). Articles>Documentation>XML>DITA


A DITA Wizard

Two of the oft-quoted benefits of DITA, the Darwin Information Typing Architecture, are 'single-sourcing' and 'content re-use'. These benefits do not only apply to the commonly-accepted definition of technical documents, but to many other forms of documents from outside the technical communicator's realm.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2007). Articles>Documentation>XML>DITA


Editable HTML Content

One of the little known features of DHTML, at least within Internet Explorer 5.5 or above, is an attribute known as contentEditable. This attribute can be used to make areas of text within a Web page editable by the user. This is very different from a form element, such as a text box, as contentEditable can make a table cell, or a standard paragraph editable.

HyperWrite (2005). Articles>Web Design>Interaction Design>DHTML


Flash: The Pros and Cons

Flash animations have become popular on the Web. But popularity is not often a good measure of useability or effectiveness. So what are the pros and cons of using Flash on a Web site?

HyperWrite (2003). Design>Web Design>Usability>Flash


Help.Longhorn - What is it?

The Help platform for Microsoft Windows is changing once again. Since 1995, Microsoft HTML Help has been the standard for Help systems for Windows applications, but the release of the next generation Windows operating system in 2005 will see a brand new XML-based Help platform. It is currently known as Help.Longhorn, or "Longhorn" Help, or sometimes as Help3 or TrésHelp.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2004). Articles>Documentation>Help>Microsoft Windows


HTML Applications: Introducing the HTA File

The letters HTA are meant to stand for HTML Application. The technology was developed by Microsoft, so is a proprietary concept, and only works in conjunction with Internet Explorer (specifically version 5 and above).

HyperWrite (2005). Articles>Web Design>Standards>Microsoft Windows


Indicating Changed Text in Help Files

There are still many circumstances when drawing a user's attention to changed text is important. How do we do that with Help systems? By borrowing techniques from paper manuals, we don't have to reinvent the wheel. So here's a good approach that will work for Microsoft Word-based HATs.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2004). Articles>Documentation>Online>Help


Information Overload

Almost 2 million book titles were published in the US alone, compared to more than the 1.3 million books published in the preceding 100 years. This change in the amount of information available for consumption is starting to change the way people read. How do we address the problem of information overload? Through good writing, and good information architecture.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2001). Articles>Information Design>User Centered Design>Publishing


Introducing CSS

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is a technology used primarily within Web publishing that aims to manage the presentation of HTML pages. CSS is essentially a styling language. CSS code instructs a browser how to "render" (display) HTML elements.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2003). Articles>Web Design>CSS


Introducing WinANT

I decided to simplify the DITA publishing process for myself by building a Windows interface to Ant. Ant was developed to allow programmers to write a simple build file in an XML format, and then process that XML file with the Ant build software.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2007). Articles>Information Design>Software>XML


Is Your Web Site Working?

A badly designed and implemented Web site can cost your company more than money. Aside from the obvious costs of having the site developed, which in some cases may be quite a lot of money, a badly designed Web site can give existing and potential customers a negative impression of the company. Therefore, it is essential that your Web site is actually fulfilling its objectives.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2001). Articles>Web Design>Assessment


The Meaning of Knowledge Management

We hear the term knowledge management bandied about. It sounds suspiciously like a trendy new phrase for what we used to call 'documentation.' In truth, knowledge management is more than documentation. It encompasses documentation, data management, library management, and information design. Knowledge management is increasingly important; as the amount of content has increased, the task of locating the information in the content has become more difficult. You see, information is different from content. And knowledge is something that derives from information.

HyperWrite (2004). Articles>Knowledge Management>Information Design>Content Management


Modifying DITA Open Toolkit Build Files for CSH

This procedure is used to modify the DITA Open Toolkit build files to allow an external map file reference and alias strings to be added to the HTML Help Project file before building, as part of the transformation to Microsoft HTML Help (CHM) format.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2008). Articles>Information Design>Software>DITA


Moving to an XML-Based Web Site

In early 2007, I started the task of reworking the ageing HyperWrite Web site. The site was originally created in 1995. It underwent a major rework (to a frames-based design) in 1997, and was reworked in 1999, 2000 and 2002. In the decade since the Web site was launched, not only has Web technology moved on, but HyperWrite's activities, focus and business direction are now quite different. Time and budget were set aside to renovate the site to better serve HyperWrite's business needs, and to serve as a practical example of the company's capabilities.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2007). Articles>Web Design>Content Management>Case Studies


The Mysterious Acronym Tag

There is a seldom-used tag called 'acronym'. It was originally mark up, well, acronyms. There is a very similar tag, also seldom-used, called 'abbr', which is intended to mark up abbreviations. Both of these tags were introduced in HTML 4.0. On the face of it, apart from marking up the text, these inline tags do little else.

HyperWrite (2002). Articles>Web Design>Standards>HTML


New Fonts in Windows Vista

Seven new fonts will make their public appearance in Office 2007. Segoe UI will be used as the Office user interface, and will also be the font used throughout the Windows Vista user interface. For documents produced by Office, Calibri (a sans serif font) is recommended for headings, with Candara (a humanist sans font) recommended for sans body text, and Cambria for serifed. Consolas is a monospaced font, while the remaining two having characteristics that suit particular types of paragraphs.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2006). Design>Typography>Fonts>Microsoft Windows


Reliable HTTP: A New Protocol

HTTPR aims to ensure that a Web transmission gets delivered to its destination only once, or gets reported as undeliverable. HTTPR is geared toward business-to-business communications over the Web, such as paying a bill or processing a purchase order, where a request must be delivered once and only once to its intended receiver.

HyperWrite (2004). Articles>Web Design>Standards


Semantic, Structured Authoring

This article looks at the impact of the introduction of semantic markup and structured authoring on the world of technical writers, editors, Help authors and content developers. This article is not specifically about the Semantic Web movement itself, but about the implementation of semantic concepts in the documentation field.

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2006). Articles>Information Design>Semantic>Technical Writing


Technical Communication Trends

During March and April 2003, Cherryleaf, in conjunction with HyperWrite, carried out a survey into the current trends in technical communication. We have been analysing the findings, and here is a summary of the results.

HyperWrite (2003). Careers>TC


To TOC, or Not To TOC

Microsoft HTML Help is actually a suite of technologies. CHM is one part; the HH viewer (a cut-down Internet Explorer with CHM processing abilities) is another. To provide a Table of Contents (TOC) and index for Web-based Help (over HTTP), to support Web applications for example, there are two other Microsoft HTML Help components. One is an ActiveX TOC control, and the other is a Java TOC applet. While these components provide Web-based Help with a TOC, they do not allow context-sensitivity AND a TOC at the same time, because the TOC displays in a frameset.

HyperWrite (2004). Articles>Documentation>Help>Online


Using Tables and DHTML for Menus

Dynamic HTML can be used inventively in many ways. Here's a simple way in which tables and DHTML can be used together to provide a menu function. The technique may be used in a frameset, but to keep things simple, we are going to use the table to control 'targets' in an inline frame (or IFRAME).

Self, Tony. HyperWrite (2005). Design>Web Design>Interaction Design>DHTML



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