Author-it Tips and Tricks

The new Author-it Web Help is a great leap forward from the frame-based HTML previously output by Author-it. I am a fan of it and we are starting to use it in our new help systems where I work.

However, while it has a slick new look with clever dynamic elements, it is not as easy to customise as the old-style HTML output. Basic configuration (such as hiding buttons or setting the default home page) requires you to delve into the stylesheets and HTML. For authors not comfortable with HTML and CSS my Author-it Web Help Configuration Wizard attempts to take away the pain to do this basic configuration.

The next level of configuration – to create a brand new theme – requires delving even deeper into the CSS of the Web Help. Be prepared to get your hands dirty...

The basic process I use to create a new theme is to:

  1. Make a copy of the original Web Help template folder for the new theme.
  2. Duplicate the Web Help objects in Author-it and point the new objects to the new Web Help template folder (for example, a new Book template, Media object, and Publishing Profile).
  3. Update the images in the \extjs\resources\images\default folders for your new theme. Alternatively, you could try getting a theme from Ext JS (the web component used by the Web Help). Try this search:
  4. Update the ext-all.css stylesheet in the \extjs\resources\css folder (or the stylesheet for the theme downloaded from EXT JS). This is where it gets tricky because there are nearly a thousand elements in this file. It takes patience to locate the right element to update! The specifics of what needs to be updated in the stylesheet is too detailed for this post.
  5. Update the images in the images folder (for example, the feedback and edit buttons).
  6. Publish and test.

As you can see, the trade off for the new slick help is a more complex method to customise a new theme. But it is not too much of a stretch if you have intermediate CSS skills, basic image manipulation skills, and an ability to ferret through the stylesheets and comprehend what they are doing.

You can see the results of my efforts here. If you would like to use this theme, or if you have requirements for a theme of your own, contact me.

The Author-it Web Help Configuration Wizard has been updated to be compatible with the latest Author-it release (

Specifically, it has been updated to support the new option to specify the default text to be used in the feedback email.

Access the wizard here:

If you have used the wizard before and you entered your email address, you can re-enter it to retrieve your settings (and then make the update for the feedback text).

A word of warning: Backup your template folder before copying the new configuration files across. Also, if you have made additional changes to the index.htm or webhelp.css files you will need to merge these back in.

I have updated my Using Author-it Variants for Multi-release Software document with information about removing older releases and an FAQ. It has also been tested against Author-it v5.3.207.6063.

Go here to read the document.

If you use this solution, please register for updates. have been playing around with the new Author-it Web Help and thought it might be a good idea to have a wizard to do the configuration (instead of hacking the HTML and CSS files). So, I have developed the Author-it Web Help Configuration Wizard.

You will be asked a number of questions about how you want to configure the interface. After you have finished, your personalised configuration files are created for you, which you save into your Author-it templates directory.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

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