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Include Norton Guides? #32

nichtich opened this issue Nov 2, 2019 · 2 comments


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@nichtich nichtich commented Nov 2, 2019

Norton Guides seems to be one of the earliest online help systems. According to Wikipedia it was developed 1985 by Warren Woodford who had been working on similar software before. An overview about the file format and readers has been given by Dave Pearson. In this interview Ralph Walden (Microsoft) stated that he knew Norton Guides when he developed QuickHelp for OS/2 and DOS (1987):

My manager and I looked at it, decided it was really terrible and that we should do our own for OS/2

Some screenshot or a useable version of Norton Guides from before 1987 would be useful to judge. DOS programs can be emulated in the browser, see Best would be to donate the code to Internet Archive for future generations ;-) Same applies to QuickHelp to compare Norton Guides and QuickHelp.


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@davep davep commented Nov 2, 2019

On the off chance that it helps, here's a list of implementations of Norton Guide readers I've written:

  • ng2html - Converts NG files into HTML.
  • w3ng - Like the above but served NG files on the fly as a cgi-bin application.
  • Expert Guide for OS/2 - CHUI NG viewer for OS/2.
  • WEG 1 - NG reader for Windows (v1).
  • WEG 2 - NG reading library and reader for Windows (v2).
  • EG for Un*x - NG reader for Unix-like systems. Written for GNU/Linux and also buildable on macOS (and can be installed via Homebrew).
  • eg.el - NG reader in GNU Emacs.
  • jsNG - JavaScript library and tools for converting NG files to HTML, as well as for serving them live from a web server.

Anyone with a NG file or two to hand (they can be found on the web) should be able to use one of the above to explore them and get a feel for how they worked.

On DOS there was originally NG.exe (the Norton Guide reader). Some time later there was a third party compiler/reader called Expert Help. It worked like NG.exe but had a couple of extras, as I recall.


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@nichtich nichtich commented Nov 4, 2019

The BEATLES.NG example looks neat. There was also a "Norton Guide Sourcer" to convert NG files to source files. I only wonder why Norton Guides 1.0 was published 1987 (just like Norton Editor 1.0). Warren Woodford worked on it at Norton 1985/86 so what happend in between? I also wonder whether the Guides were inspired by similar online help or hypertext systems such as [tex]info (late 1970s), TIES (1983), Guide (1984) etc. and which features have actually been created by Woodford.

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