Windows Phone 7 Help

PhoneHelp allows you to deliver an embedded help system with your Windows Phone app.

Highlights

  • XAML-based. Your help system uses the same look and feel as the app itself
  • Allows you or your tech writers to use standard Microsoft Word to write the content
  • Single assembly solution, link to the help runtime assembly and you’re good to go
  • New featureTwo authoring solutions - Twister4Word and Twister
  • The authoring tool automatically updates your Visual Studio project files, adding the generated XAML and XML files
  • Supports the usual help system features: TOC, Search, Index as well as a Favorites page
  • “Return to app” button that takes the user back to the page from where help browsing originated
  • Context-sensitive help support
  • Variables - Support for both compile-time and run-time variables
  • Conditional text - both at compile-time and at run-time
  • New featureLayouts - three different supported layouts: Standard, Panorama and Pivot
  • New featureException Page - handles uncaught exceptions and allows users to upload error data.
  • New featureFeedback Page - provides a feedback page for users to upload feedback at runtime.
  • New featurePage Transitions - we recently added support for the WP7 Toolkit Page Transitions.
  • Built-in support for Google Analytics to get stats with the HelpStats app by Web-Analysis.net on which help topics are viewed, topics that are never viewed, what users search for etc. The Google Analytics support for the help also enables it for the phone app itself, enables you to quickly get usage reports using the Google Analytics site or the AppStats tool by Web-Analysis.net
  • New featureDocViewer - we recently released a standalone Windows app, the DocViewer, for previewing help systems embedded in WP7 "XAP files.
  • New featureHelpEntryPoint - we've made it easier to specify how the users access the Help (Button or Menu Item).

Three easy steps to add help to your Phone app:

  1. Download our plugin (Twister4Word) for XAML generation from within Microsoft Word. Everything is XAML and XML based, you can create all the files manually, but why? Xaml4Word will do it for you.
  2. Author the help system in Microsoft Word
  3. Use the plugin to add the help system to the CSPROJ of your phone app. The plugin adds all XAML, XML and button PNG files and even updates your main app code file - App.xaml.cs - to load the helpsystem and updates your main page file - MainPage.xaml.cs - to add the basic help button that navigates to the TOC page.

Why use XAML for Help in a Phone App vs old-school Browser-based Help?

  • One single XAML resource file can control both the app UI and the help system
  • The Help blends in with the rest of the UI since it’s using the same renderer. Since the help files are XAML they are rendered by the same rendering pipeline as the rest of the UI and can be part of XAML clipping and animations
  • The XAML renderer is smaller and faster than the Web Browser control
  • Runtime variables, you can use variables in a help topic that is replaced at runtime with any XAML, for example you can at runtime update the help with UI controls that mimic you regular UI. For example, a help topic can refer to a button in the UI and actually host a working copy of that button for the user to click. Live charts would be another example candidate for runtime variables
  • Support for advanced XAML graphics such round borders and gradient brushes etc, which are not part of HTML/CSS
  • You can use XAML controls within topics to make them more “interesting”, for example “Expander controls” for “Drop Down Text blocks”
  • Use of XAML animations to make topics look more interesting

Want to know more?

Click here to see how to use the authoring tool.

Click here to see how the help looks like at runtime.