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Flare Context Sensitive Help – Focusing the Minimized Help Window Back on Top

by Tom Johnson on Jan 8, 2009 •
categories: technical-writing

Context-sensitive help in Madcap Flare is pretty easy to set up – you just follow the steps in Flare's context-sensitive help instructions. However, there's a usability problem that you must work around for the context-sensitive help to be successful.

Let me explain. When the user clicks a context-sensitive help link, a help window appears, as it should. But suppose the user doesn't close the help window, but instead clicks back to the application. The help window minimizes. Now the user then clicks another context-sensitive help link. The new help topic loads in the existing help window, sure enough, but that help window remains minimized. The minimized help window doesn't automatically come to focus on top. As a result, the user thinks the help link is broken.

Fortunately, the solution is simple.

  1. Go to C:Program FilesMadCap SoftwareMadCap Flare V4Flare.appResourcesWebHelp or wherever you installed Flare.
  2. Open Default.js in Notepad.
  3. Search for cshString, "_MCWebHelpCSH", browserOptions + size ); and delete it. Note: If you copy this string from this post, make sure you retype the quotation marks, since my stylesheet renders then as curly quotes instead. The quotation marks should be straight.
  4. Insert these two lines in its place:
  5. var newWindow = cshString, "_MCWebHelpCSH", browserOptions + size );


    Note: See note in step3 about making the curly quotation marks straight. Otherwise it won't work.

  6. Completely wipe away the previously published target and reupload or republish your files.

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Now when the user clicks subsequent context-sensitive help links, even if the help window is minimized, it will come to focus on top. Perfect.

Tip: If you use Madcap Flare, I highly recommend that you subscribe to Eddie VanArsdall's blog: Simplifying Complexity. Eddie is a certified Flare instructor and provides tips about Flare on his blog.

Note: As always, Flare doesn't support changes to the core files. When you upgrade to Flare 4.2, your changes will be lost. In that case, keep this post handy.

Coding the Javascript Help Link

By the way, if you read Flare's instructions for implementing context-sensitive help in a web application, the javascript example is generally given as follows:

<input type="button" value="Open Help System" onclick="FMCOpenHelp( 1000, null, null, null );" />

This link creates a button. If you don't want the button, code the javascript link like this:

<a href="javascript:FMCOpenHelp (1000, null, null, null);">Help</a>

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About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer / API doc specialist based in the Seattle area. In this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, visual communication, information architecture, writing techniques, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out simplifying complexity and API documentation for some deep dives into these topics. If you're a technical writer and want to keep on top of the latest trends in the field, be sure to subscribe to email updates. You can also learn more about me or contact me.