NetHelp, Doc-To-Help’s web-based output, has always had a search feature built into it. For the first release of 2011, we optimized the search capabilities and added Phrasal, Fuzzy, and Boolean search to the search engine, making the built-in search for NetHelp more powerful and robust.
One important thing to note is that you don’t need to do anything special to have optimized search in your NetHelp. As always, you just need to import your source files and build. Doc-To-Help does the rest. If you have an older version of Doc-To-Help and upgrade to the latest version, all you need to do is open your project, click OK when it asks you if you want to upgrade the project to the latest version, select NetHelp as your target, and hit Rebuild.
Here’s an overview of what Doc-To-Help builds for you “out of the box” as well as some information on some handy customization options.
Phrasal Search (AKA Exact Phrase Search):
If your customers are looking for a way to search for a collection of words or a phrase, all they need to do is enter that phrase in the Search pane in quotes and hit Go.
Topics that contain the phrase will be included in the Results window. When users click on the result they’re interested in, the phrase that they search for is automatically highlighted in the topic.
If a user types a search term in the Search forfield and either misspells or misrepresents a word that is in the NetHelp target, Doc-To-Help will give the user alternate search suggestions with a “Did you mean” prompt in the Results window.
When the user clicks on the suggestion link, the search will run again, this time with the specified term.
Users can also search NetHelp for words or phrases using the Boolean commands: AND, OR, and NOT. They can include (or exclude) search terms and phrases to fine-tune their searches and get to the information that they are seeking faster.
For instance, I wanted to find all the topics in the Pittsburgh 250 sample that had the word “Pittsburgh” in them, but not the word “Pirates” because I wasn’t interested in reading about baseball.
No results displayed for baseball or the Pirates, but all other relevant Pittsburgh topics displayed.
There are many different examples and permutations of how these search strings could be used and put together, so just one screen shot does not do Boolean search functionality justice. For more information on how to use Boolean searching, see this article: http://www.internettutorials.net/boolean.asp
Like most things in Doc-To-Help, you can customize the settings and wordings for the new search features.
If you want to specify synonyms that users may search for other than what is in the Help — something could have one name in America and another in the UK, but both names are in English — you can point to a synonym search list text file on your machine. Create the file, point to it in the NetHelp properties in the Help Targets dialog box, and build. Doc-To-Help does the rest for you when the user searches for the synonym.
As an example, I created a text file and specified that a synonym for “football” was “manicotti” and then searched for “manicotti” in a NetHelp target I built from the Pittsburgh 250 sample that installs with Doc-To-Help. When I clicked on the Football topic, the word “football” is highlighted in the topic text.
This is a simple example, but another example would be to create a synonym called “holiday” for the word “vacation” since both terms mean the same thing to users, but they would search for one or the other based on whether they live in the UK or the US.
In the Help Targets dialog box, you can change the “Change suggestion” field from “Did you mean” to whatever would make the most sense to your users.
There are also three new strings in the NetHelp target properties that the user can change (usually for localization): “Search keyword AND“, “Search keyword OR“, and “Search keyword NOT“. These allow to change the words AND/OR/NOT used in Boolean search queries.