Cue Cards

The Help Part

When our cue card is displayed, we want it to appear in a secondary window. WinHelp's main window contains a menu and a button bar. While these can be disabled to some extent, making them go away entirely is difficult at best. Secondary windows have none of this baggage (however, they do still have a system menu). Also, in Windows 95, secondary windows can be set to vary in height based on the amount of content they have. This is good in that we don't have to make each cue card the same size.

Most help authoring systems allow the author control over secondary windows. Specifically, the author can set the size, location, and background color of secondary windows. There is also a flag that we can set to keep the window on top of other windows, which should be enabled so we can see the cue card once the focus is returned to our application. For purposes of this article, we'll set the window to be fairly small (1/4 of the screen width), locate it to the far right side of the screen, and use that sickly yellow background that everyone seems to be using for their tooltips. For reasons I'll delve into later, don't assign any title text to the secondary window.

Since every good application already has a help file, we could just stick our cue cards there. However, it might be a good idea to keep them in a separate help file for several reasons. First, general help file maintenance would be easier. Second, under Windows 95 help, users have the ability to search for any text and go to that topic, even topics that were not designed to be reached except via popups and secondary windows. By not providing a CNT file for our cue cards help, we prevent the user from reaching the full-text search tab. The help file we'll use here consists of one main contents topic, and cue card topics. We don't really need the contents topic, but WinHelp requires that one topic be designated as the official contents and it does make development and testing easier if we have a convenient way to access all the cue card topics.

Copyright © 2009 by Dana Cline
Last Updated  Monday, April 06, 2009
Website hosted by 1and1