What's new in Help+Manual 7?

We literally worked on every detail and implemented many user suggestions in this release. Help+Manual 7 is fully compatible with ultra-high resolution monitors and the editor supports a real zoom. Completely new is the Microsoft Word output in DOCX format, ePUB 3.0, Amazon Kindle, and the eWriter eBooks for Windows: a new format with the potential to be a full replacement for CHM files as documentation for Windows.

 

 

Multiple TOCs and Version Control

Multiple TOCs

Help+Manual has always supported conditional output to generate different versions of your documentation from the same project. It was also possible to use the conditional output tags to generate output with completely different versions of your TOC. This wasn't very easy to implement, however.

Multiple TOCs make this a breeze: You just create a new TOC and drag in and rearrange the topics and chapters you want to include in it. You can also add unique topics and chapters as well, if that's what you need.

MS Team Foundation Server version control

Help+Manual now also includes active support for Microsoft Team Foundation Server version control, in addition to the existing support for the open-source SubVersion and the older Microsoft Visual SourceSafe.

If you are choosing a version control system for Help+Manual we still strongly recommend choosing SubVersion as the best and most flexible option. However, if you are already working in a TFS environment you can now use it to actively manage your Help+Manual projects.

Topic History: local version control

If you are not using a full version control system like SubVersion or Team Foundation Server, Help+Manual can now still give you access to all previous versions of your individual topics. And the ability to roll back the content of any topic to an earlier version at any time.

Just click on the topic functions menu button in the top left corner of the editor and select Show History. You will then also be able to compare the differences between current and earlier versions.

 


Topic History in Help+Manual 7

Responsive Images, Web Videos and SVG

Featured images for title pages in HTML and PDF

You can now associate a "featured image" with any topic in your project, in addition to a text description. You can find the settings for these new options in the Topic Options tab. These images can be used to make attractive title pages for your chapters in both PDF and HTML-based output. It is used for the title images in both the HTML and PDF versions of the documentation of this project, for example.

 

 

Responsive images and videos

All images, images with hotspots, toggle images and videos now have an additional display option: they can auto-scale with the document window.

The new option "Zoom is proportional to document width" in the Insert Image and Insert Video dialogs changes the function of the Zoom setting. A zoom percentage of 50% then defines the image or video as 50% of the available document width. If the browser or viewer window is made wider, the image or video expands with it.

If the width is defined as any percentage less than 100% (i.e. up to 99%), the image will only expand up to its native width but will not zoom further to prevent excessive scaling. Setting a width of 100% turns this off and allows unlimited scaling.

This is essential for responsive design in websites. But it is also useful in static formats like PDF, because it defines the width of images precisely as a percentage of the page width.

Support for vector-based SVG images

Help+Manual now directly supports SVG (scalable vector graphics) images as a regular web image format. You can open and insert SVGs in topics in the same way as any other images, using the Insert Image tool.

The display of SVG graphics in the Help+Manual editor may not be 100% identical to the display in web browsers. This is a limitation that applies to editing and printing only. When you publish to HTML-based output formats (WebHelp, HTML Help, ePUB, eWriter, Mobi etc), the SVG display in the browser depends on the SVG capabilities of the web browser.

Dedicated support for YouTube, Vimeo and Prezi

The video tool now includes dedicated support for YouTube and Vimeo videos and Prezi web-based presentations. You can embed them directly in your topics in the same way as you would by getting the embed code direct from the original sites.

It does this by embedding an iFrame that allows the online media site to deliver the content directly in the most appropriate format for the user's device and browser. This provides much more universal compatibility across all desktop and mobile device types.

Web-based video in CHM files

Local video files have always been problematic in CHM files because of limited media support in the Microsoft CHM viewer. Web-based video on sites like Vimeo, YouTube and Prezi are the best way to provide modern video content in CHM with a high level of compatibility.

However, you don't want CHM files to establish a connection to the Internet unless it's really necessary. By default, online videos in CHMs will only display a placeholder image when the topic containing them is displayed. The video won't actually connect to the online media site and start streaming until the user explicitly starts it. Then the preview image is replaced by the iFrame which loads the online site and streams the video.

Using this two-step mechanism, the CHM file stays "silent" and does not request an Internet connection unless the video has been started by the user.

Web-based videos are fully compatible with PDF and the new Microsoft Word output. Help+Manual uses the preview image as placeholder and links it to the target web address.

Microsoft Word, ePUB, Kindle, Windows eBooks

Word DOCX Export

We have replaced the old Word/RTF export with native export to the current Word/DOCX. When exporting to Word, Help+Manual writes a DOCX file that embeds images and is completely formatted with the styles you used in H&M. You no longer have to deal with external images, and you get all the current formatting capabilities of the current versions of MS Word.

In addition to this, you now also have fully configurable templates for Word export, similar to those available for PDF. These templates are normal DOCX files that you can edit and configure directly in MS Word.

ePUB 3.0 Support

Help+Manual 6 could already produce universal ePUB eBooks. In Help+Manual 7, this has been upgraded to the current ePUB 3.0 standard. The output is also backward-compatible with older ePUB readers, because it automatically includes the necessary fallbacks for features that those readers can't handle.

Amazon Kindle/Mobi support

The only thing missing from Help+Manual's support for eBooks was the Amazon Kindle, which is still the most popular eBook reader by a wide margin. This was the elephant in the room, and we've now saddled it up and got it to play nicely with all the other formats in the Help+Manual stable.

With Amazon Kindle, ePUB and PDF, Help+Manual now supports all relevant current eBook formats, and this is complemented with the new Windows EWriter eBook format, which broadens the horizons for electronic publishing still further.

Replace CHM with EWriter eBooks

In Help+Manual 7 the old Windows EXE eBooks have been replaced by a completely new format we call EWriter eBooks. This is a powerful and very flexible format that has the potential to be a full replacement for CHM files as documentation for Windows applications – in addition to being an outstanding eBook format for Windows devices.

EWriter combines the benefits of CHM and WebHelp and eliminates the disadvantages:

Adobe PDF Output Reworked

We know how important PDF output is for our users and we have given it a major overhaul in Help+Manual 7.

New and Improved Features

Improvements in Manual Designer

User Interface, Editing and Formatting

MS Office 2013 Ribbon with more color schemes

Help+Manual 7 implements the new Office 2013 Ribbon style with a wider range of color schemes and switches to the Blue style by default. You can select different styles and other appearance options in the View tab.

Genuine zoom function and 4K display support


Zoom in Topic Editor

We have implemented a real zoom function in the topic editor. Adjust it with the Zoom button in the status bar on the right below the editor window. Zoom works for all content, including tables, graphics and other objects in the editor, not just text.

If you are using a high-resolution monitor or a modern laptop with a super hi-resolution display, Help+Manual displays its entire interface crisp and sharp and automatically defaults the editor zoom to the global Windows setting to match text sizes of the system.

Templates and Skins tool in the Ribbon


Templates Selection

The Manual Designer tool in the Project tab has been replaced by the much more flexible Templates & Skins tool. In addition to opening the Manual Designer for PDF templates it now also provides access to editing skins for HTML-based output and Word templates for the new DOCX output.

Copy and paste rows and columns in tables

You can now copy and paste the contents of multiple cells across rows and columns in tables. Just select the cells you want to copy and transfer them to the clipboard. Then click in the cell where you want the paste to begin and paste.

Word count

You can now get a very granular count of words, paragraphs and characters in your project. Not only for individual topics or the whole project, but also for project selections based on your build options.

Smart date and time variables

When you use date and time variables they are now automatically translated into the language of your help project. The translation depends on Windows support. We use a Windows function to retrieve the strings for the target language and if that language is supported by your Windows installation, Help+Manual will insert the translation provided.

Smart table formatting on style change

When you change the style name of a table, the dialog checks if the table has individually formatted cells and asks you whether you want to reset the individual cell formatting to match the selected style.

Insert multiple images and HTML classes

You can now insert multiple images with the Insert Image dialog. You can also attach your own HTML classes to individual images, in addition to an image ID.

 

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I've been using H+M since HM3 and it's amazing to look back and see how the product has evolved and how much work has gone into it over the years. I hope HM7 sells well for you and that EC Software continues to go from strength to strength. Well done!

Martin Wynne, customer since 2003