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ClickHelp November 2022 Wave Update Overview

Posted by
Elmira in ClickHelp News on 11/29/202210 min read

2022 wave release

ClickHelp strives to bring its clients the best service and profit by constantly improving the platform. The Wave update of our documentation platform comprises even more features you asked and waited for. API and docs-as-code advocates will be delighted to see the new possibilities for automation and integrations.

New API Features

As a modern system, ClickHelp has long been offering an API, and our customers extensively use it. The scenarios for ClickHelp integration with other systems are expanding as we develop our product and receive customer requests for API enhancement. This release answers our customers’ queries – a substantial API expansion and a handful of new API methods. See the API operations the ClickHelp Wave update has to offer:

  • Topics: create, change, update, and delete topics.
  • Projects: get project backups via API.
  • TOC nodes: get, create, change, and delete TOC nodes (including folders).
  • ClickHelp File Storage: download, create, upload, change, and delete files and folders. Search for files using a specific glob pattern (for example, all images with jpg extension can be found in some folder or its subfolders), and check if a certain file exists.

New API methods allow you to efficiently integrate ClickHelp into CI/CD processes, connect with other systems, and automate content updates. Based on our customers’ requests and use cases, we have gathered a list of the most typical scenarios and practical tasks for new API methods. This list might be handy in searching for ideas to improve your documentation processes and manual work automation.

API Use Case: Sync External KB Articles to ClickHelp

For example, your support team creates KB articles in Salesforce or Zendesk, and you’d like such content to be a part of your documentation portal so that everything could be in one place. In this case, your customer could search through user guides and KB articles inside the ClickHelp documentation portal. New ClickHelp API methods are a big help to your developers. Now they can create a utility program that takes topics from Salesforce or Zendesk and adds them to your ClickHelp portal, or updates those that already exist!

API Use Case: Implement Custom Format Importing

Sometimes you need to import content to ClickHelp from a format or a tool that is not directly supported. With the new API methods, you can now implement your own importing logic that reads your custom format and creates content in ClickHelp to match the source document structure.

API Use Case: Update Files Automatically

Suppose you have files that need to be a part of your online documentation, so clients can download them while reading a topic. Those can be sample configuration files, plug-in archives, definition files, auto-generated header files, optional application modules, etc. If you have those files created or handled by some automated procedure, like a build automation platform (Jenkins, Maven, Bamboo, TeamCity, etc.), you can now upload those files automatically to your ClickHelp File Storage to replace the older versions. No more manual file uploads – your automated process can use the ClickHelp API to update the older files in your projects with their new versions. Next time, when you publish your projects in ClickHelp to release a new user guide, the latest files will be taken from the project folder to become a part of the latest documentation release.

API Use Case: Create More Sophisticated External Viewers

Documentation content integration into the software products interface is a way to simplify user adoption. ClickHelp has always supported Context Sensitive Help allowing you to deliver documentation content inside web applications UI. See for yourself here.

Now we are ready to provide an API that helps you implement more sophisticated Context Help integrations. Your readers will see a Table of Contents and topic content together with a dynamic display of navigation. For example, you can create a folder with help topics for a particular screen of your app and display the list of available help pages on that screen. No need to engage developers to make a change in your app when you need to add a new topic. Just move this new topic to such a folder in your portal and publish these changes; your users will be able to see this new help topic in the list.

api features skeleton

Think outside the box – new possibilities of our API give you a more powerful and flexible mechanism for Context Help implementation!

API Use Case: Sync Auto-Generated API Documentation Into ClickHelp

In most cases, technical writers create a user guide in a professional tool, and developers create a developer guide elsewhere. But wouldn’t it be great to have both types of content on one platform? The Wave update offers several solutions for that.

In ClickHelp, you can import an OpenAPI definition (read further for more details). In case you don’t write in the OpenAPI format, you can implement a custom synchronization using our new API functions.

There are two scenarios for this case:

- Update one or more automatically generated API topics. Suppose you have a user guide that, along with regular topics, contains some special topics – it is API documentation generated by a third-party utility program. Every time this auto-generated API documentation changes and you get new files from the utility, you have to copy and paste these topics manually. Now you can automate this process and build it into your CI/CD pipeline. The moment the build system creates a new build of your API definition, it runs your favorite API docs autogeneration utility. It then runs a utility that replaces the content in such API topics with new HTML autogenerated content inside your user guide using the new ClickHelp API methods. This way, you don't have to make manual changes – your autogenerated API docs will always be up to date.

- Partial update of API topics. Imagine you have ordinary topics created by technical writers in your ClickHelp platform; these topics contain partially autogenerated content. The content of those topics is a mix of the text your technical writers create and the autogenerated content that comes from an external utility like a code documentation tool. Now you can automate even the tricky scenarios – get the HTML source of a topic, replace some parts of it with the new autogenerated content, and push the new content back! You can do all the heavy lifting of merging manual and automatic parts in a simple code or script and update dozens and hundreds of topics this way in seconds!

This approach is not actually exclusive to API documentation. If your R&D creates any other types of Dev documentation in a specialized tool, you can use the same approach to synchronize that content into your ClickHelp documentation portal.

ClickHelp Project Backup – New Format for Import and Export

Our clients have asked us to implement a possibility to delete legacy projects and have their backup in case they are needed someday. Before, a user could download them in CHM or HTML format. This worked fine for situations when your content was simple. However, if you had dynamic content like Variables, Conditional Blocks, or Snippets, they were not preserved in the original form when exporting to CHM or HTML – they turned into static content. To better support those scenarios, we're now adding a new native format – ClickHelp Project Backup!

This format preserves a bunch of information from your project – original topics markup with dynamic elements (i.e., snippets, conditional blocks, etc.) and project metadata (i.e., all the settings). Now you can export data of a separate project and import it later to your portal if you need to make another iteration for that legacy project. This feature is useful not only for legacy projects but also for the following scenarios:

  • Project backups. With our new backup format, you save loads of important information; it is human-readable since it is based on the XML format. This increases the value of such a backup – you can import it back to ClickHelp and read it in any text editor.
  • Merging different projects into one. Just export each of these projects into our ClickHelp Project Backup format, then import all of them back into a single project.
  • Data storage in Git. Sometimes software documentation for an application version must be stored in the same Git branch where the source codes of this version are stored. This requirement can be met now with the new format -- download a ClickHelp Project Backup of the documentation version that you include into your app build, and upload the resulting set of files to your Git storage. Since the files are in the XML format, you’ll be able to compare file revisions from different versions of an app.
  • Implement custom programmatic processing of topic content. Sometimes you need to have your content as files on a local disk for such processing. For example, content cleanup after import: ClickHelp allows for regular expressions but this may be insufficient for processing when the HTML structure should be considered. For all similar cases, you can export your content in the new format, run any automated processing locally, and then upload the new content back to ClickHelp.
  • Projects migration from one portal to another, if you have several portals. This is the case when you need to publish documents for various kinds of audiences on different domains under different names. There may be any reason for that, like using one language for one portal, or contents may vary from portal to portal, or you have several product lines, each of which demands its own portal. But still, it is more convenient to create all your content in one portal so you can manage it on a centralized basis. With this feature, you can create your documents in one portal and publish them on the others.

Clean HTML Export

Sometimes, the content is created in ClickHelp, and specific topics are included in a software product as files. We had an HTML5 WebHelp format, which included navigation, headers, and footers. As our clients requested, we made it possible to export a set of HTML files without navigation, i.e., each topic as a separate file. Now you can publish it in a third-party system (like SalesForce), include it in your product, and implement navigation as you like.

Import From Swagger/OpenAPI Definition

The possibility of importing from Swagger/OpenAPI was the talk of the town at the Megacomm 2022 conference held in Israel. Writing documentation is never easy, especially if you need to write API documentation and different manuals or user guides. Moreover, because these different types of content vary, you had to use different special tools. As a result, you had different portals located separately with unlike look-and-feel and no centralized search by all your documentation.

A single tool for API documentation and user guides is what technical writers hunger, and this is what we are striving to make here.

Now with ClickHelp, you’ll be able to create a special node in TOC by importing an OpenAPI/Swagger file to your portal. You’ll get topics that were automatically generated by a free Redoc library. Note, if you need to edit such a topic, you can do it in the mentioned Swagger/OpenAPI file and refresh the docs in ClickHelp using the updated definition so the corresponding topics are updated automatically. As a result, all your documentation will be stored in one platform, and you’ll be able to search through all your content.

swagger open API import feature

Reader Preview

The goal of any user interface is to make digital interaction as simple and efficient as possible. In the Wave update, we have made the Authoring Interface of the platform even more friendly:

  1. If you’re an author or a reviewer, from now on, you will see all the publications in the Reader UI.
  2. When you work in the platform as an Author or a Reviewer, and editing a Project topic, you may want to see how it looks for readers without publishing the topic. Now you can click the "Reader preview" button and see your topic in the reader interface instantly!

preview as a reader button

It is very convenient for authors as they can now see how their project will look for readers.

reader preview mode

Smarter Tables With Better Editing

Tables are integral elements of technical content; they help to organize detailed and complicated data that cannot be adequately described in text. The Wave update simplifies the work with tables by introducing the following features:

  • Automatic horizontal scrollbars. Some documents contain large tables with a lot of content. To fit such a table on the screen, you had to hide the right sidebar for readers or make columns quite narrow, but sometimes it was not an option. Now ClickHelp has better support for wider tables – when a table does not fit the content area in the reader interface, the system adds a horizontal scrollbar for this table. This happens automatically. Authors don't have to think about this – they just create a table that represents the data the right way, and the reader UI does the rest.
  • Column resize option. Column sizing works better even with large images inside of cells – the system will make those images smaller automatically! Word wrapping mode has also been changed to better handle long words like parameter names inside cells. All in all, table column sizing operations now work much smarter, helping you create nicer tables!
  • Sorting. An author can mark tables as sortable when editing; then, a reader will be able to sort the tables in the reader UI.

Conclusion

We at ClickHelp, constantly increase our tool's flexibility and value our customers' opinions. We are making the platform more open for integrations by expanding API possibilities and adding a native format – ClickHelp Project Backup. The latest update contains the integration of API docs with user guides on one platform, table editing improvements, and other usability and performance improvements that will make your technical writing experience more satisfying!

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

 

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