If you are a beginner technical writer, this article will show you how to create your first CHM help file, Web Help system, or Printed Manual by using one of the help authoring tools. By following these step-by-step instructions, you will get a working help file with a Table of Contents, Alphabetical index, and Search capability.
In the first step, you can download and install a help authoring tool that we use in this guide. To start downloading, you can click on the button below.
Once the download process is complete, double-click on the setup file to install the help tool on your computer.
In most help authoring tools, a help project is the source file that contains help topics and other data, which is necessary to compile the final help file or manual. Therefore, on this step, you should simply begin a new help project.
To do so, click Start New Project on the Start Page in the help authoring tool.
Now you can add one or more help topics to your help project.
Thus, on this step you can prepare a skeleton structure of your documentation: similarly to adding a topic, you can add a heading item and unite several topics under a common heading. However, it should be pointed out that you will be able to modify the help file structure at any time.
You can click on one of the help topics in the Project Manager in order to edit its content in the built-in word processor.
Using the word processor (which is similar to a regular word processor application from your office package), you can type text, apply different font settings, change paragraph alignment, insert images, hyperlinks, tables, and other objects.
As to the hyperlinks, the help authoring tool allows you to insert hyperlinks linking to other help topics within the same help project, to an external web page, or to an email address.
As mentioned in the Step 3, you can use the Project Manager tool to add and organize Table of Contents items of different types such as topics, headings, URL links, and also links to other topics within the same help project.
To add new items to the Table of Contents, click thebutton on the tab in the group.
When you need change the Table of Contents structure (for example, to move a topic into a heading item), you can do so by using the drag-n-drop method.
A keyword Index in a help file or printed manual contains terms sorted in alphabetical order, so the user can quickly find a topic which describes a specific term.
To create a keyword Index for your help file, you should add keywords and associate them with corresponding help topic.
Please note that the new keyword is checked by default which means that it is associated with the current help topic.
Before you compile your help file or printable manual, you should also setup settings such as the title of your help file, copyright information, language, select a help topic that should be displayed when the help file opens, and so on.
Finally, you can compile your help project and get the resulting CHM help file, Web Help system, printed manual, PDF document, or MS Word file.
You can find additional information on creating a CHM help file or online help system by visiting the links below:
You can download one of the recommendable help authoring tools that combines a rich feature-set, slight learning curve, and affordable price.