How-to: Create Index Entries in Online Help

A recent question posed to me regarding the subject brought back a lot of memories on how I came around learning about this. I still remember the day that Dick (Ben McDakkie) and I drove down south to our Belgian Navision sister company. Herman would learn us all about the insides of Online Help (OLH) creation. Those around NAV already for some while may recall that, with Navision Solutions, HTML Online Help was the successor to WinHelp and introduced a much better and nicer Online Help system, but also a bit more complex. I seem to recall that both Dick and I found it too complex. For sure it took another two years, already the MS era, before we converted the existing NL OLH into HTML Help; not only after Jan had build a C/SIDE based OLH tool called C/Help that was provided to NL partners and that surely filled a gap. I still regret that, so far, it did not get a successor. It was a very intuitive tool that automated a lot of tasks and made the threshold to start writing OLH tremendously lower. For about 5 years this was one of the main OLH tool in the MS Dynamics GDL team.

One of the things that C/Help made easy was the creation of index entries. So actually I didn’t have to think about it a lot, but restless mind I can have, I was trying to get to understand (and sometimes even improve) the nuts and bolts anyway.

Two Ways of Doing

The index gives the user the possibility to search the OLH based on specific terms. HTML Help does this based on a list of catchwords that have been provided by the one who has build the OLH project. Basically you have two options for creating (storing) index entries:

  1. in the topic (.htm) files or
  2. in the index (.hhk) files

To me the first option is the best as you do not have a separate to maintain when making changes to various topic files. Think of the case where a topic file that has become obsolete. Deleting the topic file (that contains the index entries itself) does not need any additional action for the .hhk file.

Index Entry

So how does that look like? Let me use the topic displayed in the screen shot above: Creating New Account Schedules. If you right click on the topic it will give you the menu option to view the source of the topic:

These are index entries stored in this topic:

  <meta NAME=”MS-HKWD CONTENT=”account schedule,creating new />
  <meta NAME=”MS-HKWD CONTENT=”account schedule />

Various hints and rules on how to phrase and select words for index entries can be found in the references.

References

In the past the Online Help tools were released as part of the NAV Tools CD and contained are very detailed guide called Online Help Guide for Microsoft® Business Solutions–Navision® (NOHG.pdf). With the introduction of the new Microsoft Dynamics NAV Help Toolkit the information has been compiled in an accompanying help project. Unfortunately it does not give you as much information, so if possible get hold of NOHG.pdf.

  1. Online Help for Microsoft Dynamics NAV Help Toolkit; read the topic Help Topic Indexing,
  2. Online Help Guide for Microsoft® Business Solutions–Navision®; read chapter 3

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