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Impact of Microsoft Help 3

Jun 23, 2009 at 12:01 AM

We recently spent a considerable amount of time learning about MAML and converting our HTML documentation to MAML. Now, considering Help 3 uses HTML, have we wasted our time learning about MAML? Or will MAML still be the source for producing HTML? 

I also wonder about the poor tool producers. So far I see only one tool that produces anything for Help 3 (FAR). Will SHFB be supporting Help 3? These continuous changes are maddening...


Jun 23, 2009 at 1:26 AM
Edited Jun 23, 2009 at 1:28 AM

It's not a waste of time using MAML for the conceptual content since it keeps the topics presentation style neutral.  Sandcastle translates MAML to HTML and the topics will take on the features of the selected presentation style.  If you decide to change presentation styles or use a new style that becomes available, you don't have to do anything besides select it and rebuild.  If you write everything using HTML, you have to rewrite your topics to use the new style.  As I understand it, Help 3.0 uses standard HTML tags for the index and keyword items. so it's basically a matter of getting Sandcastle to output the index and keyword info using those HTML tags rather than the Help 2.0 custom tags.  When Sandcastle supports Help 3.0, SHFB will as well.  I need to wait to see how Sandcastle supports it before I can support it in SHFB.  The Sandcastle transformations will handle the conversion to HTML.  SHFB has to output appropriate supporting files, invoke the compiler, and generate an appropriate set of output files to make it useable.  The framework is there, it's just a matter of plugging in the various parts.



Jun 23, 2009 at 5:04 PM

Hello Eric,

Thanks for the clarification. I am relieved. It sounds like MAML insulates us from continual changes in the help engines. This is great! My worry was yet another XXXL language would be hoisted on us.


Jun 26, 2009 at 10:25 AM

Hi, very interesting, glad I stumbled across this... Does anyone know if VS 2010 will still support the "old" help2 format? Not that I like it very much, I'd just hate to support yet another configuration for our customers...

Jun 26, 2009 at 2:59 PM

I don't work at Microsoft but everything indicates help 2 is not supported for VS 2010. Probably we will get another "better" help engine in a later version of VS, then help 3 will not be supported and so on. :) Frank