March 4, 2021
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Review of EasyHelp

  • By Karl Moore
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The problem with many of the help programs I found was that they spent too much time trying to recreate an internal Word-like package that allowed the user to visually create help files. And that meant they forgot about silly little things, like usability.

Thankfully EON Solutions didn't. In fact, their program doesn't even ship with an EXE. Instead, EasyHelp is a Microsoft Word add-in. And it's cunningly simple.

My installation ate around 7MB of hard disk space, from a 30-day evaluation download of around 2.5MB.

During setup, EasyHelp detects your copy of Microsoft Word and configures itself appropriately. And whether you're using Word 6, 7, 97 or 2000—or are attempting to create help files for Windows 3.1, 95, 98 or NT—you'll be in good company—all are supported.

Creating a new help file is actually quite a doddle. You simply fire up Word, click File, New, then—instead of selecting 'Blank Document' or 'Professional Fax' as you typically would—choose the 'EasyHelp' template.

After initially saving the document, you can start your future help file. Quite simply, you just start typing. Following my early experiences with the world's worst help file creators (a possible new Channel 5 documentary?)—this seemed too good to be true.

Still, being the eternal optimist, I started. I tapped out a title, then a chunk of text for the body. Next, I started what I wanted to become the second page, plus added a little more writing.

Next up, I clicked Process, which whizzes and whirs to zap out a help compatible RTF file. Finally, I pressed Build—which compiles and launches the final help file.

And boy, was I impressed. In front of me, I found one long page containing all the text I'd tapped out. Sure, it wasn't Microsoft quality, but you've got to start somewhere. Hey, I'd actually created my own Windows help file!

So there was my entire text on one whopping great page. Next up, it's recommended you split that mass of writing into individual topics. So perhaps 'Introduction', then 'Common Questions', maybe 'Support'. It's your call.

Thankfully this is also exceptionally easy. I just selected the titles of what I wanted to become the individual topics—and clicked the Topic button. After specifying a name, that was it.

I processed it all again—and EasyHelp had divided my test file up into two separate help file topics. Wow.

Still, I thought, this beast must fall down somewhere. Nothing could be this easy.

So I went ahead and started getting difficult. I added multi-coloured text, numerous mixed fonts, a hyperlink to my www.karlmoore.com homepage, a numbered list, bullet points—even a picture.

And just to be extra troublesome, I added a link on the first topic across to the second, by clicking the Link button.

Seconds later, I tested the help file once more.

Blow Up!

And by jove, everything worked. Everything!

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This article was originally published on November 20, 2002

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