Popup Help Window

This is a demo of a couple of ways of causing a "help" window to appear on the screen, with its contents loaded from a URL.

The simplest way is with a hyperlink with a target attribute. This should work with any program that claims to implement HTML, but it gives you little or no control over the size or position of the help window. In some cases, the help window will appear over the top of the browser's main window, making it appear to the user that the document was read into the same window. The poor user is then usually baffled by the fact that the Back button doesn't appear to work. It may take a while for the victim to discover that there are two browser windows one the screen, one hiding the other.

With Microsoft Windows, something even worse happens: If the help window exists when you click on the link, the main window pops up to cover the help window. The help window appears to have closed. If the user happens to discover it hidden under the main window, it may take a while to discover how to actually make the help window readable, since the window system keeps covering it up.

If the client understands JavaScript, it is possible to make the popup window somewhat better behaved. Close the window that the above link opened, and then click on this link to reopen the window.
That one only works if the client understands JavaScript. How do you make it work everywhere? Here's a combined link, which should work with any browser. If the client doesn't understand JavaScript (or has turned it off), the window sizing won't work. But help window should still appear.
This page was created by John Chambers. You may use it as you wish. If you make any significant improvements, send me email at:
  • John Chambers at MIT (trillian)
  • John Chambers at MIT (eddie)
  • John Chambers at the World