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Node: Top Next: Intro Up: (DIR)Information Programs
This file tells how to get Help through the online documentation at
LOTS and how to write new help files or modify old ones.
If you are a relatively inexperienced user, you would want to read
the nodes about getting help below (use the N command).
People who want to write new help files or modify old ones should
read about writing help files and the HELPMAINT program.
* Extended Documentation::
* Writing HELP files::
* HELPMAINT program::
Node: Intro Up: Top Next: Subcommands
Whenever you are typing something at LOTS, we like to say that
you are "talking to" some program that is "reading" the characters and
commands that you type. When you log in, you are talking to the EXEC,
or to the "at sign", which is the Exec's "prompt". Later, you will
find yourself talking to other system programs, such as EDIT (which
modifies a file containing your own program or text).
When talking to a system program, you may sometimes become
confused as to what to say (type) next. When this happens, try typing
a ? to the program. The following is a list of some kinds of help that
you can get by typing ? to the EXEC.
@? ! gives a list of all acceptable commands
@HELP ? ! lists most frequently requested help files
Typing ? at any point during any Exec command causes the Exec to tell
you what it expects you type next.
In some contexts where ? is not helpful, the word Help
may be useful. In Edit, typing H to the * gives you help.
Node: Subcommands Up: Top Next: Extended Documentation Previous: Intro
Using the HELP program:
introduces you to Help, and
lists all available help files.
Normally, however, the HELP program is invoked by typing
The Help program responds by printing one screenful of
information about the topic you have named. It then asks you:
Choose a Subtopic (? for help):
At that point, you should type "?" to see a list of the available subtopics.
If any subtopic appeals to you, you should type its name:
the Help program will then display information on the subtopic.
There are several other commands that you may also give to the
"Choose a subtopic?" prompt, however. Among them are:
FILE Tells you the name of the file that HELP
is currently typing on your screen; this is useful if
you need to PRINT this file for later reference, or
need to have it updated;
QUIT Returns you to the Exec; leaves HELP;
HELP Prints a message similar to this text,
explaining your options.
If a topic is very long, HELP will pause at strategic intervals to ask you
, to which you should respond Y or N.
Node: Extended Documentation Up: Top Previous: Subcommands
There is also extended information, too long to place in a help file,
available on many topics. Most such on-line documentation is stored
in the directory DOC:, and is cross-referenced in the relevant help
files. To see a list of all the files in DOC:, type:
There is also, within EMACS, a tree-structured documentation
perusal system, *Note INFO:(INFO) .
Node: Writing HELP files Up: Top Next: HELPMAINT program
We have several general suggestions on how to write a help file. First,
the file should begin with a one-sentence summary of what the file is
about, oriented toward the browser, and may point to a longer
documentation file (e.g. a tutorial) or to hard-copy documentation.
You may also want to use this page as a directory to the file.
The first screenful of the helpfile should communicate the most
important or useful facts about the topic, in as much detail as a
screenful allows. Further details should be relegated to the
In general, the file should be broken up into pages, each of
which is less than one screen-full of information, and which
forms a natural unit. Modular writing is as useful as modular
programming! Each page is separated by a formfeed (CTRL-L). The
first page of a subtopic should be labelled with a topic name
enclosed in angle brackets.
For examples, *Note Helpfiles:(HLP:HELPFILES)* .
After you have written the help file, use the HELPMAINT program to tell
the system the topic of your help file and where the file lives (see
the HELPMAINT subtopic in this file). Consultants and LOTS Volunteers
automatically have access to the HELP and DOCUMENTATION directories and
the HELPMAINT program. Contact a staff member if you have a file of
your own you think should be included in the system help files.
Node: HELPMAINT Program Up: Top Previous: Writing HELP files
After you have written the help file, use HELPMAINT to edit the
keyword table of help topics used by the HELP program. The keyword
table is in a binary format and lives in the file HLP:HELP.BIN. The
table is a simple mapping of keyword(s) (help topics) to the
appropriate help file.
When you start up the HELPMAINT program, it automatically maps in the
keyword table. You then use the ADD and REMOVE commands to edit the
table. Use the DISPLAY command to look at all or parts of the table.
When you are done, use the WRITE command to generate HLP:HELP.BIN and
HLP:HELP.CMD, a textual representation of the keyword table. To
regenerate the keyword table from HLP:HELP.CMD, use the REBUILD command.
The EXIT command returns you to the EXEC without making any changes.
When adding a new keyword, be as general as possible with the file
specification. This aids the table's transportability greatly.
do this -> HELPMAINT> ADD (KEYWORD) foo (POINTING TO) hlp:foo.hlp
not this -> HELPMAINT> ADD (KEYWORD) foo (POINTING TO) sx:<help>foo.hlp.3
The /INVISIBLE switch in the ADD command causes a keyword to not be typed
out when a user types "HELP ?" to the EXEC.