Help Modes

After setting up the help IDs, you'll need to decide which help modes to use and how each mode will be presented to the user. The help mode describes the user interface method that the user uses to initiate a context-sensitive help request. The runtime supports two help modes: item help and help cursor.

The item help mode uses a predefined key or button to send an immediate request for help for the active control or screen. When the user clicks on the item help button or presses the item help key, the help ID of the active control is immediately passed to the help processor.

The help cursor mode uses a predefined key (distinct from the item help key) to initiate a special mode for selecting the item for which information is wanted. Pressing the help cursor key or button usually changes the cursor to a question mark that the user positions over the screen item in question and then clicks. The mouse pointer then reverts to normal and the help information for that item is displayed. Should the user click on an object that doesn't have a help ID, the cursor reverts to normal and nothing else happens.

To make the help modes work, you must assign each mode an exception value. This is done with the Format 13 SET statement. After the exception values are assigned, any control, menu item, or key that produces the specified exception value will produce the associated help action. For example, the Microsoft Windows design guidelines recommend that F1 produce help for the active item (item help), and that Shift F1 produce a help cursor. To implement those guidelines, you would use the following statement (assuming the default keyboard configuration):


The preceding statement reflects the fact that in the default keyboard configuration F1 produces an exception value of 1, while Shift F1 produces an exception value of 11.

After the exception values are assigned, you can create menu items or push buttons that produce item help or help cursor by assigning those items an exception value of 1 or 11. It is important that item help and help cursor push buttons be self activating (SELF-ACT style). If they are not, the effect is that clicking on them will transfer control to the button. This is annoying in the case of help cursor, and useless in the case of item help (the help request would always pass the help ID of the help button).