Proteus Help System
This topic provides the basic facts about a series of projects (see Table below) with Proteus Software Ltd, an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) software house based in the Midlands. The elapsed time of all the projects listed below was approximately 18 months. On this project CHL recommended and used Virtual Media’s HDK (Hypertext Development Kit) – some of the benefits of this are illustrated below.
CHL Projects with Proteus Software Ltd
- 7-day Strategic documentation study re Unix ERP Suite
- Upgrade to Ventura 8 to access old documentation in Ventura 2
- CHL commissioned to develop General Ledger Help
- HDK purchase (2 copies)
- CHL commissioned to develop Sales Ledger Help
- CHL commissioned to develop Purchase Ledger, Intro, Glossary, VAT Help and Help on Help
- CHL commissioned to deliver HDK Training 3 days
- CHL commissioned to develop Stock, Sales Order processing, Purchase Order Control, Demand Analysis, Warehouse Management and Pricing Help; upgrade rest in line.
- Paint Shop Pro purchase (2 copies)
- CHL commissioned to develop Kitting, Cash Book, Fixed Assets, Fax Integration and Customer Returns
- CHL commissioned to deliver further HDK Training 3 days
- HDK upgrades to version 3.5
- The identification of solution given that Proteus is a UNIX system: Bristol HyperHelp is the only help development system equivalent to Windows Help for UNIX. At the time of the study, licences were approximately £3000 each. For a small software house this was considered too expensive. Given that all clients had both UNIX and NT, using HDK to produce Windows 4 Help was an economic solution.
- HDK’s Master / Slave function enabled the planning and subsequent development of additional modules which were not initially commissioned.
- The source documents were available in electronic form – Ventura V2 so the Ventura V8 was used to read these files. Following some experimentation it was possible to either export files as rich text files or as plain text. While both methods worked, the amount of work required to ‘clean’ the text in Word 97 meant that it was little more effective than extracting the old WordStar files, embedded in the Ventura system and completing the same ‘cleaning’ process. ‘Cleaning’ in this context means primarily paragraph and character styling to facilitate easy import into HDK.
- Each of the source manuals had its own Glossary, with either the same or slightly different definitions, depending on the module. Keeping the Glossary as a completely separate system made the updating easier as new modules were developed.
Different versions of definitions were left in the system for client review. Even at the end of the projects, there were still some duplicates in the Glossary, but the client had purchased both HDK 3.5 and formal training so was well prepared to complete the final rationalization.
- The ability to develop a Proteus HDK template, to customize secondary Windows, the use of scripts and standard and Associative indexes proved invaluable.
The Proteus HDK template was developed and refined during the project. An HDK template (an *.HDT file) is the equivalent of a Microsoft Word Template: defining many aspects of an HDK project including standard Windows, scripts and indexes.
A Secondary ‘On-top’ Window for Procedures was developed so that the user, even while using UNIX, had complete access to all procedures of all modules.
The development of all the pull down menus and buttons was relatively straightforward using HDK’s interface:
For each menu item a script was built (again using easy HDK’s ‘point and click’ script development function). Having said that, the action from each script depended completely on the correct functioning of Associative Indexing: clicking on any item of any menu brings up a list of topics related by a common associative index. For example:
When a user clicks on General Ledger on the Finance pull down menu, all the procedures of the General Ledger are displayed in the Related Topics Window.
The same approach applied to the use of the Related Topics item at the end of each major topic and each Procedure. When a user clicks on either the button or the words ‘Related topics of a Procedure, all the procedures within that section of the Help slave being used are displayed in the Related topics Window. When a user clicks on either the button or the words ‘Related topics of a Topic, all the Topics within that section of the Help slave being used are displayed in the Related topics Window.
The standard indexing was implemented using a mixture of pre-indexing items in Word before import into HDK and post-import additions. The result is to provide another useful way to access information. The built-in Find any unique word facility is also useful.
- Finally there were a number of ‘look and feel’ items which were easy to implement: the TOC (Table of Contents button - see below); fly outs on bulleted lists in Basics sections; scripted screenshot buttons leading to standard-sized screen shots of the UNIX interface for the active topic / procedure; scripted How to buttons leading to the specific procedure for a topic; long Procedures divided up into a set of sub-procedures when the UNIX system presents a choice.