[squeak-dev] HelpSystem (was Documentation Team)

Torsten Bergmann astares at gmx.de
Wed Apr 21 17:56:41 UTC 2010

To clearify a few things from my side on the discussion
on squeak-dev:

  1. HelpSystem is working, if ASCII is OK for now we can use
     it Pharo/Squeak - otherwise I would see it as an early preview.
     I have clear goals how it should look like in the
     next iterations. For this more patience is necessary.

  2. HelpSystem is independent from where and how the actual
     information is stored (I think I demonstrated this with
     the IRC example, the books and the API help).

  3. I hope to keep HelpSystem in sync for major Squeak distributions
     (Squeak, Pharo, Cuis, ...)

     The last additions from Hannes already broke the code
     in Pharo. Seems to be a Pharo issue this time
     But please dont commit when it is only working in 
     Squeak since my development environment is Pharo.
  4. Yes, the content is currently ASCII but the design is prepared
     to add other types in future releases. 

     A HelpTopic defines an ivar "contents" - currently referring
     to a string. I may add another ivar "contentType" 
     in the future to handle/distinguish additionaly types 
     (HTML, SqueaksRichText, Morphs/BookMorph, ...)

  5. HelpSystem should not be limited to Squeak. It should also
     serve the case that when you write and deploy a commercial
     app in Squeak you may use it to provide help to your
     end user/customer

  6. There are two types of help I see: 

       A. SystemHelp:      Help books/Tutorials/Manuals
       B. SystemReference: API Help, class comments
     HelpSystem is supporting both.
     I already wrote about the differences and details in 
  7. I would really like to see support for HTML viewing 
     in the image (HTMLViewMorph or so) - maybe based on Scamper
     to get a better viewer (headings, tables, ...) than the
     current plain text.
     If people want to contribute they should start right with this

     I know that Laurent already made Scamper loadable in Pharo,
     dont know about the state in Squeak. 
     There is also another HTML browser with markup and CSS now available 
     open source as MIT (WithStyle), I already mentioned this.

  8. I know that we now have discussions on which syntax (Wiki,...)
     to use for describing the contents. 
     My answer is: it is important but I dont care (yet) since 
     this discussion is useless until we have an HTML viewer (see 7.) 
     and  even when there are different syntax styles you can provides
     builders to transform them into HTML or other contentTypes

     See the class HelpBuilder and subclasses. 

  9. If you want to write a book for SystemHelp (see 6.A) then
     the help system provides a class "CustomHelp" similar
     to TestCase in SUnit. This class is used to directly 
     map book structures to the class hierarchy.

     The intention was to be able to create, store and manage
     these books directly with the usual Smalltalk tools.
     You can even restructure your book with the RefactoringBrowser.

 10. If you want to write API help you (see 6.B) can contribute
     right now by commenting all the undocumented classes in the
     standard image.
     HelpSystem just queries these informations from the usual
     sources (class comments, ...). I would not change this
     or make it too complicated since this is what people are 
     used too. 

     I dont see more documented classes by introducing a 
     special syntax (wiki or whatever) people have to learn/know about
     - so lets clean up documenting the classes first.

 11. HelpSystem is able to get contents from external sources
     (see the IRC example) - but I would prefer that authoring/viewing
     could be done right from within the image. 
     Even when the result is stored external afterwards. 
     Look at my example books: I can view and change them
     right from the image and make them available to other images 
     using Metacello/Squeaksource. 
     Accessibility of docu (viewing and authoring) is the key to keep 
     the system and docu in sync and up to date. 
     External authoring mostly results in unmaintained docu (see
     the Squeak Swiki).

 12. I thought again if it is ready to integrate into Pharo and
     Squeak. From all the discussions I would say it is too early.

 13. If one wants the docu on the web the answer is easy: we
     can generate static files or serve them with Seaside. 
     But I have no need for that right now, especially since
     this is already available in various forms.

We can do many things (similar to Python, JavaDoc, you name it)     

But - let's do it step by step. As I said:

 - Someone working on a good HTML Viewer that I can integrate
   would really help moving this forward
   (based on Scamper or by porting WithStyle)
 - Updating class comments would also help a lot 




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