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I'm putting together a fairly large GUI. I'm a tech person, but more on the hardware side, not software. I'm wondering what software package would be best suited to enable me to generate a web-based help-system. Preferably it takes care of a lot of coding, allowing me to focus on the content.

For example, the user would click on a link in the GUI when they have a question, that brings them to a web-based Help Guide, for example, providing an overview of how to use the GUI, perhaps a searchable index (key-word based index), table of contents, etc, for navigating through the Help Guide.

My first thought was to program everything in XHTML using Dreamweaver, but my layout requirements are fairly modest (just figures and text, maybe a few equations), and I'd prefer not to spend a lot of time concentrating on the programming. Was wondering if any software existed that made generating web-based navigable pages easy to create/publish. Again, I'm not really a programmer, so if there's something obvious out there, I'm probably not aware of it.

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You should really clarify here - is this a web application, or a desktop application? The approach to creating help files can be different. If this is a desktop app, you're likely better off creating traditional help files (users expect them). But otherwise, there's tons of 'help authoring' apps you can find with a search, and many output to html if you really need that for web use. –  GrandmasterB Feb 15 '11 at 5:56
    
I'm thinking of using Adobe Flex for the option of either web-based or, through Adobe Air, a desktop application that pulls data from a network server. –  gkdsp Feb 15 '11 at 6:13
    
What do you mean by "traditional help file"? What format is it in? –  gkdsp Feb 15 '11 at 15:23
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Sphinx (http://sphinx.pocoo.org/) is one such system. It was written for the official Python documentation but, unlike many tools for providing API documentation it does not rely on markup embedded in program code. It just uses a simple markup syntax in plain text files and can process those marked-up files into HTML/PDF etc. The sphinx website itself is (mostly?) a sphinx project so you can see what sort of output you get there. However, sphinx is quite themable so you can customize the look (or simply put your company's logo on the header if that's all you need.)

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I have seen some very pretty looking Sphinx-based sites. –  Peter Rowell Feb 15 '11 at 5:14
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MadCap Flare is a great tool for help authoring. My team used it for providing context-based help for a rather large system and the tech writers couldn't stop talking about how much they loved it.

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Thanks Mike, Flare looks nice. Looks like it doesn't work on a Mac or Linux platform though. –  gkdsp Feb 15 '11 at 16:10
    
Didn't realize you were looking for a cross-platform tool. You should specify that in your question –  Mike Brown Feb 16 '11 at 7:39
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