Help Browsing in GNOME

Hello guys,

   Today on #gnome we were talking about the help browser in GNOME,
and the new developments that went into Nautilus to provide a nice,
fully featured Help Browser.

   This is the status of various things:

	1. The new help browser in Nautilus is not being maintained by

	2. The new help browser depends on Nautilus, which is not an
           easy beast to get compiled, hence, no work is being done by
           anyone for the moment.

	3. Eazel has not allocated hacker time to work on that, so the
           nautilus-based help browser is effectively on a different
           schedule than Nautilus.

   Here are some ideas (I will use letter to not confuse you all now):

	a. It is not hard to write a nice help browser, it just
	   requires a lot of love.  Consider the panel, today it is
	   basically the same panel we had a year ago, but still,
	   trough a lot of love, lots of careful iterative
	   improvements, and lots of little changes, the new panel has
	   become not only a great tool to use, but a visually
	   pleasant tool.

	b. I would like to use the existing "gnome-help-browser" base,
	   replace it with GtkHTML, incorporate Jonathan's great work
	   for Docbook->HTML.

	c. I would like to improve Jonathan's Docbook translation tool
	   so it can also handle reference-like manuals (all of the
	   GNOME api is in Docbook format, and we could render

	d. Include the code from testgtkhtml into gnome-help-browser
	   to give it some love. 

    So the core idea is to incorporate the salvageable pieces of code
from the hyperbola project in Nautilus into either a separeate module,
or gnome-core HEAD (after the 1.2 release) that does not require

    Of course, we do want to keep the Nautilus support, but this can
be nicely split into a separate file that only gets compiled/linked if
Nautilus libraries are detected, and hence a Bonobo/Nautilus component
is provided at that point.

    So we need a motivated hacker to work on this.  This is not about
making source code beautiful, it is about making a functional
application, and giving users a better help system than we have now.

Various tasks can be identified:

	1. Create the new module: either use testgtkhtml as the "base"
           for the help browser, or the existing GNOME help browser.
           Figure this out. 

	   1.a. If the help browser is chosen, then incorporate
                tesgtkhtml neworking features into GNOME help browser
                (kill the ugly lynx -dump hack from there).

	   1.b. If testgtkhtml is used, add a cache, add handlers for
                "man:", "info:", "docbook:".  This might be easier to

	2. Add support for the new help browser to keep track of
           "selections" that the user has underlined in a page (for
           underlining stuff on it, and saving this across visits, a
           very cool feature TkMan used to have).

	3. Add a comprehensive search facility that would search
           across man, info, etc.  Lets start with "simple" and add on
           top of that.

	4. Add Nautilus hookups as a separate compilation module.

	5. Improve Jonathan's Docbook to HTML conversor.

	6. Integrate Jonathan's Docbook to HTML into the system.

So, who has the time, and wants to do this?


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