The Electronic Labyrinth


Anyone who works with the Windows Help Compiler quickly realizes its limitations: rigorous, time-consuming syntax and lack of tool integration. Several companies have rushed to meet the demand for a more user-friendly solution. The most popular of these (judging by magazine reviews) is Wextech's Doc-to-Help.

This product is simply a set of Microsoft Word for Windows (WinWord) templates and macros. Indeed, Wextech designed the templates which ship with WinWord. Their press kit includes a letter of recommendation from the Documentation Manager at Microsoft. Obviously, these two companies work together closely.

The idea behind Doc-to-Help is simple. Use the templates provided to produce handsome documents on screen, then run the supplied macros to automate link creation. The result can be used as both a paper document and a hyperbook. Each section becomes a node, margin notes translate to pop-up nodes, and cross-references become reference links. In addition, larger structures such as tables of contents, glossaries, and indices are all automatically translated to their hypertext equivalents. Graphics and special characters are supported. It is even possible to mark text as appearing conditionally in either the paper form or the hyperbook.

Doc-to-Help will not be an ideal solution for fiction authors since fictions are unlikely to have the same structure as a user's manual. The package assumes a highly structured document layout, and indeed imposes one through its templates. Links are automatically made based on structural clues.

Nonetheless, this product does include many time-saving macros, and removes the need to be continually changing environments. The Help Compiler can be run directly from WinWord. Given the lack of support from Microsoft, the inclusion of the compiler makes Doc-to-Help a one-stop solution. Version 1.1 requires Microsoft Windows, WinWord, and 2 MB RAM. It costs $295.

Wextech Systems Inc.
310 Madison Ave.
Suite 905
New York, NY

Phone: 212-949-9595

© 1993-2000 Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin, Robin Parmar.
contact us