Navigating the Waters:
Table of Contents
The HTML Help table of contents (TOC) fills the Help Viewer’s navigation
(left) pane with a collapsible tree presenting a hierarchical view of
the topics contained in the Help system. In a modular HTML Help system,
the table of contents can include references to topics in other modules
of the system. When these modules are present, the topics appear in the
contents; when the other modules are not present on the user’s system,
the topics disappear from the contents, without any gap or other trace
of their presence.
This apparently simple tree presents one of the most obvious usability
advances over Windows Help—and one of the most challenging features to
implement in HTML Help, especially in modular (merged) systems.
The usability advances come from HTML Help’s tripane window format, which
keeps the table of contents onscreen and synchronized with the currently
displayed topic, and avoids the problem of jumpint back and forth between
navigation and contents windows that users encountered in Windows Help.
The challenges presented by the HTML Help table of contents arise from
a variety of instabilities and unimplemented features in the Workshop’s
tools for working with the table of contents. The Contents pane has a
number of video refresh bugs, and neither information types nor custom
icon sets are implemented as of version 1.3 of the HTML Help Workshop.
Fortunately, there are workarounds for the bugs; but the unimplemented
features remain a promise for the future.