Help+Manual News

HelpXplain officially released!

We are happy to announce the official release of HelpXplain!

HelpXplain is perfect for slideshows and HowTo screencasts embedded in web pages and technical documentation.

Create animated step-by-step tutorials and quick instructions in minutes instead of hours. The magic is in the method: HelpXplain animates a series of simple screenshots, each of which can be edited or replaced at any time.

HelpXplain can also record multi-page screencasts of programs on your computer screen that run in autoplay mode like a video. Recording and editing them is massively easier and less stressful than trying to create a video!

A free trial version of HelpXplain is available from our download page.

Online orders:
50% off on HelpXplain during Summer 2019!

 

 

 

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Help+Manual 7.5.1 Maintenance Update

We are glad to anncounce the immediate availability of Help+Manual 7.5.1. This is a free update for all 7.xx user and ships with a few improvements – mostly concerning HelpXplain – including:

  • Editing tables and table cell properties could generate an index-out-of-bounds error
  • Setting column width by dialog window did not immediately refresh table
  • Undo after table change could cause strange effects
  • PDF manuals with double-rendering loops: snippets placed directly in the print manual template (MNL) had duplicate page referrers
  • Open picture dialog: HelpXplain files can as well be used as static images – similar to Impict pictures

Update Build 4713 (June 28, 2019)

  • Problem fix for style preview in tables
  • PDF export: in some case, page referrers of links in tables were missing
  • Error when converting a table to plain text
  • RTF/Word import: a special bullet character was not read correctly

 

Please download the update to Help+Manual 7.5.1 from our download page and install over your existing installation of Help+Manual.

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Help+Manual 7.5 Released!

We are glad to anncounce the immediate availability of Help+Manual 7.5.0. This update ships with several improvements including:

  • Text-to-table function updated: several users asked to simplify the text-to-table function and to not apply explicit column widths. The function is now much more transparent and simply splits text by tab stops.
    When using the right-click text-to-table function, the default table style class is applied automatically and the inserted table reflects the table style.
  • Clipboard paste from OneNote implemented
  • Improved topic header synchronization: when duplicating a topic in the TOC with copy and paste, and subsequently changing the duplicated TOC heading, the automatic synchronization with the topic header did not work, because of the added “_2” text that marks the topic copy.

Bugfixes and minor changes

  • Nested snippets from repositories did not work, PDF print styles were not applied to snippets.
  • PDF/Print: If a dropdown toggle had a page break right before the toggle icon, and the icon was removed for print and the left margin of this paragraph was zero, the page break was removed and not re-applied.
  • After saving a project, a topic reload sometimes occurred, causing the cursor to jump to the beginning of a topic and losing the current selection.
  • Font preview in main window: in some rare situations, an access violation ocurred
  • Windows EXE e-books: updated viewer application, the initial ClearCache command has been removed to avoid initiation problems on some systems.
  • Webhelp export: the standard bullets have a slightly different font definition to improve the bullet display and make it larger. Table heading row background color was sometimes wrong for nested tables, if the heading row background was defined the in the table style only.

HelpXplain supported

Last, not least, Help+Manual 7.5 now fully supports HelpXplain presentations. If HelpXplain is installed, you can make full use of responsive interactive HTML5 presentations and screencasts in Webhelp, HTML Help and Windows e-books. HelpXplain will be available soon.

 

Please download the update to Help+Manual 7.5 from our download page and install over your existing installation of Help+Manual.

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Premium Pack 3.47 Maintenance Update

We are happy to announce the release of version 3.47 of the Help+Manual Premium Pack add-on. This is a minor maintenance update. It includes fixes for the issues described below in the V3 skins and the Toolbox utility. All other skins remain unchanged.

How to Get the Premium Pack Update:

You can download and install the updated version with the credentials you received when you purchased. If you no longer have this please contact support@ec-software.com and we will help you out. See the Premium Pack product page for more details on Premium Pack 3 and visit our online store to purchase.

V3 WebHelp and eWriter Skins

  • Anchors with keywords: Selecting anchors with keywords in the keyword index caused a JavaScript error and did not open a toggle associated with the anchor. This was a side-effect of the Google Analytics query feature added in 3.46.
  • Non-server mode: The optional q=search+term addition to the URL for Google Analytics for search and keyword index clicks added in 3.46 is now automatically disabled when V3 WebHelp is accessed without a web server. This caused errors in non-server mode and cannot be used there anyway.
  • Non-server mode: In some cases the use of a file name other than index.html for the main WebHelp file caused errors when viewing V3 WebHelp without a web server. This has been corrected, but use of index.html is still strongly recommended.
  • Search highlighting: In some configurations search terms were not correctly highlighted in the found topic pages.
  • Popups: Popups can now also be closed with the ESC key.
  • Popups: The title font from the popup title bar is no longer applied to the entire popup (the main font from the project is used).
  • Popups: Automatic positioning and sizing of popups have been improved.
  • Port reference in permalinks: The port reference is now included in permalinks if the web server is not running on the standard port 80.

Toolbox Utility

  • Editing warnings: Additional checks and warnings have been implemented to help prevent simultaneous editing of skins and projects in Help+Manual and Toolbox.
  • Non-active options: The program would exit if the user tried to activate a non-active option without first setting a value for the option (e.g. in HTML Options or Project Options).
  • Add Build Option: The Add Build Option tool in the Edit menu was not active in projects that did not yet have any build options defined.
  • Delete user-defined variable: Deleting the last user-defined variable in a skin or project did not refresh the variables list and the deleted variable was still displayed.

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Help+Manual 7.4.2 Update

We are proud to anncounce the immediate availability of Help+Manual 7.4.2. This update ships with several small improvements including:

  • Text-to-table function implemented: if you select existing tabbed text in a topic and click Insert Table, it will convert the tabbed text into a table.
  • Conditional text: if IFDEF statements were used in text, in particular in tables, a long list of IFDEF options resulted in relatively wide condition tags. The display size of the condition tags has been restricted, a mouse-over hint shows the full list of conditions.
  • Images hotspots dialog: entry field for topic ID permits editing (copy and paste)
  • Topic editor context menu: when the context menu was opened with the keyboard (e.g. SHIFT+F10), it had some glitches with tables and with the spell checker.
  • Topic editor: the scaling message for small images has been improved, it displays % only, no text.
  • High resolution displays: problems fixed for OLE objects and embedded images (PDF/HTML/DOC export)
  • Double quotation marks could be entered in topic IDs, though they are not valid for file names.
  • Task publishing: when creating eWriter eBooks with a publishing task, the specified skin was not used.
  • Insert horizontal line: when specifying a custom style, the line not use the specified line height, but rather used the default.
  • Spelling checker: support for the latest update of the Spanish OXT dictionary implemented

 

Please download the update to Help+Manual 7.4.2 from our download page and install over your existing installation of Help+Manual.

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Premium Pack 3.46 Maintenance update

Version 3.46 of the Help+Manual Premium Pack add-on is a general maintenance update including fixes for minor issues and some fine-tuning improvements.

How to Get the Premium Pack Update:

You can download and install the updated version with the credentials you received when you purchased. If you no longer have this please contact support@ec-software.com and we will help you out. See the Premium Pack product page for more details on Premium Pack 3 and visit our online store to purchase.

Toolbox utility

  • The Normalize Styles tool failed to identify some styles as paragraph styles and incorrectly reported that the style could not be found. The affected styles were styles based on other styles without explicit paragraph attributes of their own.
  • Some HM projects converted from Help+Manual 4 would cause Toolbox to crash and close when they were opened.
  • The Add/Remove Topic ID Prefixes function failed without completing on some projects with an unusual combination of settings.
  • The Rename Variable function didn’t update the display of the new variable name in some projects.

V3 WebHelp Skins

  • In the layout tables function the style name for identifying layout tables has been changed from layout-table to layout_table. This was necessary because you need to define a project style for this and Help+Manual no longer permits the definition of style names with dashes in the project stylesheet. Old projects using the hyphenated style name will still work; you just can’t create new styles with hyphens. The tap images function is not affected because the style for that does not need to be defined in Help+Manual.
  • Focus is now automatically set to the search input field in the Search pane whenever it is displayed.
  • User-defined menus in the page header would sometimes extend beyond the edge of the page.
  • If you are using Google Analytics, topic pages opened from search results or the keyword index will now include the search text or index keyword in the tracking reference. For example, if the user searched for red widgets or used the red widgets index keyword and clicked on the Introduction topic the tracking reference will be introduction.html?q=red+widgets (?q= is the standard reference for search terms in GA). You can turn this off with the new URL_QTRACKER configuration variable.
  • If you are using a non-standard port (anything except port 80) for your web server the permalink function will now include the port reference in the permalink to prevent the URL from being invalid.

V3 eWriter Skins

  • Focus is now automatically set to the search input field in the Search pane whenever it is displayed.
  • User-defined menus in the page header would sometimes extend beyond the edge of the page.

V2 Webhelp/eWriter skins

  • Focus is now automatically set to the search input field in the Search pane whenever it is displayed.
  • The Open topic in a new tab function displayed an incorrect message that the topic is already open in a new tab on some touchscreen Windows devices (MS Surface and similar).

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Help+Manual 7.4.1 Maintenance Update

This is maintenance update for the recent Help+Manual 7.4 release. Several users reported problems with the style preview in tables, which turned out to be an issue on some machines only running Windows 7/64 Service Pack 1. This problem has been fixed with the 7.4.1 update

 

Changes and bug fixes in Help+Manual 7.4.1 Build 4615

  • Style preview in tables did not work on some machines with Win7/64
  • Issues with Russian date values in genitive form (<%DATELONG%> must return the month name in genitive form)
  • Word/DOCX export: warnings about invalid characters have been reduced
  • Topic editor: header height was not updated automatically for multi-line topic headers

 

Please download the update to Help+Manual 7.4.1 from our download page and install over your existing installation of Help+Manual.

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Style Preview Problem with Help+Manual 7.4.0

After the recent release of version 7.4, several users have reported errors when changing the text style in tables. Help+Manual typically throws an error and attempts to send a bug report when this happens. The error occurs with text in tables only.

We are still trying to find the source of the problem, because it occurs on Windows 7/64 Service Pack 1 only (Windows 8/8.1/10 should be safe), it doesn’t occur everywhere and not with every table.

An Immediate Fix

If you suffer from this problem, please temporarily switch off the style preview. This can be done in Program Options. Click File > Program Options and switch to the Editor tab. Disable the option “Enable live preview when applying styles to text“.

We apologize for the trouble and will post an update here, once we have solved this issue.

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HelpXplain Animated Infographics Beta Program

Try out HelpXplain now by joining the beta program

HelpXplain is an exciting new program from EC Software that takes the pain out of making HowTo tutorials and other animated infographics for the web. You can see some examples and join the beta program here:

http://helpxplain.com/

HelpXplain takes the pain out of making HowTo tutorials

HelpXplain can make a whole range of different web-based infographics, but for documentation authors its ability to make animated HowTo tutorials is nothing short of revolutionary. Instead of trying to get every step of a “performance” right you just make a series of screenshots that the program then links together in an editable screencast with an animated, editable mouse cursor. Let me put what this means this into perspective from the point of view of a documentation author.

From typewriter to word processor

I’ve been working with HelpXplain for a while now while writing the help for it. For me as a help author there is one aspect of it that stands out from all the others. It reminds me of the huge aha experience I had the very first time I saw a word processor. The one thought I had was: “I am never going to have to retype anything ever again.” That was huge. For writers of all kinds, it is still 99.9% percent of the benefit of using a word processor instead of a typewriter. Everything else that modern writing tools do is nice to have, but all those additional functions are still nothing compared to the ability to edit and change your text without retyping everything.

From video screencasts to HelpXplain

HelpXplain is the first time that I have had a similar experience as a documentation author. It is really comparable. Like everyone else, I experimented with using video screencast tools like Camtasia and Captivate. Like everyone else outside of very large, very rich companies, I abandoned them very quickly. They only make sense if you have a huge amount of time to work on little video tutorials, and if someone is willing to pay you a reasonable hourly rate for that time. Both of those things are simply unrealistic expectations for most technical writers working in today’s market. It just doesn’t happen. You’re not going to have that much time to work on a tutorial, and even if you do nobody is going to pay you for it.

Video: When you had to do it just right

But that’s not the only problem with video screencast tools: They are very stressful and thus unpleasant to work with, because you have to get everything right. If you make a mistake while making the video you have to start again. And again. And again. And again. And if you ever need to add something you have to remake the entire screencast. Again. I found this so unpleasant that I would do pretty much anything to avoid having to make video tutorials even if I did have the time and reasonable payment for them. To be honest, I would probably even pay to not have to make them.

HelpXplain: Work at your own speed, correct later at leisure

That is why HelpXplain is such a revelation for me, personally, quite separate from the fact that this is an EC Software product. Once you get the hang of it, making little HowTo tutorials is literally as easy as making a series of screenshots — which is what we are doing anyway. And it is completely stress-free: I don’t have to get my timing right and I don’t have to worry about needing to set up everything right. Between screenshots I can take my time to make any changes I want in the program. And not only that: If I ever need to change or add something I can do that at any time, without having to redo the whole thing.


HelpXplain New Dialog

There is no doubt that making tutorials with HelpXplain is radically faster and more pleasant than struggling with a video screencast tool. In fact, for myself, I could say that it is infinitely faster, because with HelpXplain I am actually making the tutorials, whereas with video screencast tools I wouldn’t be making them at all. Not in the real world.

HelpXplain can do a lot more. But if you’re a documentation author, taking the pain out of making HowTo tutorials for documentation simply makes it a must-have.

Tim Green

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Help+Manual 7.4.0 Released!

We are excited to announce the release of Help+Manual 7.4,0 and encourage you to install this update over your existing version of Help+Manual. Version 7.4.0 is a free update for all registered 7.xx users.

Fix for the Windows 10 menu-display slowdown

A couple of weeks ago, several users reported that the display of popup menus had slowed down considerably, while nothing has changed in Help+Manual. It turned out that a recent Windows 10 update is responsible for the slowdown: in particular, it is the tiny popup animation in menus, that is delayed considerably.

We have addressed this issue in version 7.4 by removing the tiny popup animation from menus, if the corresponding option in Help+Manual is set. If you are using Windows 10 and find that popup menus have become slower, please enable this option in Program Options:

 

Changes in 7.4.0

PDF Output

  • TrueType fonts located in TrueType collection packages can now be embedded. Package disassembly and embedding works automatically when you opt to embed TrueType fonts.
  • Before version 7.4, TrueType collection fonts were embedded as Type3 fonts, which generated a slightly blurry typeface. The Type3 fallback option is still present, but is used only, if a TrueType font fails to embed.
  • Italic simulation has been improved. Some fonts (example: Tahoma Italic) do not exist. The italic version is simulated in Windows and to achieve the same effect in PDF, Help+Manual simulates the italic version in PDF as well. However, characters were often too dense. The simulation has been improved.
  • Font Awesome: this is a popular custom symbol font, that uses mostly Unicode characters. However, it is not a “symbol” font per se, but declares itself as a regular font. Symbol characters written with Font Awesome could not be embedded in PDF. Now, Font Awesome is treated as a “symbol font” and if you enable the option “Export Symbol text as glyphs“, you should get the symbols in PDF.

Miscellaneous Changes and Bugfixes

  • Performance optimization (program options switch) now affects the animation of context menus: the menus are no longer faded in, when this option is set. A recent Windows 10 update has caused menu animations to slow down considerably.
  • Webhelp: the Zoom Search script has been modified, the Zoom search entry field now contains an autofocus attribute.
  • HTML Styles: Nested tables sometimes inherited the style from the outer table, if the inner table did not define a table class, but the outer table did.
  • Synchronize tool: bugs in synchronizing the folder structure are fixed
  • AuthorIT import: images had the wrong title text
  • Month names in genitive form did not work. This value can be retrieved by the DATELONG variable and DATE(format).
  • eWriter eBooks (menu editor): custom page link addresses were not displayed.
  • Word/DOCX export: Images with multi-line captions are now supported and images in tables now shrink (like in PDF), if the table is too wide for the document. In some rare cases, images with captions were clipped in Word. Bugfix: images with captions that started with a blank line, caused the Word document to be invalid, it could not be opened.

November 12, 2018: Update (Build 4603) 

  • This update solves a problem with the Italian OpenOffice spell checker dictionary.

 

Please download the update to Help+Manual 7.4.0 from our download page and install over your existing installation of Help+Manual.

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