Just finished building a web site for Australian singer, songwriter Kaye Harrison. Kaye is a great talent, and great ambassador for God.
My hobby horse
The worst thing about MSDN help is it’s so freak’n big. Search brings up useless stuff from everywhere, and so does the Index. Only the TOC allows you to explore just a specific area. That’s why users love the TOC.
For years MS have tried to apply the Google search experience to MS Help without much success. Users are still unhappy. Why? Simple… With a web search you are exploring a gigantic universe (similar to MSDN). Search results deliver some possibilities and you eventually end up in a smaller universe called a website. A book library is a similar experience.
With a website (or book) you are in a closed system where navigation, search, index (whatever the site gives you) allows you to quickly find things in a limited scope. But with MSDN you never escape this large freak’n big universe … search, Index and TOC are always full scope. Users need to be able to shrink the world down.
MSDN Library “online” has the same problem. For example: If I go to say UI Guidelines section of MSDN Library I’m in the area I want to be in. Yet to my great frustration… I can’t search just that area or book. Imagine a traditional library. After using search to find the book you want, you sit down and enjoy the smaller world of that book. But with MSDN you can never change scope. Only the TOC gives you some brief relief.
Imagine if the web had no logical boundaries. No websites. Just millions of pages. That’s the horrible experience we get from MSDN.
If MS followed the web or library experience (and not so much the Google experience), then MSDN would be a great experience. MS Help 2 was heading in the right direction with filters, but despite several attempts to rework the tags the system just never worked to any ones satisfaction.
In the web we can scope down to the website level. In MSDN we also need to be able to scope down to the book level. To easily flip between full MSDN and a book experience. Not by using millions of topic level tags (as in MS Help 2). Just tag your books, and let the pages inherit those tags.
It really is that simple. No more playing with tag clouds, lets get this right.
As much as the help team think they can solve this problem using data logic and tagging (like sorting different sized marbles), all they really need to do is let us find the relevant book. Then it’s up to the MS word-smiths to craft easy to navigate books.
How about ‘location’ or some other type of general content grouping metadata — for example that a certain result comes from the Visual C# documentation, or from the Windows SDK. Do you find that sort of additional data when viewing search results useful?
How important is the ability to scope search results based on topic types, or code language?
We don’t want complicated tagging. We never get this right. You already have content organized into books — Just let me see the book boundaries in the help and let me narrow my scope to one or more books.
Help is really simple. I want to find a book. Then scope down and explore just that book or related books. MSDN has quickly grown into a monster and there is no easy mechanism to scope down to just a book. Forget filters. Let me see the books in MSDN and create book shelves that I can live in without seeing the other irrelevent 99% of MSDN.
We are pleased to release FAR 5.1
This is a minor update. It fixes some small annoying problems such as buttons not repainting (disappearing) when the Alt key is pressed.
BTW I’ve also uploaded 5.1 to Visual Studio Gallery.
It would help us a lot if you could go to the FAR VS Gallery page and leave a rating and\or a review. Thanks in advance.
Thanks for supporting FAR
In 2009 Microsoft launch the Visual Studio Gallery, where the community could upload & download tools and extensions for Visual Studio. VS 2010 even has a built-in gallery viewer. VS Gallery is already a great success.
Being all VS related products, we’ve added all our Helpware tools to the VS Gallery.
If you use a Helpware product it would be a great help if you could rate and\or review the products on the VS Gallery site. Many thanks to those who have already helped out!
Also, we are trying to translate the GUI of our free app H3Viewer (for viewing VS 2010 help). It’s not a big job (200 short strings). If you can help translate to a language we would be very grateful (free FAR HTML 5 licenses are on offer).
Thanks in advance.
This year there has been a lot interest in using hookworms to boost the immune system and fix everything from severe allergies to MS. One clinic claims that everyone of their MS patients are in remission. The thinking is that in the west we have over done it with hygiene and our immune systems need a little more dirt to stay challenged and healthy. A small does of 20-70 hook worms seems to provide that challenge.
Here are a collection of interviews and articles from the ABC (Australian TV and Radio)
ABC – Philip Adams (mp3)
ABC – Science Show – Parasites by RadioLab (mp3)
ABC – Catalyst (video)
CBS TV (video)
Discover Magazine (article)
Philip Adams radio Interview with Jasper Lawrence (AIT)
- Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helminthic_therapy
- http://AutoImmuneTherapies.com — (AIT) Jasper Lawrence. Now operates out of Tijuana Mexico.
Cost = $2900 + maybe travel since they can’t ship to some counties.
Personal Blog | Company Site | Yahoo Group | Facebook
- http://wormtherapy.com — Also setup in Tijuana Mexico (because of USA FDA rules). US$2200 ?
- http://www.immunologica.eu — In Spain. You must be Spanish.
- http://www.wormfriends.net/ — Currently closed.
- http://www.ovamed.org/ — Germany.
- DIY helminth therapy — Because of the high cost, many users are exploring DYI solutions.
WormTherapy have a slightly different approach than AIT. Start off on 25 worm dose (since most of the worlds population are infected by 25-50 worms. And having too many worms will leach out too many nutrients). Both guarantee infection for 3 years.
- http://waitingforthecure.com — Worms help but not a cure all.
- http://worms.michellerowley.com/ — Good result. A good honest report.
- https://sites.google.com/site/bbwormfarm/ – Bubble Boy gets a Worm Farm.
Australia & Hookworm
http://iceh.uws.edu.au/fact_sheets/FS_hookworm.html — Australia’s northern problem seems to be dog hookworm. Unwormed dogs in northern communities infecting the soil. There are some studies around looking at using canine worm for treatment.
TSO — Trichuris Suis Ova (pig whipworm eggs). Biomonde (Asia) will mail TSO at 220 Euro a single dose.
You need a dose every 2 weeks so a course of 10 doses (20 weeks) will cost > AU$3,000. Very expensive!
TTO – Human whipworm is used by AIT. TTO lasts much longer than TSO, about 18 months, as opposed to 2 weeks for TSO.
Neither hookworm nor whipworm proliferate within the host, nor are they infectious in any real sense of the world in a country where either shoes or toilets are routinely used.
Hookworm live on average for five years, therefore the dosing interval is on average five years. For whipworm, which is indicated for ulcerative colitis, it is two years.
To refresh the memory. NavScript.JS can be used to add a link to the top of web pages. The link reopens the navigation pane in uncompressed help. It wont show in a CHM or when the nav pane is open.
I’ve just extended an old post on using NavScript.JS with FAR Uncompressed Help topics.
You can easily insert the script into HTML files using the $R$[..] command in FAR Adv Find and Replace.
I’ve just added some instructions on how to automate this using FAR Batch mode.
- http://weblog.helpware.net/?p=124 (see the end of this post)
If you haven’t used NavScript.JS then best to show an example. Open the FAR web help and immediately close the nav pane. You will see a link appear at the top of the topic page to reopen the nav pane.
For a while now we early adopters of multi-touch have been watching as newer Touch Screens were released with this thing call MS Touch Pack containing cool touch applications… And wondering how to get our excited little hands on it. Wonder no more. If you have Win 7 Multi Touch the Touch Pack is now available for download.
Lots of things happening at the moment.
VS 2010 was released on 12th April, along with the new VS 2010 Help Viewer.
And Office 2010 RTM should be available on MSDN and Technet in just a few days.
For those using VS 2010, Ryan Linton (MS Help Team) has just released a cool VS Extension that provides Help, Index and Search right inside the VS IDE.
Updates to mshcMigrate & H3Viewer. And FAR HTML 5 finally released.
Back from the MVP Summit in Seattle where we spent 3 days with the Microsoft help team in charge of MS Help Viewer 1.0. Here’s a report of some things I picked up on Help 3.
Also updated API documentation with latest info from Microsoft
The following updates are available…
- FAR HTML 22.214.171.1248
Build 728 fixes a problem reading/writing Unicode files where sometimes a trailing junk character was added to the file.
- mshcMigrate build 36
Fixes same problem as above.
We strongly recommend that all FAR 5 users and mshcMigrate users update ASAP.
VS 2010 RC release is now available via MSDN subscriber downloads, and publicly available around the 10th of Feb.
So for those stuck on Beta 2 Help this is your chance to get something stable and release quality.
Please, anything you find in the RC that does not go well with mshcMigrate or H3Viewer please contact me (here or directly via robertc at helpware dot net)
David, if you are using Beta 2 (although I suspect you are a partner on LCTP3), then I can well understand your frustration. Maybe my needs are different. I just want the correct help to open in a timely manner when I press F1 in the VS IDE. A 10 secs wait is unacceptable. It wont be 10 seconds in the next release. My response…
DExplore… c++ code, a decade old (they probably use VS 6 or a VS 7.0 Beta when they started the project). From what I understand it has had numerous band-aids and rework applied to it over it’s life time, yet the majority of developers are still frustrated by it and find Google better. And with good reason: Inaccurate F1 results; Long merge delays that lock up VS UI; Difficult to integrate into; A crazy search page; A proprietary file format and no 3rd party redistribution locks out developers; I’m very happy to see the back end of it!
DExplore F1 & search are so poor that most of us now rely on Index and TOC as the primary means of accessing help. MS stats confirm — Typical access usage is now: Index 48%, TOC 25%, F1 17%, Search 10%.
So it’s easy to understand why users are frustrated and angry over losing both the Index and TOC. Well there is loband TOC which is great for users at the end of the line in China but I personally don’t find it helpful in the context of offline help. You can see my motivation for writing H3Viewer. So the help team recognised that more band-aids on DExplore was not the solution. It was time to bite the bullet and rewrite even if that meant taking a step backwards before moving forward again. With DExplore there was no more moving forward (in fact things were moving backwards).
It may take a while to mature but this new system has a future I think where DExplore was going no where. MS Help Viewer has a good foundation (please wait for the RC or RTM before judging it) and has the potential to become the next general help platform (replacing HTML help). As a general platform the UI will probably be very different. We so desperately need something that will handle large document sets, allows us to write in Unicode, and give developers a rich API (required in an age where UI and UA are blending more and more).
Is this helpful? We live our days in programs like VS and invest a lot of time in them. Change hurts. We are all watching hoping for a good outcome. Brian this is your territory — Have I got the history right? Thanks for allowing me to response.
Re: H3Viewer. I welcome any feedback people care to give please email me. I need feedback. Just remember that the slow access speed (long delays) are due to the current Beta 2 (really Alpha) help engine. The RC release is fast.
MS Help MVP
Just posted this to Brian Harry’s blog and thought I’d post here as well.
David, Help Agent is the help engine, so we need to wait until that loads into memory before any help calls can be made. So it is Asynchronous operation once it actually loads and is running.
In the past, new help content would lockup VS for minutes as it installed/merged. This wont happen now. But I take your point that you had to wait for several seconds for F1 help to respond first time.
Agent is a .NET app and so we get that customary long delay as the .NET Framework is loaded into memory the first time. But after that Agent will respond quickly. Currently the Beta 2 release is very unstable (beta 2 for VS, but more like Alpha code for Help Viewer). Be assured that you will see a huge improvement in the RC and RTM releases.
I’m using a pre-RC build and I no longer get Agent crashes. If I manually kill off Agent using the tray icon, Agent reloads and services my request within just a second or two (since framework is now loaded in memory). And once Agent is running I can fire off several help API calls in fast succession (I’m building a full TOC on the fly) and get all responses within 200-300 msec. Given this help catalog has some half million topics that’s quite impressive. And my Win7 test machine is very old and slow.
Another comment is that if your default browser is IE or FireFox… These browser can load very slowly for me. I use Chrome and get a much better experience. Once the browser is loaded it’s faster of course.
Also there will be alternative viewers you can use (as Brain was saying). If you haven’t tried it yet.. please try my H3Viewer.exe — this is basically a DExplore style Help Viewer with full TOC and Index. I can set this as the default VS 2010 and MS HV viewer. I just did a test then
1. Open VS 2010 (default viewer = Chrome). Time for F1 to complete 1.3 seconds.
2. Open VS 2010 (default viewer = H3Viewer customer viewer). Time for F1 to complete .8 of a second.
But it all depends on whether software has been recently loaded. If Chrome was not run today it would takes 3 seconds to load the F1 topic. And if help Agent has not been loaded today then add several more seconds for .NET Framework to load.
Can I just make a general comment (not directed at anyone here). It’s great how everyone has offered fantastic feedback. But please be gentle. The first release of help was basically Alpha. This team started to form only 24 months ago and I think what they have done an outstanding job so far. The API is the best we have ever seen in a help system. The ability to find and display a topic, from a catalog of half a million topics in less than a second is remarkable.
As Brian was saying this wont be a fully featured release. Please don’t expect it to be totally mature for the 1.0 release. 24 months is just not enough time to ramp up a new team, try out various designs, and deliver something with all the bells and whistles. PLEASE BE PATIENT WITH THE TEAM. They are working around the clock to finish this project. From what I have seen so far it’s outstanding work. The RTM will be even better.
IMHO they have been very smart, in that they spent a lot of time designing a kick-arse engine and API (getting the base system right). A lot of people are complaining about losing features. But hey use another viewer. I did my H3Viewer in under a week and it’s almost as powerful as DExplorer. It will all get there in the end. BTW Great to see posters in Brian’s blog know how to post their opinions without being rude about it. Nice!! I know the help team have noted all this great feedback. It’s probably more effective without the bad language and death threats
MS Help MVP
Well it was only a mater of time. The next wave of Windows 7 compatible touch screens are here. Great to see the larger machines as well as standalone monitors getting multi-touch. Good for developers.
The Aspire 5738 with 15″ screen (1366 x 768), 500GB Drive and Win7 multi-touch.
The 5738DG models is 3D. Put on you polarized glasses and watch movies and games in 3D.
The Aspire Z5610 with All-in-one design, 320GB HD, 23″ HD multi-touch screen, built in speaker system.
The Aspire 1820PT. A convertible (Tablet PC), multi-touch, 11.6″ (1366 x 768 or 1024 x 600) display. Hard disks 160/250/320/500 GB.
Acer TouchScreen display T230H. 58cm (23”) Wide, 16:9 Full HD, Touch, 2ms, 80’000:1, DVI + HDMI, Speakers, MPRII, Black, Height Adjustment, EURO/UK cables, EMEA, adaptive contrast management.
Nice looking display. I’ve just ordered a T230 for myself.
Yes there is also a the Sony VAIO L all-in-one series as well.
Dell now have an all-in-one touch screen as well as a standalone touch screen.
Dell SX2210T 21.5″W Multi-Touch Monitor with Webcam
See older posts for other models
I’ve been having some interesting conversation re MS making us sign help files in Help Viewer 1.0 (Help 3).
So Microsoft’s augments for Signing Help
- User and Vendor can be certain that help files are not tampered with or corrupted.
- User can be certain that the help is from a trusted source.
- In the future Help Viewer 1.x will be everywhere.
It needs to be secure (unlike CHMs which have the ability to ShellExecute anything).
- Downloading content from the web (in the future) needs to be secure.
I don’t have a problem with signing Help or reduce the size of attack surfaces. But you can’t force vendors to sign. It’s costly for small companies (> $300 /yr). And signing is not trivial. It takes a lot of time to work through signing.
We are running a Poll on signing in our Help3 Yahoo discussion group. Members are major companies who integrate into VS help. The Poll shows clearly that most companies don’t sign and wont be signing help in the short term.
Windows already has a working security model. Whenever you install something (using an installer) you get challenged with a security warning. Once the user accepts, the install is elevated to Admin mode. There are no more challenges after that point. But currently Help Library Manager challenges you a second time and event blocks silent install if unsigned.
Currently the Help Library Manager wont allow your Installer to install/uninstall/update help unless it is signed. This is unacceptable. The Microsoft future vision of all vendors signing content is fantasy. Certificates are currently too expensive and too much trouble. It’s a different story for large corporations. However the majority of software companies are small and run very lean. For example Helpware (this site) there is no way we can afford to buy certificates.
Interesting how Adobe corp is handling security on Flash applications. So this is content that can be download from the web and put anywhere on the hard disk. Flash apps have access to your whole hard disk. So when you run a Flash app you are “always” challenged with a security warning. To disable this security message you need to enter some path information for your app in a protected folder of Windows. This is good since only elevated installers can added this information. Or the user can add the info by hand. Either way the user is challenged using the same security model Windows uses for all executables.
What should Help Viewer 1.x be doing?
- Work within the existing Windows security model. If there has already been a security challenge, and the install has been elevated, then that should be good enough. Help Viewer 1.0 should not go and challenge again.
- For unsecured environments (XP OS, or UAC turned off) HLM should always challenge (but not stop unsigned content from installing). There is nothing else on the Windows platform that actually blocks installers from installing unsigned content (Challenge yes. Block no).
- Do it like Adobe. Help Library Manager always challenges but to remove the challenge on a help file, your installer must write the help file path to a HKLM protected registry location. So the user is guaranteed to see a security message.
- Signing is good. But should be optional like everywhere else in Windows.
- There is currently no install/uninstall/update solution for installers dealing with unsigned help. Maybe 10% of companies sign. That leaves 90% of companies currently without an install solution. All these companies can do currently is give text instructions to the customer explaining the manual steps involved to add/remove help.
- Help Viewer 1.0 is not like CHMs. The security risks are different. First up all help must be registered through Help Library Manager, which has the option to challenge.
- Downloading – Again this is not like CHMs. HLM requires elevated privileges to install all help, that’s enough. If you want more then go for the HKLM registration idea.
- For old systems such as XP or where UAC is disabled, HLM should “always” challenge so the user is guaranteed to get a security warning.
Well I’m starting to repeat my self so enough said.
Please add your own comments below.
Far 5.0 Build 722 is now available
- Fix: Optimized FAR 5 find and replace so it’s as fast (or faster) than FAR 4. The new Unicode code is fast however any str or char constants left as ANSI get converted to Unicode at runtime slowing down execution in tight code loops. Thanks Reinhard for picking this up, you have earned that free license.
Is this the first standalone Windows 7 compatible MultiTouch Monitor?
21.5″ Wide Screen, 1920×1080, built-in webcam and dual microphones.
Good to see. Put’s pressure on Samsung.
Uploaded a new HTML Help Kit which is compatible with Delphi 2009 & Delphi 2010
Code examples have not really changed since the last 2009 update.
hh.pas – The HtmlHelp() function is either Ansi or Unicode depending on the Delphi you are running (Delphi 2009 + is Unicode).
hh_funcs.pas – Now compiles under Delphi 2010.
As I understand it Delphi 2006 and up now has the basic HtmlHelp() API declaration in Windows.pas. So consider using that instead of hh,pas if you just need to do basic calls to open help.
Also I believe that Delphi 2009 and up has fixed the “Help Events not firing” bug. So our special unit D6OnHelpFix.pas should not be required on newer Delphi systems.
- H2Viewer 1.4.6 now available
- Now uses Unicode code
- Now uses SAPI 5.x Text-To-Speech engine (Vista and Windows 7 compatible).
- Download: http://helpware.net/mshelp2/h2viewer.htm
- H3Viewer build 9 now available
- Now uses SAPI 5.x Text-To-Speech engine (Vista and Windows 7 compatible).
- Download: http://mshcmigrate.helpmvp.com/viewer
- H2Reg.exe 2.0.1 beta promoted to release status
- Version 2.0.1 is now a Unicode application.
Wrote a Help 3 viewer (similar to the old VS Document Explorer).
The H3 API is fantastic. Programmers will love it. One of the easiest projects I’ve done.
Fee free to download and try it. Great to see the full TOC and Index back. A couple of screen shots included.
Kathleen McGrath [MS] posted this video of Ryan Linton [Lead PM on Help 3] talking about Help 3 beta 2.
WinHelp for Windows 7 is now available from the MS site
Thanks MVP Rob Cavicchio
I created a page with VS 10 beta 2 Help screen shots and info:
Also looks like VS Beta 2 Pro is now available for general download
And don’t forget the Migrate Utility (now build 17) is here
And help documentation is here