Microsoft Vista Help update

Here’s an update on the new Help system that will be shippng with the next version of Windows (Windows Vista).

Vista’s Help, and the XML tags in MAML are primarily task-oriented. Presentation is separated from content, so you can maintain a consistent look across programs. The MAML schema is included in the Windows Vista beta, which means you can start understanding the XML tags Microsoft has devised.

Help displays on the right of the screen so you can jump back and forth between the help text and the application screen. Vista’s Help system is supported by a programmatic interface in .NET, allowing you to develop “persistent Help” – topics that change depending on what the user is doing in the application.

New Help topics will be added to Help files as part of the Windows Update feature. According tothe AP team, content is downloaded to the local machine as MAML and transformed at runtime into HTML for display, as per local content. There’s also a beta version serves the same MAML content in a Web browser.

What are you doing about Vista Help – hoping it will go away, chomping at the bit, totally indifferent to it?

Our Web site redesign

We revamped our Web site in July, moving from a layout controlled by tables to one controlled by cascading style sheets. The site is now more accessible for the sight-impaired and for people using PDAs or text browsers. It also takes less time to load.

We’ve also rewritten the text for our marketing and copywriting services, to reflect the range of services we now offer in this field. How long it takes our competitors to copy us again remains to be seen.

It’s not easy to implement this design in a way that it works in all the mainstream browsers and all screen resolutions, and a few compromises have had to be made. We’re not aware of any bugs, but if you spot one, then do please let us know.

Microsoft’s "Mark of the Web"

I just spotted this tip on Char James Tanny’s “Helpstuff” Web site.

If you develop a Web site or an HTML based Help file, and you add *any* JavaScript you get a warning message when you view the site in Internet Explorer regarding “Active Content”.

The warning implies you should change your security zone settings. However, Microsoft has provided a way to disable this message for those pages that you know are safe – The “Mark of the Web”(MOTW).

MOTW is a comment added to the head section that indicates from which Web site the content belongs.The MOTW must follow a specific format, including the number of characters in the string. If this is for a new site, or if the domain is not known, you can use “about:internet” as a valid URL.

See http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/workshop/author/dhtml/overview/motw.asp for more information.

ISTC Documentation Awards

Could your user documents be worthy entrants for the ISTC Documentation Awards? These awards are for those who value the opportunity to have their English language documentation recognised as clear, concise and effective. There are two categories – printed documentation and online delivery. Entry for the awards is straightforward and the deadline has been extended to 15th August. Entries must have been issued between April 2004 and July 2005 and ISTC membership is not required. It’s a chance to see how you measure up to your peers!

We’ll be presenting at the TICAD conference

We’ll be presenting again at the TICAD conference, which this year is at the Hilton Warwick Hotel on 16th November. The probable topic will be: Documentation project planning and metrics – accurate costing and reporting for technical publications projects.

TICAD is an annual business to business event for Technical Publications Managers of large corporations. The conference provides overview of the latest developments in technical information creation and distribution.