I am looking for a way to create help documentation so that it can be tied in to a program and accessed by pressing the help key. I want the documentation to be maintained by non-programmers so this rules out sda and uim. Office Vision is being dropped so this option is very suspect. What do you recommend?
We faced a very similar decision to yours a few years ago and ruled out the options you listed for the very same reasons you did. We chose to solve this by writing our own help system. This sounds a lot harder than it actually is. We have a simple record layout that can handle program level help, screen level help and field level help and then we build subfiles to maintain it and display it. The advantage in doing this is that we control how the help text is maintained and displayed. We can also build other programs to ease the burden of building the help text and to ensure its completeness. It also takes up very little space and since it is just a database file, it is easy to check or update help text. Following is the file layout for our help text file. Feel free to use it if you think it will help with what you are doing.
Field Length Name Description
10 A TXTPGM Program Name
10 A TXTFNM File Name
10 A TXTFMT Screen Format
10 A TXTFLD Field Name
5 0 P TXTTSQ Text Sequence
80 A TXTTXT Help Text
10 A TXTUSR User Last Maintained
8 0 P TXTDTT Date Last Maitained
6 0 P TXTTMT Time Last Maintained
This was first published in April 2001