SCHEMA Blog (EN)

Corporate blog of SCHEMA GmbH

Online Help: Restart with the SCHEMA Reader

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We introduced the SCHEMA Reader for the first time in March (then) as the successor of the hopelessly outdated CHM Help. At first it was only an idea from development. After the tekom Annual Conference, you will be able to download it for free from schema.de: The SCHEMA Reader.

The SCHEMA Reader offers you the possibility to gear up the concept of stationery online help for the 21st century. This becomes possible thanks to modern technology and control concepts.

If you, too, are looking for an efficient successor to online help, then look no further than this post I put together because it reveals the most important cornerstones of this publication platform for you. And if you should come to Stuttgart for the tekom Annual Conference: Pay us a visit at our SCHEMA booth. In the Blue Box I am giving a presentation (in German) “SCHEMA Reader or when HTML Help is not enough – an example project”, showing what fabulous ideas have been implemented in an actual project.
If you would like to attend: It takes place on Tuesday 2 pm, Wednesday 11:30 am or Thursday 11:30 am.

The Level of Pain Rises
For those familiar with the software sector I do not have to explain in detail the need for a new help platform. During the last 15 years nothing really new has come up regarding help. Attempts have been made from time to time to replace the CHM help (HTML help). But none of them could establish themselves.

Many companies are now desperately looking for a new perspective in the matter of help. Especially when you do not want to give up on the idea of stationery help, and when you are not convinced of the benefits of putting all support information on the web (and then leaving the customer alone with a mass of disconnected content).

Help with the SCHEMA Reader Looks Like This
Let’s start with the user interface. What does it look like? What can the user do with it? For that purpose, take a look at an example project which we worked on during the development phase:

SCHEMA Reader Screenshot

As you can see, it contains everything familiar, starting with good old HTML help. On the left there is a navigation tree and on the right content is displayed. The navigation buttons, the print and favorites function top right in the function bar are well known.

Then it gets more interesting: The search top left additionally contains a filter function. And really important – what cannot be shown here: Thanks to HTML5, the Content Frame can display dynamic content. For example, rotatable graphics or videos. So finally, there’s online help applicable for multimedia.

“Doesn’t all of this already exist?”, you might ask. Yes, it is true: Help technologies have appeared of late which are able to display dynamic content. Microsoft brought the Help Viewer on the market which is, however, unfortunately only available for Microsoft Solution Partners, so delivery to a wide customer range is therefore not possible. Web Help is such a format, too. Web Help, however, works in the browser – meaning the browser is installed on the target system. This leaves one in the lurch as to which modern HTML5 functions are supported.

In contrast to this, the SCHEMA Reader offers its own range of applications with all the helpful additional functions and a prescribed HTML5 instruction set. Ultimately it combines the possibilities of modern help technologies in a package that has not existed up to now.

Quick Look at the Technology
We will happily explain to you the technological details of the SCHEMA Reader in a talk at the tekom Annual Conference . Here I would like to narrow it down to a few essential points:

  • The SCHEMA Reader uses established standard technologies. Technical stability is also provided for. And as all technologies are openly available we can offer the SCHEMA Reader to you free of charge. I will not hide one restriction from you: The SCHEMA Reader (at least for the time being) only works under Windows.
  • The look of the SCHEMA Reader can easily be adapted to your CI. Further configurations like the integration of additional functions can be implemented in a common project. The SCHEMA Reader is able to display any content in HTML5. It need not come from SCHEMA ST4. Good news – however – for all ST4 users: A SCHEMA Reader production is available which helps you generate content for the SCHEMA Reader from the ST4 DocuManager at the push of a button.
  • Keyword migration: Using converters “old” help content based on HTML help, which is not managed in SCHEMA ST4, can also be prepared for the SCHEMA Reader.

Even More Efficient with the SCHEMA CDS
By the way: With the SCHEMA Content Delivery Server (CDS) which we also present at the tekom Conference even one step further is possible. This infrastructure for content distribution offers the possibility to combine the stationery help concept with the full dynamic of modern internet technologies.

A standard setting: Help, installed on your customers’ computers, is automatically updated as soon as an internet connection is established. In addition to the help content, further support information from the support portal is displayed. But thanks to the elaborate distribution mechanisms of the CDS your customers only find information on the product they are using. Moreover they have the possibility to give direct feedback to individual help content.

Download Link and Further Steps
Back now to the SCHEMA Reader. As mentioned earlier: You will be able to download it here after the tekom Conference.

www.schema.de/schemareader

We are intentionally starting with a BETA version. That is to say: For three months we will specifically be collecting experience from a range of users. We will then consider the results and development wishes for the final version.

We leave you with our sincerest request: Please actively take part in designing this innovative technology.

Author: Jochen Marczinzik

Team lead web and mobile development at SCHEMA GmbH

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