False Starting

Greetings and salutations!

Yes I’m keenly aware that the blog is in need of updating! Life has a way of getting in the way, no?

Okay, onto the meat of the post. This one will be RoboHelp HTML focused.

When RoboHelp authors create web based output such as WebHelp or FlashHelp, we sometimes find that folks grow extremely confused between the start page and the default topic. This post is intended to provide some insight into this common mystery.

Broken down it’s pretty simple. The Webhelp Start Page is the HTML page that launches your WebHelp system. The Default Topic is quite simply the first topic that is presented to your end user after things load up and settle. Pretty straightforward, huh?

Unfortunately, all too often we find that folks will attempt to name these two HTML pages using the same file name. When that happens, RoboHelp sees a conflict and will rename your Default Topic. The name it changes to usually bears a trailing _1.htm. This happens because it’s quite common for the Default Topic to be stored in the same general location as the WebHelp Start Page. Because as the final configuration you are instructing RoboHelp HTML to name the WebHelp Start Page identically to the Default Topic, something has to give and RoboHelp does its best by renaming the Default Topic and amending all references to it internally. As a best practice, I normally advise folks to consider naming this page index.htm.

This type of naming has benefits. If you have many different help systems it may become cumbersome to determine what the start page is for each one. Things are simplified if all you do is look for index.htm. Additionally, if you are placing the help in a folder on your web server, the URL that opens the help may omit the start page name. This is because it’s a standard Web Server behavior to serve up the index.htm page if a page hasn’t been specified in the link. I like simple things.

On the flip side of things we also see where confusion reigns and folks are unsure which page to link to after they upload the files to the server. And often we find that in this confusion they point a link to the Default Topic. And when this occurs, they are nearly always surprised when they fail to see the nice frameset surrounding their topic. All they see is the miserable Show link in the upper left corner of the page.

Until next time. Remember the Golden Rule. They that have the gold, rule!

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