HTML publishing is still a fledgling technology but IntraWeb, a new add-on to Australian online documentation toolkit Hypertext Development Kit (HDK), provides some of the richness found in traditional electronic documentation.
Australian software developer Virtual Media, which has around 120 New Zealand sites using its WinHelp-based HDK tools, will start shipping IntraWeb in two weeks.
IntraWeb offers HTML document creation and flexible publishing of massive documentation systems across a variety of media.
"HTML is not an easy language to master and is sometimes not as flexible as authors would like," says Leonie Cridland, marketing manger for Virtual Media. "Our customers have asked for a simple way to create and manage large documents across intranets and the Internet, and we believe IntraWeb provides the capabilities they need."
Cridland says ISO9000 and quality assurance standards have, to a large extent, driven the movement towards online documentation.
Using IntraWeb, quality assurance manuals, training and user guides and policy procedures can easily be converted to HTML, then managed and distributed online, offering users instant access to the most current information.
Documents can be readily created in standard word processing applications before compilation, so document managers no longer have to manage and edit large numbers of cross-linked HTML files. Updating and recompilation is handled at source, eliminating the need to publish and distribute multiple hard copies of update notices and revisions.
Virtual Media has also solved the inherent problem of intranets which requires users to drill down through several text links to locate information. IntraWeb's table of contents tracks where a user has been so that they can click on any page they want to return to. Users also benefit from capabilities such as full-text searching, indexing and glossary features.
"Even the most attractively designed online manuals and files will be ineffective if people find them difficult to use. To be really effective, online documents need to have strong search and navigation tools," says Cridland. "Through IntraWeb, a comprehensive table of contents is added to browsers such as Netscape 2.01 and Internet Explorer 3.0 offering users search and navigation functionality for the first time. There are plans to extend the number of browser enhancers in future releases."
Virtual Media is also working on bringing out by Christmas an HTML version of its product Hypershelf, which provides management, searching, indexing and glossary capabilities, across all an organisation's online documents (with a bookshelf GUI).
IntraWeb will have a recommended retail price of $295 stand-alone or $775 with HDK for one user; $1450 stand-alone and $3375 for five users (prices exclude GST). Virtual Media products are distributed by Auckland-based Synergetix.