JavaServer Pages for Web-based Online Help
Welcome to one of the best sources for information, training, tools,
and code samples to help technical writers to implement JavaServer
Pages (JSP) technology in online help. If you haven't yet, please
read the overview of what JSP can
do for your online documentation.
The first section of this site has an order for you to go through.
Feel free to jump around if you are already familiar with JSP, or
if you are interested in a specific aspect of the technology. Otherwise,
read the sections in the order they're provided, and you should
find learning how to implement this technology in your online help
Once you have read the overview of how you can use JSP to enhance
your online help, read the more detailed
explanation of JSP. This goes into the details of what JSP is,
how it works, and how you can leverage its capabilities in your
Read the tutorial that
guides you in setting up a JSP environment on your Windows machine.
One of the best parts of JavaServer Page technology is that you
can set up the whole thing on your machine for free. The Tomcat
server is completely free, and is frequently updated. The Java Software
Developer's Kit (SDK) from Sun is also free. You can use your preferred
HTML editor to create JSP pages (as long as it isn't one of those
that fixes your code when you aren't looking, as earlier
versions of RoboHELP HTML edition used to do and current versions
of FrontPage still do).
Once you have your environment set up, read about how to create
your first JSP page. This section shows you some practical uses
for JSP within your online help.
Next, read about JSP tag libraries.
Tag libraries are what make JSP a wonderful tool for enhancing your
online help. It is possible for only one writer on your team to
understand the nitty-gritty of JSP, because that person can create
tag libraries for everyone else to use. Teaching writers how to
use a JSP tag library is much simpler than teaching the JSP technology.
And the person who understands how to set up JSP doesn't need to
be a programmer!
If you have read all of the preceding sections, you know enough
now to skip around in this and following sections, to read the sections
that interest you.
Once you have read about tag libraries and understand them, it
is likely that you want to try creating one. Rather than requiring
you to create your very first tag library from scratch, though,
you can instead use this site's Tag Builder.
This utility will take a bit of information from you as to what
you want to do with the tag library, and it will automatically create
the source code for you to compile on your machine. It also provides
step-by-step information about what settings you need to modify
for your Tomcat web server to recognize the tag library. Then, it
provides some sample code using the tag library you generated, so
you can easily copy and paste between this web site and your own
Interacting with databases
JavaServer Pages can interact with databases, inserting records
with data that your users provide, pulling data from the database
to display it for your users, and so on.
The database overview takes
you through the process of setting up your local machine to use
the JDBC-ODBC bridge provided by Sun. This driver allows you to
access any ODBC-compliant database with a JDBC connection.
The section provides a Microsoft Access database and sample JSP
files that enable you to interact with the database on your machine.
You can view the source code for the provided JSP files to get
acquainted with how database access is handled inside of JSP pages.
Adding Forms to Your Online Help
You can do a lot with forms in your online help. For example, you
collect audience analysis-type information
collect feedback your readers as they
are reading your content
customize the content based on the user profile
(based on the department they work in, the modules they use,
the security clearance they have, and so on).
You can also create a tag library that would allow you to easily
put standard forms in selected or all online help topics. To see
an example of how easy it would be to include a form in a page if
the form was contained in a tag library, read
about the Form Tag Library that I wrote.
Selling JSP to Your Manager or Company
Most of us technical writers deal with it...selling a new technology
to the boss. But, selling JSP can be much easier than selling something
that requires a large monetary expenditure. I wrote up a paper selling
the concept to the management of a former employer. Please feel
free to copy the paper I wrote, and modify
it for your needs.
As JSP evolves and grows, more and more resources become available
to the JSP developer. Here is a list
of the resources that you will likely find the most helpful
in generating JSP for your online help projects.
Advanced Tag Library Modules
I have written some more-advanced tag library components. These
took a bit longer to create than simple show-or-don't-show components
(like those that the Tag Builder creates),
and incorporate a fair amount of Java code. If you have a fair grasp
of Java, you can probably create these same modules on your own.
However, if you see the value in buying components instead of re-inventing
them, you may consider purchasing one
of these modules.