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Re-enabling JavaScript may fix a blank help viewer

If Apple's Help Browser shows only a blank window, one possibility could be that JavaScript has been disabled in the WebKit engine.

Apple's Help browser is a central tool that many applications use to present help information. Most of Apple's programs make use of the browser, and people who use iLife, iWork, and Apple's Pro applications may rely on the browser to help them through problems or find desired functions. This centralized approach is useful; however, if a problem occurs it may prevent help information from being seen in all applications that use the browser.

Recently MacFixIt reader Rod ran into a problem where his help viewer stopped showing help content after installing iLife '11, and after spending time researching the solution he shared his findings with us:

After installing iLife '11, I discovered that the Help pages for iPhoto '11 and iMovie '11 on my machine were blank. The Help files for the other applications installed with iLife '11 worked normally. Looking inside the iPhoto '11 and iMovie '11 application packages showed that the Help files were actually there, so I was puzzled as to what was happening, especially as I could not find any other references to this problem on the Web.

Last night, I finally got around to installing my copy of Aperture 3.0.1 So I decided to see if its Help pages worked. They didn't, but this time I was almost delighted to see that, instead of a completely blank Help page, I was presented with a message which read "The Help Library requires JavaScript. If JavaScript is not enabled, you will not be able to view all the content."

I was confident that this was probably also behind the issue with my other Help pages, but how do you turn on JavaScript? There is no setting in System Preferences. There is a setting in Safari's preferences, but it isn't a system-wide setting. It only affects Safari.

However, an Internet search using the phrase "help library requires JavaScript" quickly turned up a thread in Apple's discussion forum on this issue which suggested opening terminal and typing the command:

defaults write WebKitJavaScriptEnabled 1

After doing this and closing and reopening the Help Viewer, the missing content for all three applications could be viewed.

This problem happened because for some reason JavaScript had been disabled in WebKit, which is the underlying engine Apple uses to power a number of HTML-based applications, including Safari, Mail, and the Help viewer. If you are having similar issues and there is no obvious reason why they are occurring, one place you can look for clues is in the System log, which can be seen by opening the Console application. With this application open, try accessing the faulty system feature to see if any relevant error messages show up. If so, you can try searching the Internet for options, or e-mail us and we can try to help.

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