Introduction to Help Authoring

In computer science, help authoring stands for writing technical documentation such as an application help file, online manual for a web service, or a printed manual for a device. However, for a technical writer who works on documentation, help authoring involves many different processes such as:

  • Analysis of the subject being documented;
  • Writing help file content;
  • Creation of illustrations such as images, screenshots, schemes, diagrams, etc.;
  • Creation of videos (for example, screencasts);
  • Help file quality control (including editing and proofreading of written text, working on the document structure, working on the common style and appearance, etc.);
  • Integration of the help file with an application, website and providing context-sensitive help, etc. (see our instructions for .NET, Delphi, and VBA);
  • Localization of a help file (e.g., translation of an existing help file to another language).

Thus, it is obvious that a technical writer should have certain writing and instrumental skills including the ability to work with specialized software tools such as help authoring tools, image editing tools, screen capture, and screen recording software.

Help Authoring Resources

Below you will find general information on help authoring, step-by-step instructions on creating a help file or manual, specific pages on HTML Help (CHM) and Web Help systems, and also information on documentation tools that you can use for your own project.

How to Create a Quality Help File

Help File Checklist

If you are a beginner technical writer, you can visit our step-by-step instructions explaining how you can create your first help file using a help authoring tool.

In addition, we have prepared a checklist that you can use to control the quality of your help files and manuals by providing well-structured and clear documentation, so your users will be able to find a solution to a specific task or issue easily.

Help Authoring Professionals

If you need to integrate a help system with your application, you can find the articles for developers below. Also, you can see our list of online communities where you can discuss questions with other professionals.

Documentation and Related Tools

Tools

If you a looking for a help file tool or related tools such as screen capture and screencasting applications, you can find a quick overview of some popular products.

To help you select a help authoring tool for your documentation project, we have also prepared a list of features that you may need to complete your project.

Download a Help Authoring Tool

You can download one of the recommendable help authoring tools that combines a rich feature-set, slight learning curve, and affordable price.

HelpSmith Download

HelpSmith main window

Product Details:

Detail Value
Product HelpSmith 7.3
Filename HelpSmithSetup.exe
File size 40 MB
Platform Windows 10/8/7/Vista/XP
System requirements 1 GHz processor, 512MB RAM, 150MB free disk space