MS Access create end user help files

Hi Experts,

I am finally completing my first Access application and am very confused about the best way to provide help files to end users.  My latest attempt is to create a small cmd button with the an embedded help icon and place it on controls.  These call a message box because which works great but I thought message box modality could be turned off and I would like these to be available as users interface certain controls.  The help file editors available online seem to be to overkill for my small db and there doesn't seem to be a built-in Access option to create these.  There are posts (on other forums but couldn't find any on EE) about using tables/forms with the controls' contextID, but I'm not clear if these work with F1 key on when the control has focus or does this involve the same tactic I'm now employing.  Any advice, direction or pointers would be greatly appreciated and I really appreciate your time--thank you!
Skip SleeperIT ManagerAsked:
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crystal (strive4peace) - Microsoft MVP, AccessRemote Training and ProgrammingCommented:
hi Skip,

attached is a zip with 4 files:


Forms with Help Examples
The Access 2007 database has 3 sample forms showing different ways to display Help using:


Skip SleeperIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
Hi Crystal,

Thank you for the insights and samples!  In the textbox example, would the HelpID=1 refer to a control's help context ID?  How would this typically be called (e.g. F1, icon cmd button)?  Thanks!
crystal (strive4peace) - Microsoft MVP, AccessRemote Training and ProgrammingCommented:
you're welcome, Skip.

Attached is another example. It uses an AutoKeys macro to define the F1 key to open the Help form, which is filtered for a specific topic. A tempvar is used for the HelpID. Look at the code behind the TEST form to see how the HelpID can be changed. I used command buttons to change the help topic -- but you might want to use GotFocus to set a specific topic and LostFocus to set it back to general form help.

AutoExec macro: automatically executes when application is opened. Set HelpID to 0 (for general application help)

AutoKeys macro: defines F1 key

form Open defines general help for form
form Unload sets help back to 0

I think this is easier to manage than using built-in Help

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Skip SleeperIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
Hi Crystal,

Just to clarify, the TEST form would list all the help topics when called by F1?  And does the HelpID correspond to the helpContextID of controls or this not even used?  What do mean by "built-in" Help?  Lastly, do you think the memo fields increase DB size dramatically as an application grows?

crystal (strive4peace) - Microsoft MVP, AccessRemote Training and ProgrammingCommented:
hi Skip,

there is no correlation to HelpContextID. This method doesn't use the built-in Help capability. If you DO want to use HelpContextID to set which help in your table to show, I've modified the AutoKeys macro to call a function to get that information and set the TempVar. Attached is an example.

in the SetHelpID code, you could define help for specific forms if there is no active control, or HelpContextID is 0 for the active control.

If you don't need rich text (bold, underline, different fonts, etc), then you could use a Short Text field (limited to 255 characters) instead of Long Text. Long Text is kind of wasteful, but you can't save formatting with Short Text. In the overall scheme of things, it shouldn't increase database size all that much.


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Mark EdwardsChief Technology OfficerCommented:
For what it's worth, I don't use help files (too much work to create and maintain).  I just create a word document "users manual" that I export to .PDF and then open with a button click using FollowHyperlink() function.  Any time a modification needs to be made, just make it in your Word .docx and export to .PDF again...

Simple and it works beautifully.....
Skip SleeperIT ManagerAuthor Commented:
Thank you Crystal and Mark--got a lot to think about!
crystal (strive4peace) - Microsoft MVP, AccessRemote Training and ProgrammingCommented:
you're welcome, Skip ~ happy to help

Mark's idea to maintain Help in Word bears consideration and is a helpful comment ...  even if what you do is copy and paste into Access. It is easier to format text in Word.
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