Starting with SolidWorks 2010 Beta 3, we are introducing our help documentation in a web based format for SolidWorks 2010, SolidWorks Enterprise PDM 2010, and eDrawings 2010. Web based help is accessible directly from SolidWorks software products (in all supported languages) and in the future will be made available from independent browsers as well. From SolidWorks software, users can choose to use the new web based help or can continue to use local help files as in past releases if an Internet connection is not available. As shown in the following image from SolidWorks, you can toggle between the web help and local help using the Help, Use SolidWorks Web Help menu item.
Note that the local help is in *.chm format and uses the standard Microsoft chm viewer as was used in SolidWorks 2009 and previous releases.
When web help is enabled, it is accessed in the same ways that the local help has always been accessed as listed below:
- Select the Help icon in the upper right of the application.
- Choose one of the following help items from the help flyout in the upper right of the application or from the Help menu: SolidWorks Help, What's New->HTML, or Moving from AutoCAD. Please note that SolidWorks Tutorials and API Help still always use local, *.chm help but may be moved to web help in the future.
- For context sensitive help, choose the Help icon from a PropertyManager or Task Pane page, choose a Help button from a dialog, or hit F1 while a PropertyManager or dialog is active.
The web help is shown in a custom web browser window so that SolidWorks can "communicate" with the window and pop up context sensitive help in the same window instead of opening a new browser window every time the user requests help. This custom window makes use of the currently installed version of Internet Explorer to display the HTML contents. For proper viewing of the web help, you must use Internet Explorer 7 or higher. There are known problems with Internet Explorer 6 due to HTML and CSS limitations of that version. Below is an image of the help from SolidWorks 2010 Beta 3 shown in the custom browser:
Benefits of web based help include:
- Dramatically improved search of SolidWorks documentation including improved relevancy ranking, spelling correction, short descriptions in search results views, and guided navigation to help further identify relevant topics. I find that the new search allows me to find content which has been there for some time, yet was difficult to find due to limitations of the chm viewer search. We are still in the process of tuning the search results and welcome any input on cases where you think results ranking can be improved. Please provide such input in the SolidWorks Beta forum while the Beta program is still active. Below is an example image of the search results:
- Improved topic navigation including “bread crumb” navigation and next and previous topic buttons. Bread crumb navigation as shown in the image below can be used to easily navigate to other related topics.
The next and previous buttons in the upper right corner of the help as shown in the image below are used to navigate to the next and previous topics as listed in the table of contents.
The browser next and previous buttons as shown in the image below are used to navigate through the browse history order (which can be much different than the table of contents order when navigating the help through hyperlinks on content pages).
- Ability to change the size of the contents of the help to be more readable. The following image shows the Zoom button which uses the standard zoom functionality available in Internet Explorer 7 and later.
- Ability for users to provide feedback directly to the SolidWorks documentation team on individual help topics. We welcome input concerning the presentation, accuracy, and thoroughness of the documentation and improvements to the help content will be made based on this input. The image below shows the feedback form on an individual help topic:
- Direct links from the web help to the SolidWorks Knowledge Base to allow you to find Solutions or SPRs relating to the specific help area. Subscription Service is required to access the SolidWorks Knowledge Base. The images below show these links from individual content pages and from the search results page:
- Up to date documentation without the need to download large compiled help (*.chm) files. The contents of the web help will be automatically updated with each service pack of the software without any action necessary by the user.
We hope that these enhancements to the functionality, user interface, and delivery approach of the help will make it easier for you to find answers to questions you have about using SolidWorks software. This new approach opens up the doors for us to provide additional types of content to make the documentation even more complete and link in other sources of answers to users questions; you can expect additional enhancements in the future. Finally, we are also working on general improvements to the content of the help (both local and web help) which I will discuss in a future post.