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Product Review: ComponentOne's DocToHelp
by Scott Waletzko | Published  07/14/2006 | .NET Framework Software Reviews Visual Studio 2005 | Rating:

Source Files

DocToHelp uses Word and / or HTML files to be used as the source documents for a project. Word documents can be edited within the DocToHelp interface or externally in Word. HTML documents are edited in the HTML editor of your choice (mine defaulted to Visual Studio), but the software is geared specifically for use with either Microsoft FrontPage or Macromedia Dreamweaver.

The idea behind DocToHelp is that the help file authoring itself is done in source Word or HTML files, rather than in outline form. Predefined DocToHelp styles applied to the elements in the source files defines that element as a type of help file element, and are used by the target compiler to format the output files as well as to build the table of contents and indexes for the help files.

Once built, the table of contents and index can be used to navigate and filter the source document(s), providing a quick way to edit specific elements in the source document(s):

A Word toolbar is provided that includes a handful of default DocToHelp style shortcut buttons as well as an image map editor, and appears whether the document is being edited within the DocToHelp UI or in Word. There is a similar toolbar included for editing HTML documents in Microsoft FrontPage and Macromedia DreamWeaver, but not Visual Studio, which means that if you use any editor other than those three (Word, FrontPage, DreamWeaver) you must apply the element styles manually.

Advanced formatting options include links, jumps, pop-ups, cross-references, dynamic text (expanding, drop-down, and conditional), and the ability to edit context ID strings for context-sensitive help support.

Documenter For .NET

One of the strongest features of DocToHelp is the Documenter for .NET, which supports creation of a documentation project file based on a compiled assembly and (optionally) the documentation Xml files generated for the assembly by Visual Studio. An external component that is launched from the File menu in DocToHelp, this component allows the user to select one or more .NET assemblies from which class documentation will be automatically generated.

Once the assemblies are selected, clicking "Generate New Document" creates a new source Word document containing complete documentation for the selected assemblies (using a combination of Reflection and an Xml comments file if supplied).

The result is a class library documentation file similar to the .NET Framework documentation files:

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