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Need to produce online help that jibes with the latest version of Mac OS X “Leopard” (v10.5)? Want to discover previously undocumented Apple Help features of Mac OS X “Tiger” (v10.4)? Then, download the Apple Help Programming Guide (3.5MB PDF).

Apple Help, the HTML-based system for providing user assistance in Mac OS X. Apple Help is the primary help system for Mac OS X and is designed to deliver online topic-based user help, such as is often provided in user manuals and lists of frequently asked questions (FAQ).

Apple Help offers significant advantages over static help documents, such as Read Me files or manuals in PDF. The benefits of adopting Apple Help for user assistance include:

  • Searchability – Apple Help offers users sophisticated search capabilities, including full-text searching and the ability to search on synonyms and common misspellings.
  • Full support for QuickTime and any other media for which plug-ins are installed – Using QuickTime or other authoring tools, you can create animated sequences that showcase hidden or complex features of your software product and play these sequences as part of your help content.
  • AppleScript automation – Using AppleScript, you can automate tasks and run them from your help content to guide users through a complex operation step by step.
  • Ease of updating – Apple Help makes it simple to revise and expand your help content, page by page or all at once. Using Apple Help, you can even maintain up-to-date help pages and search indexes on your own server and have them downloaded via the Internet to update your help content.
  • Ease of adoption – Many developers have recognized the advantages of browser-based help and implemented HTML solutions to provide user assistance. Apple Help makes it easy for you to adapt previously created HTML pages into the form used by Apple Help.
  • User experience – The Help Viewer application is optimized for delivering onscreen help. By using Apple Help, you’ll ensure the user experience for your application is consistent with users’ expectations of a Mac OS X application.
  • Spotlight For Help – Starting with Mac OS X v10.5, Apple Help integrates Spotlight For Help, which lets users search the contents of your menus and application help directly from your application’s Help menu. If you don’t use Apple Help, then Spotlight For Help returns results only from Mac Help rather than from your application’s help.

Join the Apple Developer Connection.

If you are new to Apple Help, check out Authoring Apple Help, a free, online resource that outlines the basic requirements of creating a help book and with the general guidelines for writing user help.