Customize SharePoint 2010 Help

Customizing SharePoint 2010 help

March 2010

Note:  This article is part of a collection of posts from four years of the Get the Point blog for SharePoint end-users.

SharePoint 2010 introduces a couple of new ways to extend and customize the Help experience for customers:

  • Administrators can determine which Help is relevant for the entire farm or for each site collection, and display only that Help.

  • Independent software vendors (ISVs) and solution developers can include their own Help topics in their products.

This post about customizing Help in SharePoint 2010 focuses on the first of these two scenarios: features that enable Site Collection Administrators to provide a customized Help experience.

Introduction to SharePoint Help

SharePoint Help is stored in a Help Collection. A Help Collection is simply a collection of HTML files, images, and other resources such as CSS and JS files that apply to a single product or feature. 

For example, SharePoint 2010 has a Help Collection, as does the Word Web App.

Help Collections are stored in two places:

  • Site-collection-specific Help Collections are stored in top-level site in the site collection.

  • Farm-wide Help Collections are stored in Central Administration.

Users can open Help by clicking the Help icon. A table of contents and a search box appear, and from there, they can search or browse to find the information they need.

Customize SharePoint 2010 Help at the site collection level

There are two main ways to customize Help at the site collection level. You can:

  • Ensure that users see only Help Collections that are relevant to installed features.

  • Ensure that users can see new custom Help that is specific to a particular site collection.

Let’s explore both of these.

Display Relevant Help Collections

As a Site Collection Administrator, you can decide which Help Collections are relevant to the site collection and the type of work that its users need to do.

To change the collections that are available:

  1. On the Site Actions menu, click Site Settings.

  2. Under Site Collection Administration, click Help Settings.

The Available Help Collections page opens. This page is where you can turn each Help Collection on or off.

o15-availableHelp

After you make selections on the Available Help Collections page, your changes are immediately reflected in the Help Viewer window:

o15helpview

Create new site collection Help

To create new Help that is specific to the site collection, you must first turn on the Custom Site Collection Help feature on the Site Collection Features page (you must be a Site Collection Administrator to do this).

o15custsitecollection

When you turn on Custom Site Collection Help, SharePoint creates a new library in the top-level site of the site collection. The new library is called Site Collection Help.

Now you can start creating your Help. First, you’ll create a new Help Collection folder.

To start creating your Help:

  1. On the top level site in your site collection, click All Site Content, and then select the Site Collection Help library.

  2. On the Documents tab of the Library Tools ribbon, click the New Document menu and then click Help Collection to create a new Help Collection folder.
    o15newdoc

  3. Fill out the fields for the Help Collection:
    Name: The internal name for the folder. (This name must be unique.)
    Title: The title that users will see for the Help Collection.
    Locale ID: The language that this Help Collection is in. (For example, 1033 means the Help Collection is in English.)
    Product: The identifier for this Help collection.
    Tip: You can create the same Help Collection in multiple languages. Simply create another Help Collection with the same Product value, but with a different Locale ID. If you need the locale ID for another language, check out this Locale ID chart.

  4. Within the Help Collection folder, you can create three types of things:
    Help Topic: An HTML file that will display as a Help article.
    Help Categories: Named folders in which you can place your Help articles, grouped by subject. Within the Help viewer, categories become the Table of Contents for your Help Collection.
    Help Media File: Any images or video files.

It’s a good idea to start by creating your categories, and then creating your Help articles within those categories.

I created a Help Category and a Help Topic parallel to the category under a new Help Collection I created.

o15HelpCat

When I click Help, this is what I see:

o15clickHelp

If I want the topic to be nested under "Blogging Category," I will need to move it inside the "Blogging Category" folder in the library.

Create a Help Category

Help Categories are named folders in which you can place your Help articles, grouped by subject, to provide your readers with a table of contents.

  1. On the top level site in your site collection, click All Site Content, and then select the Site Collection Help library.

  2. On the Document tab of the Library Tools ribbon, click the New Document and then click Help Category to create a new Help Category folder.

  3. Fill out the fields for the Help Category.

Create Help Articles

Help Articles must be HTML files, UTF-8 encoded. You can use any HTML authoring tool, but for this example, we’ll use Microsoft Word.

To create a Help Article in Word:

  1. Upload all the images that you want to include in the Help topics to the appropriate category within the Help library.

  2. Start a new document in Word.

To insert images into a Help Article, do the following:

  1. In the Help library, navigate to the image you uploaded. Right-click it and select Copy Shortcut

  2. In Word, go to Insert -> Pictures.

  3. Paste the URL to the image in the File Name field.

  4. Click the small dropdown beside the Insert button and select Link to File.
    o15linktofile

To save and add your Help Article to your Help Collection:

  1. In Word, click the File tab.

  2. Click Options and then click Advanced.

  3. Scroll all the way down the right pane and click Web Options.

  4. On the Encoding tab, select Save this Document as… Unicode (UTF-8).
    o15savedoc

  5. Save this file directly to your local drive:
    a. Select Save As.
    b. elect Save as type Web Page (.htm/.html).

  6. Go back to the Site Collection Help library, navigate to the category folder where you want the topic saved, and then select New Document – Help Topic.

  7. Upload the file you just saved.

Go back and ensure that your new Help collection is available:

  1. On the Site Actions menu, click Site Settings.

  2. Under Site Collection Administration, click Help Settings.

  3. Select the checkbox for your new Help Collection.

And you’re done!

Dan Zarzar

Program Manager, Microsoft Assistance Platform Team

Postscript:

July 18, 2010: You can find Dan's second post, which explains how ISVs can create their own CAB files to install custom Help, here: http://sharepoint.microsoft.com/Blogs/GetThePoint/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=339

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