Floating Help

Float is a floating interactive help application that is intended as a direct replacement for Help that comes with RISC OS. Instead of displaying the help messages in a fixed window, Float uses small panes that follow the mouse around.

The application is Open Source meaning that you can freely use and copy it: please read the license contained in the Help file for more details.

[IconBar Screen Shot]

Some help from an application icon

All the display options are fully configurable, most from the Choices window and the rest by editing a text file. Full instructions are given in the Help file for doing this. It is possible to hide the help from window furniture as this can be irritating once the basics have been learnt.

Float supports the full set of interactive help messages, including the expansions used by Help and window tool help.

[Desktop Screen Shot]

Float displaying some help about a Zap toolbar

Download Float
Float is released under Version 1.1 of the European Union Public Licence. Its source code can be found on GitHub, and copies can also be obtained from PackMan or the PlingStore.

In order to use Float, you will require:

  • a minimum of RISC OS 4.02, and
  • the Nested Window Manager, which is a standard part of RISC OS  4, 5 or Six, or can be soft-loaded on RISC OS 3.

Version History

0.01 (20 February 1999)

  • First released version.

0.02 (6 March 1999)

  • Trapping of key presses to allow bubbles to close when typing.
  • The code opening and closing bubbles has been rationalised, especially across drags.

0.03 (16 March 1999)

  • Fixed problems with different help abbreviations in different versions of RISC OS.
  • Fixed bug causing lockup for null help texts.
  • Added option to hide help from window furniture.
  • Added Adjust click on icon-bar to open Choices window.

0.04 (6 June 1999)

  • Added task handle checking to allow specific tasks to be ignored.
  • Moved more hard-coded text to the Messages file.
  • Added option to hide help from the icon bar.
  • Correct internationalisation added, including automatic resource location.

0.05 (27 April 2000)

  • Tidied up and improved the bubble opening and closing code.
  • Option to display default text for windows that do not respond to help requests.
  • RISC OS 4 compliant.

0.06 (17 October 2000)

  • Recognises Message_HelpEnable (&504) to allow the help state and configuration to be altered.
  • Fixed some internationalisation issues, including to_upper function.

0.07 (10 February 2001)

  • Help pane has bit 23 of the window flags set, to make operation on RISC OS 4 better.
  • Font options are now set from the Choices window; an option has been added to allow the desktop font to be used under RISC OS 3.5 or above.
  • Problem with swallowed F12 keypresses has been fixed (occurred if Choices had the caret).

0.10 (19 February 2001)

  • Fixed new Desktop Font option so that it cannot be selected on versions of the Window Manager of 3.11 or less.

0.11 (1 March 2001)

  • Made Choices window action buttons more Style Guide compliant (Adjust-Cancel now resets window contents but leaves window open).
  • Fixed some typos in the UK Messages file and !Help file.

0.20 (25 June 2001)

  • Now uses ROM Messages for token expansion and furniture messages so it will work 'out of the box' on any version of RISC OS.
  • Possible bug with Messages file fixed.
  • Help file linked to icon-bar menu.
  • Templates tidied up for RISC OS 4.

0.21 (27 June 2001)

  • Added fallback to internal lists of message tokens if the ROM messages can not be found.

0.22 (29 June 2001)

  • Fixed the bugs in the code added in 0.21 (specifically the fact that Float would fall over if system variables set in the new Boot were not present).

0.23 (30 June 2001)

  • Fixed further problem with MessageTrans file handling that prevented messages being displayed correctly if Float was loaded in the Boot sequence.
  • Choices window opens centred on pointer, as per Style Guide.

0.24 (3 July 2001)

  • Hopefully fixed problems which allowed the Desktop font to be selected on RISC OS 3.1.
  • Stopped the state of the icon-bar icon getting confused when the choices were applied (ie. it could show on when actually off).

0.25 (2 August 2001)

  • An option to turn off the default help giving the task name for applications which do not respond to help requests has been added.

0.26 (15 August 2001)

  • If the selected font is not available, Float will fall back to use Trinity.Medium.
  • Selections from the font menu are now handled correctly when territories are specified in the font name.

0.27 (26 February 2002)

  • Fixed bug that prevented expansion of '\\' in help texts from working.

0.28 (17 June 2002)

  • Supports the use of the WIMPSymbol font for RISC OS 3.5 and later, so that symbols like 'shift' appear correctly in help texts.

0.29 (19 June 2002)

  • Fixed bug causing lockup for non-NULL-terminated help texts, introduced in 0.28.

0.30 (25 June 2002)

  • 'Show all' option added to icon-bar menu.

0.31 (1 August 2002)

  • Poll_Idle events are now only claimed if bubble display is on.
  • The option to set <Help$Start> was added to !Boot and !Run.

0.32 (18 August 2002)

  • Corrected behaviour for enable/disable bit of Message_HelpEnable.

0.34 (29 October 2002)

  • Fixed Desktop Font corruption which occurred on mode changes.
  • Fixed bug that left pane on screen if help was turned off while text was being displayed.
  • Internationalised the help text, converted master copy into ManTools format and supplied in StrongHelp and plain text formats.

0.35 (7 December 2002)

  • Code checked for obvious 32-bit problems.
  • OS_Byte 13/14 used to request EventV.
  • Choices are now saved into Choices: if this exists.

0.36 (19 May 2003)

  • Bug in vector code that showed up on Iyonix fixed.

1.00 (18 January 2015)

First full release.

  • Build system revised and licence updated to EUPL.
  • ARMv7 safe and compatible with modern versions of RISC OS 5.
  • Added Website button to Program Info window.
  • Changed error system to use Locate 1’s WimpError library.
  • Added Help entry to iconbar menu (Ticket #480).
  • Interactive help code is more tolerant of unexpected input (Ticket #244).
  • New Choices interface implemented, with facility to set applications to be ignored.
  • Removed RMA memory leak from OS help token handling code (Ticket #543).
  • Application sprites updated.
  • Choices dialogue now filled correctly, with field length bounds-checking and configured font name intact (Ticket #541).
  • Position application to right-hand end of iconbar, alongside RISC OS’s own Help (Ticket #544).
  • Only one copy of Float can be running at any given time.

1.01 (5 March 2017)

Update to first full release.

  • Fix !Help so that Help menu items work correctly.