If you convert legacy content then that content is transformed into HelpServer content objects and stored in HelpServer's database. If your company keeps on working on the legacy content sources, then it is not a good idea to convert it. An alternative would be to include that legacy content in HelpServer topics in real time, which means the moment the topic is browsed, exported or printed. You achieve this by means of exit points in the topics.
Such exit points communicate with a web application your programmers have to write themselves. The main task of this application is to retrieve information from your own database(s) or file(s) and to return it in the appropriate XML format to the exit point.
Thus, the application invoked by the exit point is that of a data server with HelpServer playing the role of the client. All the parameters your data server requires can be specified in the exit point properties.
Exit points inserted in topics activate the data server when they are displayed in the web browser and when you create offline or printed output. The data returned by the data server is shown where the exit point is inserted. Follow these steps to insert an exit point:
Inserting an exit point
On the Workbench window, select the appropriated topic, put your cursor on a new paragraph, popup the menu and select ‘Exit point’ to open the ‘Insert exit point’ window.
Exit point properties
On this window you enter the name (the URL) of your web application (your data server). This can be a Java Servlet or an Active X program. Ask your programmer for more details. All parameters are passed to the data server as a single string in XML format. It is up to the data server to parse this string and to extract the parameter values.
There are two kinds of parameters.
The default parameters are shown in the upper list, these are always available. The ‘&’-prefixed names are values that are replaced by an actual value when the topic is displayed.
You add your own parameters in the lower list in a format of your choice. The format is not checked by HelpServer. The help author and the programmer determine what other parameters are necessary for the data server to perform its task. For example, you might want to add a database name, a file name, or a table name. . All parameters are passed as a single string as they appear in the ‘Insert exit point’ window.
Programming the data server
You can develop your data server in any programming language. A good server process has to be up and running continuously, ‘listening’ to requests from its client, the HelpServer. It can run on the same workstation as the HelpServer Web application or on another one as long as your data server is able to establish a URL connection with the HelpServer server
This kind of implementation is very company specific. As describing it is beyond the scope of this manual, refer to your programmer guide for the details.
The data server should return its data in valid HelpServer XML format. You should first export some content in the Workbench to HelpServer XML. Then you get a dtd file in the exported output, which you can use in your formatting process.
You can create multiple data servers. However, if you design your data server in a way it can access data from any of your files or databases by using additional parameters it might be capable of handling requests from any topic.