Software Update: Help & Manual 5.2.0 build 880

Every software developer knows how important a program manual can be in order not to be inundated with the same questions from users over and over. You can use the Help & Manual program to compile this manual in a simple way. This allows you to assemble a manual and then publish it in various formats, including PDF, browser based help, html help, classic winhelp, e-books and Microsoft Word. It is also possible to make a hard copy. Developer EC Software released version 5.2.0 build 880 a while ago and provided the following announcement:

Help & Manual 5.2 released

We are glad to announce the availability of Help & Manual 5.2! Everyone but us would have made this a major product upgrade. Despite the wealth of new features, we classified it as a minor update – and therefore free for all registered 5.x users. If you are using Help & Manual version 5.x, please update to this version. There’s something in it for everyone of you! If you are going to use Windows 7, this update is required.

Adobe PDF export / print manuals / layout design

Many of your suggestions in the user survey concerned the PDF export and the integrated visual print manual designer of Help & Manual. We got several suggestions that have in fact long been implemented, many users just did not known. So we focused on a new online help especially for the print manual designer and also implemented quite a bunch of improvements and new features. These are in detail:

  • Print manual designer comes with new in-depth online help
  • The print manual designer has a new section to design pages that would normally be empty. Text objects in the manual designer support rotated text and can insert GIF/PNG/JPEG images directly
  • Automatic downscaling of images in tables improved. When an image is too large to fit in a table cell when printed, Help & Manual reduces its size.
  • PDF export: updated PDF engine with improved word spacing and underlines

Webhelp and HTML Help export

Webhelp export (browser-based help) has received a really important update: Help & Manual now creates either a Javascript full-text index (suitable for local distribution) or it uses a server-based PHP or ASP index. The support for a server-based full-text index significantly improves the loading time of the Webhelp index.

As you probably know, Help & Manual uses a custom version of the Zoom Search Engine from Wrensoft. With this update, Help & Manual also implements optional support for Zoom 6, the regular version from Wrensoft. PHP and ASP require a capable web server. Webhelp full-text search is available in Help & Manual Professional only.

  • Webhelp full-text search with PHP and ASP index option (H&M Professional only). If one of these new options is used, phrase search is available as well.
  • Webhelp: in the 3-pane layout, the default name for the internal header page was changed. Some over-eager web analyzer tools found the word “adframe” in the page name…
  • HTML Help and Webhelp: table heading rows are now exported as …

    instead of

    to improve accessibility. Moreover, there is a workaround for an MSIE 7 bug to avoid disappearing blanks in inline toggles

  • HTML Help: when publishing HTML Help, Help & Manual automatically opens the currently selected topic for a quick and easy preview
  • Visual Studio Help: baggage files were not included in some rare cases

Import functions

  • HTML Help import comes with new options whether to import anchors and labeled elements. A second option allows to skip invisible content, which would normally be imported like it was visible. Both options improve the roundtrip of importing a CHM File to create a PDF manual from it.
  • Import for HelpScribble projects has been implemented
  • Richtext/Word import: special characters in topic IDs are filtered and translated
  • XML list problems: some problems with broken lists (coming from H&M v4) fixed.

User interface and miscellaneous new features

A huge amount of the development work for version 5.2 concerned the user interface and many small details that users have asked for. For instance, we have implemented a format painter that was requested by many customers.

We have changed the handling of compressed (.hmxz) projects that are loaded from a network resource. When the network connection was unstable and the source became disconnected while you were editing a project. The new opening method is safe and no longer prone to network interruptions.

If you are documenting source code, you will appreciate the new syntax highlighter, which has been re-implemented. The new syntax highlighting function supports over 50 (!) different programming languages ​​and three custom highlighters for user customization.

Here is a detailed list of changes:

  • Windows 7: a few minor changes have been implemented to ensure Windows 7 compatibility. Windows 7 has not been released at this time. Help & Manual 5.2 works with the current beta version of Windows 7.
  • A new format painter lets you easily copy text and paragraph formats and apply them to new text.
  • Drag & drop: you can now drag topics from the table of contents into the topic text to create a link. The reverse function still works as well.
  • Table of contents sort function implemented (in right-click context menu)
  • Project Explorer context menu: in the “Include in Builds” submenu, the list of predefined and custom builds now adds a function to apply missing include options to parent chapters, if the structure is inconsistent.
  • Editor context menu: new item “Execute Link”.
  • Support for additional mouse buttons implemented: on a 5-button mouse, the left and right XButton are linked to the history (back and forward, respectively).
  • The style selector on the main form now displays style shortcuts in the drop-down list for easier access.
  • Scaled images in editor: different scaling message for improved readability
  • New variables (available in all output formats): , , , and . Please refer to the updated online help for detailed information.
  • Topic bookmarks: a new user option is available in the Program Options dialog: Automatically manage topic bookmarks for every comment. This option automatically creates (and deletes) topic bookmarks depending on comments in the topic.
  • Modified Publish button to avoid confusion with quick-launch options
  • Project report: a new report option to report topics that are not referred in TOC has been implemented. Furthermore, the “last edited” column includes the user who edited the topic.
  • Project Explorer (topics list view): additional column to show whether a topic is bound in the TOC or not
  • Find & Replace: variables and conditional text can be replaced, the Find & Replace window remembers the last search options while the program runs.
  • Version Control Support: a new status cache improves working speed
  • The Insert symbol dialog has been updated too and includes Unicode characters
  • Additional math, greek and non-visual symbols are available in the symbol gallery
  • Syntax Highlighter: over 50 new highlighters available
  • E-books: the Win32 e-book output format now support Adobe Flash 10 and has receveived a new skin without a print and info button
  • Main window: the title bar now includes the path of the currently selected project file. A help button was added in the upper right corner.
  • Several functions have received a user customizable shortcut, such as Edit Styles.
  • Insert anchor dialog: selected text is used for suggested ID
  • French spelling check: words that included an apostrophe were considered misspelled in the live spelling option
  • Ribbon bugfix: ALT+numeric codes were executed as accelerators
  • Configuration, Help Windows: window size was limited to 1024 x 1024
  • Some grid editing problems (eg user variables in the configuration section) have been fixed
  • Replacing baggage files triggers a confirmation message
  • Display of filtered items in the TOC with a different color and a different font instead of hiding them
  • New opening method for HMXZ files with in-memory handling, to prevent write errors when source gets disconnected

Version number 5.2.0 build 880
Release status Final
Operating systems Windows 7, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows Vista
Website EC Software
License type Shareware