Wednesday, 13 March 2013 Online help or not

This is one of those blogs that has been in the back of my mind for ages and I have never been sure whether to write up, maybe because it is about online help and that is enough to send anybody to sleep.

From the way help is delivered has changed and to be honest I know it is all over the documentation but I think through my own ignorance I pretty much ignored the following statement.

“Online Help content for EPM System products is served from a central Oracle download location, which reduces the download and installation time for EPM System. You can also install and configure online Help to run locally.”

I hardly use the help that is accessed through the various products and I tend to go directly to the EPM documentation library which has everything all under one roof.

In my experience the majority of deployments have used OHS as the web server so there are no problems in using the online though if you are unlucky enough to use IIS then the following information is important:

“Online Help served from the central Oracle download location not supported if you are using IIS as your Web server.”

Another reason for installing the help locally might be external internet access is restricted or you might find it useful to have it to hand on say a personal or training VM image, you could even install the help locally and leave it dormant so if it is required at some point it can be enabled.

Before installing the help locally let us just have a quick look at how the online help functions using OHS, if we take EAS for example:

Selecting “Online Help” opens a browser window and redirects to the Oracle documentation web site.

The redirection to the Oracle web site is controlled by including the mod_rewrite module in OHS and using the RewriteRule directive.

If you take a look in
<MIDDLEWARE_HOME>\user_projects\<instancename>\ohs\config\OHS\ohs_component you will see the OHS (apache) configuration file httpd.conf

If you open the configuration file there will be a line that has the following Include directive.

The include directive basically means that the contents of the epm_online_help.conf file are also read in when the main OHS configuration file is accessed.

The epm_online_help.conf file contains all the rules for the online help and uses the RewriteRule directive to redirect the requested help URLs to the corresponding location on the Oracle documentation site.

The EAS rule has the syntax to match all requests from /epmstatic/eas/docs/ and apply a permanent redirect (R=301) to the oracle URL, the L parameter means that it is the last rule so need to carry on trying to match.

When you click “Online Help” in the EAS console the originating URL is

which is matched by the rule and creates a new URL on the fly: + en/eas/help/welcome.html

So the redirect URL becomes

You will notice that is not the final URL as it is then redirected again internally on the Oracle site to the correct documentation location.

Another example of this functionality in action is the Reporting and Analysis help accessed within Workspace.

The rule defined in the configuration file is:

RewriteRule ^/epmstatic/reporting_analysis/docs/(.*)$1 [R=301,L]

If you run a fiddler session while accessing the help you will be able view the redirection happening.

The original request is made against

which is matched by the rewrite rule and the engine creates a new URL based on the logic + en/raf/webuser/launch.html

so the redirect URL becomes

This is then redirected by Oracle to the relevant location on the documentation site.

Anyway say you don’t want to use the online help and need to install and configure the help to run locally, well you would think there might be an option in the installer and the files would be available with the rest of the EPM files in the Oracle Software Delivery Cloud but no the help can be downloaded as a zip file from , I am not sure if this file is kept up to date with any changes to help documentation.

Going back to the statement in the documentation ““reduces the download and installation time for EPM System”, it took me only a few minutes to download and extract the 540MB zip file so I am wouldn’t really say it reduced the time by a noticeable amount but I understand this can depend on network connection.

To install if very simple first open the zip file

Extract the epmstatic folder to <MIDDLEWARE_HOME>\EPMSystem11R1\common on the HTTP server to merge the help documentation into the existing epmstatic directory.

Now the documentation is in place the online help will need to be disabled and this can be achieved by editing the OHS configuration file httpd.conf in

Comment out the line which has the include directive to the EPM online help configuration file and then restart the services.

Accessing the help documentation should now be via the files stored on the HTTP server.

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