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Overview on Elehelp

Seeking the
user manuals?
Here they are!
Elehelp is a conceptually new and unique software system for creating help systems, user manuals and technical documentation supporting output to paper, PDF, HTML, Windows help format and Flash from one central and multi-lingual content database.

Please note that Elehelp is currently used only internally by ourselves to administrate the user manuals for EleFamily. Elehelp will not be available as a product before some time in 2010.

Elehelp uses modern database technology while the traditional systems are file based.

By nature, database technology is far superior to simple flat files. Because of this superior concept Elehelp offers many new features and capabilities.

The use of databases enables Elehelp to store help and documentation content in many small, independent text objects. This is much more flexible and superior to the conventional large and clumsy text documents with many redundancies that are used in all other systems. Elehelp's small autonomous text objects avoid redundancies by re-using text modules. This modular form of content storage also enables simple yet effective forms of versioning and conditional content use.

Elehelp also offers very comfortable and new forms of cross-referencing and linking through database technology. Being a European product, Elehelp is fully multi-lingual with many unique features in this very important aspect. For example, most link types are created only once and apply automatically to all language versions unless otherwise wanted.

Many new and unique features derive from the complete cross-integration of Elehelp with Elebase, Elepub and with the soon to follow Elepic. This enables database-publishing for product catalogs, help systems, manuals and technical documentation all in one homogeneous software system from one central repository source, text and image database.

Overview on Elehelp modules and versions

Elehelp and the importance of interactive help

User help in software

The importance of a comprehensive and easy-to-use help system is essential for the satisfaction of any software user and for the user's success with this particular software. Therefore, help is a key factor for the success of any software product.

These are the main reasons why we developed Elehelp.

Additionally, Elehelp generates help systems for any technical non-software products, for machines, apparatuses, facilities and applications of any kind. Help systems can be produced in several different formats like HTML, WinHelp and especially in Elehelp's own object-oriented database format for use by the Elehelp-Reader.

The Elehelp-Reader and Elehelp's database offer far better features and comfort than conventional help systems.

User manuals

Today user manuals on paper or as e-paper are just another form of representation of a help system. User manuals must be generated from the same sources as the help system and this only requires a somewhat different form of output and structuring, primarily because links cannot be used on paper and only to a very limited degree in e-paper.

Elehelp also produces user manuals for paper and e-paper from the same sources and content.

Technical documentation

What is true for software also applies to the technical documentation and the user manuals for machines, apparatuses, facilities and applications. Elehelp also covers these types of technical documentations and user manuals.

Elehelp and its siblings

Elehelp is also the very special help system of the EleFamily software products. It offers much more convenience and features than the standard Windows help system and than conventional help authoring and documentation tools.

Technically and from the application point of view, Elehelp is also fully integrated with Elebase, Elepub, EleProductSite and the soon to come Elepic. Please refer to the websites of these products for more details (see www.Elehelp.com).

New type of interactive help browser (reader)

Beyond HTML and Windows WinHelp Elehelp offers its own and very special user interfaces in different forms:


All of these help formats and versions are administrated and created by the Elehelp administrator software. The distributed Elehelp databases can be automatically updated via the Internet so that changes and updates are distributed fully-automatically to all users. Versions with controlled and secure circulation are available in request.

Primary specialties of Elehelp

Overview

This chapter gives you a very brief overview on the most important specialties of Elehelp in conjunction with Elepub and Elebase. It lists the most important features, in which Elehelp differs from other and older software products.

Elehelp's conceptual specialties

Use of database technology

Before you miss this important message, which is explained in more detail in another chapter, please note that Elehelp heavily relies on the use of modern database technology - in sharp contrast to all other help authoring and technical documentation tools, which still employ simple flat file based storage of content.

Of course, database beats flat files! There is not doubt about that!

Re-using content

Elehelp offers new features of re-using text items (modules) and this avoids redundant storage of identical or almost identical text chunks. This is also why Elehelp decomposes the previously very large text files into several or many smaller text items and stores each of these text items as autonomous database objects.

When Elepub generates a run-time publication for distribution it accesses these text items in a user-defined sequence and generates an output run-time publication from many independent text items. This sequence is defined by an Elehelp tree, also called help grouping system.

Each branch of these trees constitutes a topic and each leaf corresponds to a text objects.

Therefore, Elehelp composes its output from many small separate text objects and this is how single text objects can be reused in several different publications and even several times inside one single Elehelp publication.

Text objects, which are similar but not fully identical, can be made identical by adding variables and conditions to these text objects. These variables are filled at generation time with the specific value that applies for this case of output.

Conditions make the presence of text chunks conditional and their presence in a runtime help database depending on settings that are made by the author before a help generation is started.

Avoiding redundancies

Avoiding redundancies is only possible if one re-uses text items. This is achieved very easily and with great comfort by Elehelp. This is also supported by Elehelp's ability to include variables into texts and to publish texts conditionally. As described above variables and conditional text chunks are important features to achieve this.

Perfect support for multi-lingual content and versions

Elebase as well as Elepub and Elehelp treat textual content as language neutral and this content can be available in many different language versions.

Selections of content as well as definitions of publications etc are generally language independent so that the content can be exchanged automatically without any need to start all over again and to define new content, new sequences of content modules or new publication layout.

When output is generated the users simply selects the wanted content language and re-uses the otherwise language neutral definitions.

As a side-effect of this approach most links are only made for one language and they automatically apply to all versions.

These are extremely important features where help or publications must be created in different languages and this is where we found the older existing products to be very cumbersome.

Superb support for creating variants

Storing, administrating and especially creating variants of Elehelp content by re-using content modules (text objects) for different publications and help databases is one of the most important features and advantages of Elehelp.

The Elehelp output in any format is constructed from any number of different components, topics, text modules, keywords, various types of cross-links etc.

It is especially easy to administrate and create different variants from these various types of data objects so that the content entities can be re-used multiple times. Variable parts of the content can be replaced by version dependent values (see next topic).

Automatic replacement of version dependent variables

Content components such as names, expressions or keywords in text and other data objects can be automatically replaced by version dependent values when generating a specific version. These replacements are performed by referring to a central translation table, which is also version dependent. This unique feature enables a version independent storage of content, which is the precondition for any reuse of content in various versions.

Full integration of MSWord and MSExcel software

Several extremely widespread standard application software products are fully integrated in Elehelp as well as in Elebase and Elepub. This is especially true for MSWord, MSExcel, for RTF editors, for PDF and for Adobe Photoshop in the case of Elepic.

Elehelp users continue to use their familiar software products like MSWord and MSExcel.

Storage of standard data formats: MSWord, MSExcel, RTF, PDF

Not only these software products but also the data files in the formats of MSWord, MSExcel, RTF and PDF are fully integrated in Elehelp, Elebase and Elepub and stored inside the Elehelp / Elebase database avoiding the usual chaos where ordinary files are stored directly in the file system.

Elehelp stores content in standard data formats like MSWord, MSExcel and RTF.

Data inheritance

Elehelp supports data inheritance for Elehelp content. This simplifies the storage and administration of large amounts of content, which can be grouped into inheritable hierarchies where child objects inherit from their ancestors (mothers). This incorporates many practical advantages in managing and using large content databases.

Many types of cross-links - managed by a database

Normally, cross-links (hyperlinks) are contained directly in the content, especially in text files. This is an extremely bad solution, because it disables many important applications and features, which are provided by Elehelp, because Elehelp stores cross-link source data in a database and adds hyperlinks to the content objects when a runtime Elehelp database is generated from the source database.

The use of the underlying Elebase database for managing these cross references is the precondition for gaining and keeping an overview on which module is linked to which other modules. Not only in this respect Elehelp offers extraordinary comprehensive features and capabilities.

Specialties realated to Elehelp's use of databases

Content storage in a database versus files

Database beats files!

This is in short the message of Elehelp and this is why Elehelp stores its content in a database while all (to the best of our knowledge) other help authoring and technical documentation tools use simple files.

Elehelp stores content in many smaller and separate text chunks, called text objects.

The data contained in a large text file is decomposed by Elehelp into many smaller and separate text chunks, (text objects) each of which is stored as an independent text item. This has the great advantage that many of these text items can be reused easily for other purposes and that the entire content is much easier to handle and to reference.

Also, reordering parts of or even an entire publication becomes much easier this way. Of course, it is up to the editor user (author) to decide whether such a text item consists of just a few lines of text or if it covers several pages.

Managing content in databases -superior over using files

Where content is stored in files the likeliness of chaos is very high.

Elehelp orders and controls content files by storing them inside its underlying Elebase database. This also allows controlling usage rights depending on users and user groups in relation to specific groups and types of content objects.

Storage in files results in chaos. Elehelp orders this chaos in its databases.

This principle of Elehelp and Elebase of storing content in a database is clearly superior to the usual form of storing content files in the file system. This alone means great benefits for Elehelp users.

Links are stored in the database

All links in Elehelp are stored in the database (and not in flat text files as is the standard in all other systems) and they can therefore easily be referenced:


This are important references, which are delivered by Elehelp in less than a second due to its underlaying database.

Automated import and export and support for standards data formats

All data can be imported into the Elehelp database and exported again, of course. Due to the fact that all of this data is contained in widespread standards data formats like MSWord, MSExcel or ASCII, the user is never in risk of having his data jailed inside Elehelp or Elebase.

The automated import capabilities also allow to quickly and easily import existing data files and making them usable inside Elehelp.

Keyword indexing through the database

Indexed keywords and a good reference table are important components of any help system, user manual and technical documentation but using and indexing keywords in texts is very cumbersome and severely restricted in its functionality.

It's a nightmare to maintain a large number of keywords in software like MSWord.

A database management system is much more powerful in this task and this is why Elehelp allow an easy referencing, administration and changing of keywords. There are great advantages in Elehelp's approach to solving this subject and please refer to the details to see the great benefits.

Perfect for use in large multi-user environments

Due to its technical nature Elehelp is extremely well supporting a large number of help authors in large multi-user environments. Most of the work done by Elehelp authors is to help texts and they are organised as a small and autonomous text article objects so that every author can work on their own article texts without causing any conflicts with other authors. The same is true when creating links.

This is another important difference where Elehelp's database technology clearly beats the conventional flat files that are used by other systems.

More

And there is lot's more but this page has already grown to more than just an overview. Therefore. let's stop here.

Interested in Elehelp?

If you are interested in Elehelp, just send us an email and we will keep you posted.