The basic functions of a Help Authoring Tool (HAT) can be divided into the following categories:
HATs obtain their source text either by importing it from a file produced by another program, or by allowing the author to create the text within the tool by using an editor. File formats that can be imported vary from HAT to HAT. Acceptable file formats can include ASCII, HTML, OpenOffice Writer and Microsoft Word, and compiled Help formats such as Microsoft WinHelp and Microsoft Compiled HTML Help.
The output from a HAT can be either a compiled Help file in a format such as WinHelp (*.HLP) or Microsoft Compiled HTML Help (*.CHM), or noncompiled file formats such as Adobe PDF, XML, HTML or JavaHelp.
Some HATs provide extra functions such as:
- Automatic or assisted Index generation
- Automatic Table of Contents
- Spelling checker
- Image editing
- Image hotspot editing
- Import and export of text in XML files, for exchange with computer-assisted translation programs
Some common HATs include: