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Providing Context-Sensitive Help for Web Applications

Providing Context-Sensitive Help for Web Applications

RoboHelp authors need to have a thick skin. Face it. Web application users often access online help only as last resort. For some, it’s an admission of defeat. To ease that frustration, a RoboHelp author can provide online help when and where the user needs it. Using context-sensitive help (CSH), an option available in Macromedia RoboHelp, is a technique for satisfying a user’s quest for answers.

This article applies to non-programming RoboHelp authors and explains how to provide context-sensitive help to web application users. It also shows web developers how to use the WebHelp API to display context-sensitive topics in special windows, defined by the help author.

You can download the sample web application as well as a RoboHelp project to practice creating context-sensitive help. I’ve provided Captivate demos to help you understand the process—these “show me” demos make the process clearer.

In this tutorial, you will learn the following:

  • How to work with application developers and provide context-sensitive help
  • How to design a familiar pattern for users to access help topics
  • How to create windows of a special size and place them onscreen where you want the help topic to appear
  • How to use RoboHelp to create map files automatically (special code that programmers use to bring your design to life)
  • How to use conditional build tags to provide both window and field-level help output from a single project source
  • What to provide web developers so they can implement the process


To complete this tutorial you will need to install the following software and files:

RoboHelp Office X5

Tutorials and sample files:

  • (ZIP, 2.5 MB)

    This ZIP file contains the entire RoboHelp Office X5 project source code so that you can follow along with this tutorial. Unzip the file into a folder of your choice. Subfolders will automatically be created. Double-click the file bdbhelp.xpj to view the project in RoboHelp Office X5.

  • (ZIP, 2 MB)

    This ZIP file contains the Builder Data Bank sample web application. It is a simulation; only the default.htm page is intended to work with the Help links. Builder Data Bank is a web application that helps architects and home builders keep track of thousands of graphic files. These files include graphic formats such as DWG, JPG, GIF, TIF, PSD, and countless others. Uploading these graphics, storing them, and being able to search and retrieve a particular file is crucial to a home builder’s efficiency. As with many applications, there are novices and power users.

    Unzip the file into a folder of your choice. Subfolders will automatically be created. Click the default.htm file to view the web application in your browser (Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 preferred) and to see how the help links work.

Note: Because context-senstitive help appears in JavaScript pop-up windows, you must turn off or disable any pop-up blockers that may be installed in the browser.