Making Custom Help Content Accessible

Microsoft Office XP allows administrators the option to create and distribute Help topics unique to their organization, expanding the usefulness of an application's built-in Help. The Answer Wizard links custom Help to users through a natural language interface. When a user enters a question into the Office Assistant, the Answer Wizard returns a list of Help topics applicable to the question.

Requirements for building a custom Help system

The Answer Wizard uses an index (AW file) of your custom Help topics generated by the Answer Wizard Builder as the source for deriving answers to user questions. Before you can use the Answer Wizard tools, you must have a Help system in place. A Help system requires:

  • One or more topics (each topic is only one HTML file)
  • That all topics are stored in either a CHM file or the equivalent of an HTML Web site

So, to create a complete Help system, you must create a topic for each portion of the product users are trying to use, and then provide an answer for each of the major questions a user might ask about the product. After topics are documented and compiled into the help, you can then optionally assign user questions to each topic with the Answer Wizard Builder.


 Note    The Answer Wizard Builder has a bug that appears when the CHM file is built in the same folder, a parallel folder, or a subfolder to the source files. The CHM file must be built in a folder one or more levels above the HTML source files. It also should not be built in the root folder of the hard disk drive in which the project is stored. That is, when you create an HTML Help project, store the source files for the resulting CHM file one folder or more below the folder where the resulting CHM file is built. For instance, if the build folder for your HTML Help project is C:\MyHelpProject, the source files should be in a folder one folder below that folder, for example: C:\MyHelpProject\SourceFiles. If this build structure is not enforced the resulting AW file will not find the related help topics in the compiled CHM file.


HTML Help is the utility used to display Help topics. HTML Help can use two types of files for Help topics, HTML files and CHM files (a CHM file is a compilation of HTML files in compressed format). A topic within a Help system is a single HTML file. Several HTML files configured similar to a Web site, or an Internet Information Server–hosted Web site, can be used as a Help system. HTML Help topics do not require a hosted Web site. The files only need to be arranged as if they are part of a Web site and do not require programs like Internet Information Server (IIS).

For more information on creating custom Help topics and choosing file formats, see Creating Custom Help Topics.

Linking custom Help content to the Answer Wizard

If you want custom Help topics to be accessible from Office XP, you must first use the Answer Wizard Builder to create a project file (AWB file) where you store Help topic information. The Answer Wizard Builder then uses the project file to create an index (AW file) of your HTML Help topics. When users submit queries in Office Help, the Answer Wizard gathers the applicable information using the AW file and starts the HTML Help system that displays the information.

You can use the Answer Wizard Builder utility to add custom Help content to any application that uses the Office Assistant. However, the Answer Wizard Builder will only work on a computer that has Office XP installed.

Creating an Answer Wizard Builder project

The first step in making custom Help topics available to users is to create an Answer Wizard Builder (AWB) project file where information about your custom HTML Help topics is stored. You can then choose to assign user questions to custom Help topics to increase the searching power of the Answer Wizard.

To create an Answer Wizard Builder project
  1. Click Start, point to Programs, point to Microsoft Office Tools, point to Microsoft Office XP Resource Kit Tools, and then click Answer Wizard Builder.
  2. In the Create a new Answer Wizard project frame, click CHM File or Web Site.
  3. If you selected the CHM File option, enter the path to the CHM file in the text box. If you selected the Web Site option, enter the UNC or drive alias of the computer with a Web site and the share name of the drive where the Web files are stored (plus the path to a particular folder, if necessary) in the adjacent text box. It's important to note where you build the CHM file and store the HTML source files so that you avoid the Answer Wizard bug noted earlier in this article.
  4. If you selected Web Site, add the Virtual directory alias (http://<URL>).

The Virtual directory name is used by the Answer Wizard Builder as a dispatch string. The dispatch string is appended to the beginning of the HTML file name for the topics you select to be included in the AW file. This must be the location of the files in the Web site where Help is going to be called by the Answer Wizard. Leave this blank if you selected the CHM File option. You can use a drive letter or UNC if you prefer.

  1. Optionally, you can set the language the Help file system was developed for (the default is English).

The Answer Wizard Builder parses the CHM or HTML files and populates the Answer Wizard project with the Help topic title information.

Refine Help responses with user questions

You can improve the searching power of the Answer Wizard by assigning user questions to each custom Help topic. Assigning questions refines the index, which allows the Answer Wizard to more accurately provide topics associated with a query.

The questions you assign should be specific to one topic and worded to reflect what a user might ask. Applying these guidelines will increase the probability that the Answer Wizard will return applicable topics. For example, you might select a topic about setting up a network printer and assign the question "What is the path to our department printer?"


 Note    Adding user questions is optional and is not required for the Answer Wizard to function normally.


Guidelines for writing user questions

The questions you assign to Help topics are more useful if you follow these guidelines:

  • For short Help topics, assigning two or three questions with different keywords is sufficient.
  • For in-depth topics, assigning several questions with unique keywords provides a broader selection base for the Answer Wizard.
  • Adding the topic title as a question adds no value.
  • Rephrasing a question with the same words adds no value.

Examples of good question form (for a topic about formatting a paragraph) are:

  • How do I select a paragraph?
  • How do I format a paragraph?
  • How do I change the hanging indent?
  • How can I add space to the bottom of a paragraph?
  • Where do I go to add blank space to the top of a paragraph?
  • When aligning a paragraph, how do I set the left indent for the first line?
Adding a question to a topic

Refining the searching power of the Answer Wizard is easy but time consuming. Since the time required to refine the results is directly associated with how many questions you add and how quickly you add them, consider the amount of effort required to refine the answers from the wizard against the amount of increased benefit users will receive.

To add a question to a help topic
  1. Start the Answer Wizard Builder.
  2. Open an existing help project.
  3. Select a topic from the Topics list.
  4. Enter a question in the Questions text box.
  5. Click Add.

Repeat for each topic you want to add questions to and as many times as you feel necessary for a given topic.

  1. Save the project.

When you are finished adding questions, build the AW file by selecting the Build option (Tools menu).

Building an Answer Wizard file

Once you have created an Answer Wizard Builder project file, use the Answer Wizard Builder to create an index (AW file) of your HTML Help topics. Because the Answer Wizard Builder uses a considerable amount of memory, you may want to close all other applications and run it on a separate workstation. It is not recommended to build AW files on a file server or Terminal Services enabled server.

To build a new custom Answer Wizard file
  • In the Answer Wizard Builder, click the Build option (Tools menu).

 Tip   Save the new AW file in the same folder where you saved the AWB project file.


When the build process completes, an AW file (with the same name as the project file) is available in the build directory.

Building an AW file is a time consuming process and can take many hours for large Help files. The speed of the processor on your computer and the amount of RAM available to the builder greatly affects the amount of time it takes to create the file.


 Note    Answer Wizard Builder will only work on a computer where Office XP is installed.


Enabling custom Help

After you have created an index (AW file) of your Help topics, you need to make the file accessible to the user. Enabling custom Help requires knowing how the Office Help system is configured, and determining whether registry settings must be changed or new settings added.

To enable custom Help content and Answer Wizard files, you need to:

  • Determine whether you are going to store the custom Help files on each user's computer or on a network share.

Help files on a Web site do not need to be registered in the registry, but CHM files do. If you plan on redirecting users to Help on the Web, you need to change a registry setting for the URL.

  • Deploy the custom Help files to each user's computer, or place the files on a network share.

HTML Web pages are better suited for use on Web sites or network file servers. CHM files are best suited for use on a user's computer due to their smaller size and portability (though they will run just fine from a server). If the Help system is small and is not likely to change, CHM files are a good solution. If the Help content is subject to considerable change, use a Web-based solution.

  • Update each user's Window's registry to point to the AW file created by the Answer Wizard Builder.

There are separate registry entries for AW files and CHM files. You do not need to register regular HTML files.

You can also store an AW file in any location as long as users have access to the location. Storing the AW file on a user's computer can improve access speed.


 Note    If you make changes to an AW file or CHM file after it has been registered, you can replace the file with an updated version at any time. You do not need to register the file again, as long as you use the same file name and location.


You can use the Answer Wizard and custom Help with the following applications:

  • Microsoft Access
  • Microsoft Clip Organizer
  • Microsoft Solution Designer
  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft FrontPage
  • Microsoft Graph
  • Microsoft Outlook®
  • Microsoft PhotoDraw®
  • Microsoft PowerPoint®
  • Microsoft Project
  • Microsoft Publisher
  • Microsoft Query
  • Microsoft Word

Deploying custom Help with Office XP

If you have not yet deployed Office XP, you can use the Office Custom Installation Wizard to deploy the custom Help and AW files to each user's computer by:

  • Adding the AW and CHM files to a transform using the Add/Remove Files page.
  • Updating registries with paths to these new files with the Add Registry Entries page.

If you have already deployed Office XP, you have two options for deploying the custom AW and CHM files and correct registry settings to each user's computer:

  • Custom Maintenance Wizard

On the Add/Remove Files page, add the AW and CHM files. Then add the registry settings you need to activate the CHM and AW files to the Add Registry Entries page. Or go to the Change Office User Settings page and click the Miscellaneous entry for each application and add the AW file path and file name to the Custom Answer Wizard database path entry.

  • Office Profile Wizard

Using the Custom Installation Wizard, install Office to a test computer and configure all the user settings, Help, and any other supporting files to achieve a complete user configuration. Then use the Profile Wizard to capture those settings along with the necessary AW and CHM files. This may require making customizations to the OPW10adm.ini file to capture the AW and CHM files.

If you have deployed Office and have distributed the AW and CHM files accordingly, but have not registered the AW and CHM file to each user's computer, you can set the necessary registry settings on users' computers by using a system policy.


 Tip   The easiest way to administer customized Help is to set up the custom Help content on a Web site, store the AW file on a network share, and then set the locations through system policies. By having everything stored on network servers, and having the file registration handled by system policies, you can avoid configuring the client computers individually. This method assumes users have a persistent network connection.


Register an Answer Wizard file

The Answer Wizard registry entry requires the use of the REG_SZ (string) data type. Create a unique name for the entry name and use the path where the AW file resides, including the AW file name, as the value.

The Answer Wizard subkeys are stored in the following location in the Windows registry:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\ApplicationName
\Answer Wizard

For example, if you create a new AW file called Plugins.aw for Word and place it in the C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office folder, add a new registry entry called PluginsAW to the following subkey:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\10.0\Word\Answer Wizard

Value name: PluginsAW

Data type: REG_SZ (string)

Then assign the following path as the value data:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\plugins.aw

Register a CHM file

You can instruct the Custom Installation Wizard to register a CHM file while Office XP is installing, or you can register the CHM file manually after installation. Both of these methods require adding a new registry entry as part of the following subkey:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\HTML Help

Value name: "<CHM file name>"

Data type: REG_SZ (string)

Use the CHM file name as the value name and the path where the CHM file resides as the value data. For example, if you create a new CHM file called Plugins.chm and place it in the C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office folder, add a new value entry called Plugins.chm and assign the following path as its value data:

C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office

Enable an AW file with a system policy

If you have already deployed Office XP, you can use a system policy to change the registry settings on all the computers in your organization at one time. From the Default User icon, navigate to the Custom Answer Wizard database path policy in the Miscellaneous category for each Office application. Set the policy to checked and enter the path and file name to the Custom Answer Wizard database path box.


 Note    The System Policy Editor allows you to define one AW file per Office application. If you need to add more than one AW file, you must create a separate registry entry for each new file by using the Windows Registry Editor. Then you distribute the new registry entries by using either a configuration maintenance file (CMW file) or profile settings file (OPS file).


Linking the Answer Wizard to the Web

Help on the Web, a feature in Microsoft Office XP, connects users to information about Office XP on the Microsoft Office Web site. You can disable Help on the Web or customize it to point to a site on your intranet. You can also use Help on the Web to collect user feedback to improve your custom Answer Wizard files and custom Help topics.

Using and expanding Help on the Web

You can use the Help on the Web feature to extend built-in Help and technical support for users. This is a valuable option when users are not satisfied by the Help topics the Answer Wizard provides to a query.

Users typically gain access to Help on the Web through a link provided by the Office Assistant. When a user asks the Office Assistant a question, the Answer Wizard returns a list of Help topics, which includes the link None of the above, look for more Help on the Web as the last entry in the list.

Clicking this link connects users to a feedback form, where they can comment on their search. When they submit the feedback form, they are redirected to the Microsoft Office Web site, and their search is automatically repeated on the latest Office content. A list of Microsoft Knowledge Base articles relating to their search is displayed. When they click the Send and go to the Web button, their comments are collected and sent to Microsoft, where support engineers evaluate the data and use it to improve both Answer Wizard Help topics and the Microsoft Office Web site.

You can customize the Help on the Web link to redirect users to a site on your intranet instead, especially if your users do not have access to the World Wide Web. When users click None of the above, look for more Help on the Web, they could be redirected to an intranet site that includes a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) relating to their search topic.

To redirect the Help on the Web URL link, change the Feedback URL. You can also customize the None of the above… text in the Office Assistant and the third paragraph in the Feedback form in the Find Help Topics topic. If you prefer not to use the Help on the Web feature at all, you can disable the link.

The following examples show you a few of the many ways you can customize Help on the Web to suit your needs:

  • Direct users to a static page on an intranet Web site

If you do not want to create a custom Active Server Pages (ASP) file, create a static Web page with a list of FAQs and a telephone number or an e-mail address users can use to contact your organization's support staff.

To implement this solution, create the Web page, delete the third paragraph in the Finding Help Topics topic (feedback dialog text), and supply the static Web page address as the Feedback URL.

  • Collect user questions to create or expand custom Help files

This method requires that you create an ASP file.

If you are considering creating a Help system in the future, you can collect current user questions without redirecting users to an external Web site. Later, you can implement a custom Help system with these questions to Help you refine an AW file.

If you have already created custom Help and AW files for your organization, tracking user questions and comments can help you find ways to expand your custom Help. By using user created questions, you can research and write more topics and fine-tune your AW file for your custom Help, as well as supplement the online Help system for Office XP.

To implement this solution, create an ASP file to log user questions and comments. Change the feedback button label from None of the above… to "Send us comments about your search," and change the third paragraph in the Finding Help Topics topic (feedback dialog text) to inform users that their comments are going to be sent to you. Change the Feedback URL to point to the ASP file you created, and the system will begin recording all submitted questions.

  • Redirect searches to an intranet site

This method requires that you create an ASP file.

You can instruct Help on the Web to search for information from your intranet rather than the Microsoft Office Web site.

To redirect users to your Web site, create an ASP file to search your organization's Web site. Change the feedback button label None of the above… text in the Office Assistant and the third paragraph in the Finding Help Topics topic (feedback dialog text) to tell users where their browsers are being redirected. Update the Feedback URL to point to your ASP file.

  • Send questions to your support staff

This method requires that you create an ASP file.

You can use a custom ASP file for handling user questions. For example, users can fill in the feedback form with pertinent questions and comments. The system can automatically route the form to your support staff. After the form is submitted, users are redirected to a Web page with FAQs or are provided a link to a Web site they can use to search for more information.

Customizing Help on the Web

You can customize Help on the Web by changing any of the following items:

  • Text in the Office Assistant
  • Feedback dialog text in the Help pane
  • Feedback URL

You can also disable Help on the Web if you do not want to make this feature available to users.

Customize text in the Office Assistant

You can customize the feedback button label text None of the above, look for more Help on the Web. For example, you can change the text to Look for more Help on our local support Web site.

You can change this text with either a system policy or with the Custom Maintenance Wizard.

To change the text in the Office Assistant with a policy
  1. In the System Policy Editor, double-click the Default User icon.
  2. Expand (click the plus (+) sign) the Microsoft Office XP node.
  3. Expand the Assistant node.
  4. Expand the Help on the Web node.
  5. Set the Feedback button label check box to checked.
  6. In the Settings for Feedback button label work area, type the text you want to use.

 Note    The maximum number of characters for the feedback button label is 255 characters.


To change the text in the Office Assistant with the Custom Maintenance Wizard
  1. Start the Custom Maintenance Wizard.
  2. Open the MSI for the edition of Office you want to customize.
  3. Navigate to the Change Office User Settings page.
  4. Expand (click the plus (+) sign) the Common Office Settings node.
  5. Select the Assistant / Help on the Web option.
  6. Enter the text you want in the Feedback button label text box.
  7. Save the CMW file.

Customize text in Finding Help Topics topic

You can customize the feedback dialog text (third paragraph of the topic) in the Finding Help Topics Help topic. By default, the following text appears in the middle of the Help topic, just below the repeated user question:

Click the Send and go to the Web button below to launch Microsoft Internet Explorer and send your question to a site that provides further assistance. You can switch back to Help at any time.

You can change the text of this paragraph with either a system policy or with the Custom Maintenance Wizard.

To change the text in the Help window with a policy
  1. In the System Policy Editor, double-click the Default User icon.
  2. Expand (click the plus (+) sign) the Microsoft Office XP node.
  3. Expand the Assistant node.
  4. Expand the Help on the Web node.
  5. Set the Feedback dialog text check box to checked.
  6. In the Settings for Feedback dialog text work area, type the text you want to use.

 Note    The maximum number of characters for the feedback dialog text is 255 characters.


To change the text in the Help window with the Custom Maintenance Wizard
  1. Start the Custom Maintenance Wizard.
  2. Open the MSI for the edition of Office you want to customize.
  3. Navigate to the Change Office User Settings page.
  4. Expand (click the plus (+) sign) the Common Office Settings node.
  5. Select the Assistant / Help on the Web option.
  6. Enter the text you want in the Feedback dialog text text box (or leave it blank).
  7. Save the CMW file.

Customize the Feedback URL

By default, the Feedback URL in the Office Assistant points to the Microsoft Office Web site.

You can change this URL to an intranet Web site if you prefer by using the System Policy Editor or the Custom Maintenance Wizard.

To change the Feedback URL with a policy
  1. In the System Policy Editor, double-click the Default User icon.
  2. Expand (click the plus (+) sign) the Microsoft Office XP node.
  3. Expand the Assistant node.
  4. Expand the Help on the Web node.
  5. Set the Feedback URL check box to checked.
  6. In the Settings for Feedback URL work area, type the URL you want to use.

 Note    The maximum number of characters for the feedback URL is 255 characters.


To change the Feedback URL with the Custom Maintenance Wizard
  1. Start the Custom Maintenance Wizard.
  2. Open the MSI for the edition of Office you want to customize.
  3. Navigate to the Change Office User Settings page.
  4. Expand (click the plus (+) sign) the Common Office Settings node.
  5. Select the Assistant / Help on the Web option.
  6. Enter the URL you want in the Feedback URL text box.
  7. Save the CMW file.

Customizing the Answer Wizard Feedback form

When a user clicks None of the above, look for Help on the Web in the Office Assistant, the user is presented with a feedback form. This form is for entering a comment about the problem the user is experiencing and the type of Help topic the user expects the Assistant to return. If the user chooses to submit their comments, they are directed to the Microsoft Office Web site, where a search for applicable information is automatically run again using the user's original question.

If you want to redirect information to your organization's support staff, you can customize the feedback form and create a custom Active Server Pages (ASP pages) file to handle the information from the form.

To customize the feedback form, change the following three options in the sample Answiz.asp file.

Option Description
F_log=1 Set to 0 to disable logging of users' questions. Default is 1.
f_redirect_to_MS=1 Set to 0 to disable sending of information to the Microsoft Office Web site. Default is 1.
Where_if_not_MS="alert.htm" Set to the URL of the page you want users to see after they submit the feedback form. This option is valid only if you have set the redirect option to 0.

Toolbox    The Office Resource Kit includes a sample ASP file named Answiz.asp for customizing the Answer Wizard feedback form. This sample file is installed by default when you run the Office Resource Kit Setup program. For more information, see Supplemental Documentation in the Toolbox.


The following is an example of the Answiz.asp file.

<%
response.expires = 0

f_log = 1
f_redirect_to_MS = 1
where_if_not_MS = "alert.htm"

APP = request.form("app")     ' used
UQ = request.form("UQ")       ' used
UD = request.form("UD")       ' not used
IAP = request.form("IAP")     ' not used
HLCID = request.form("HLCID") ' not used
OPC = request.form("OPC")     ' not used
OCC = request.form("OCC")     ' not used

if f_log = 1 then
    app=mid(app,11)
    what_tl_log=APP & ":" & UQ
    what_to_log=mid(what_to_log,1,80)
    response.appendToLog(what_to_log)
end if

if f_redirect_to_MS = 1 then
    redirloc = "http://www.Microsoft.com/office/"
    redirloc = redirloc&"redirect/fromOffice10/answerwizard.asp"

    public buffer
    public buff2
    quote = chr(34)
    LF = chr(10) & chr(13) ' carriage return and line feed

    function bufferwrite(x)
        buffer=buffer & x
    End Function

    buffer=""

    bufferwrite("<form action-" & redirloc & " method=post name=f>" & LF)
    for each i in request.form
buff2=" name=" & quote & i & quote & " value=" & quote & _ 
request.form(i) & quote
        bufferwrite("<input type=hidden" & buff2 & ">" & LF)
    next

    bufferwrite("</form>")
    bufferflush
    %>
    <script language=javascript for=window event=onLoad()>
        <!--f.submit();-->
    </script>
    <%
else
    response.redirect(where_if_not_MS)
end if
%>

Disabling Office on the Web

Office on the Web is a portal to the Internet for more information about Office. This feature allows users the option of examining information about Office that may not have made it into the product documentation, issues about Office that have recently been discovered, or new enhancements or updates you can download. Some administrators do not like users having access to the Internet from any portion of Office and prefer to disable it.

If you want to disable the Office on the Web Help option, you use a system policy or the Custom Maintenance Wizard to do so. To disable Office on the Web with a policy setting, select the Help | Office on the Web option in the Disable command bar buttons and menu items policy for each application.


 Note    The Office on the Web feature is automatically disabled if a default Web browser is not installed on the user's computer, or if a feedback URL is not defined in the Windows registry.


To redirect or disable Office on the Web for all Office applications with a policy
  1. In the System Policy Editor, double-click the Default User icon.
  2. Expand (click the plus (+) sign) the Microsoft Office XP node.
  3. Expand the Help | Office on the Web node.
  4. Set the Office on the Web URL check box to checked.
  5. Under Settings for Office on the Web URL work area, set the Office on the Web URL text box to the URL you want to use (or leave it blank).
To redirect or disable Office on the Web for all Office applications from the Custom Maintenance Wizard
  1. Start the Custom Maintenance Wizard.
  2. Open the MSI for the edition of Office you want to customize.
  3. Navigate to the Change Office User Settings page.
  4. Expand (click the plus (+) sign) the Common Office Settings node.
  5. Select the Help | Office on the Web option.
  6. Enter an intranet web URL in the Office on the Web URL text box (or leave it blank).
  7. Save the CMW file.
 
 
Applies to:
Deployment Center 2003