Eclipse Help Overview

Switching the EBI Developer Studio from a homegrown client to using the Eclipse platform will require changing how EXTOL developers implement everything related to the GUI, including how to access help from within the product. One of the projects I was assigned to do for EBI 3x was to look into the Eclipse help system. I enjoyed working on that project because the Eclipse team did a fantastic job producing a very advanced help system that we will certainly be taking advantage of.

The main help system provides a navigation tree on the left and the help contents on the right. All documents are indexed and can be searched by keyword. Any open document can be bookmarked.

All help contents are rendered using the operating system’s native browser (Internet Explorer for Windows, Safari for Mac, and Firefox for Linux). So not only can we produce our documentation using HTML, CSS, and Javascript, we can also use any browser plugins that are installed. We could build a training video in Flash and it can be accessed from EBI 3x’s Developer Studio help, or we could export some of our help contents as a PDF or a Microsoft Word document and Eclipse will still be able to view the document.

Dynamic help provides non-obtrusive, context-sensitive information based on the input selected by the user. This help can be accessed by hitting the F1 key, or a button can easily be added to the editor to open the dynamic help. Information about the selected input is displayed along with links to documentation about the input and links to execute commands (which could be anything from automatically filling in values in the editor to opening other editors to support the currently selected editor) related to the input or editor.

Not only can dynamic help be displayed based on what input is selected, specific help can be displayed based on what kind of information was entered/selected by the user. For example, in a file adapter editor, if I was interested in help on the Delete interaction, I could select the Delete interaction, click the Help button, and view dynamic help on just the Delete interaction instead of reading just an overview of File Adapter interactions.

Cheat sheets are a convenient help mechanism to step through and learn how to use an editor in EBI 3x.  A cheat sheet is composed of steps that the user clicks that execute commands in the currently selected editor.  Some examples of a cheat sheet would be to build a simple Business Process that reads in a file, performs a transformation, and writes out the file, or build a simple Flatfile to XML Ruleset.

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