Stata's `swilk`

command performs the Shapiro-Wilk test for non-normality. Likewise, Stata's `sfrancia`

performs the Shapiro-Francia test for non-normality. However, both commands share the same help file `swilk.sthlp`

.

**How does Stata know that a single help file serves for more than one command?** For example, how does Stata know that `swilk.sthlp`

holds the correct response to the command `help sfrancia`

? Or that `ttest.sthlp`

holds the correct response for `help ttesti`

(not just `help ttest`

)?

I am writing a new package for which the same help file should similarly serve for more than one command, and want to be sure I get it right.

Answer:

StataCorp's own signposting pointing a call for help elsewhere is in recent versions typically done by `.maint`

files. Thus

```
viewsource shelp_alias.maint
```

contains a list of various pointers from names starting with `s`

, including allowed abbreviations, and `help sfrancia`

can be seen to fire up `help swilk`

. For `s`

substitute any other pertinent initial letter.

To see where such a file lurks on your system, use `which`

```
which shelp_alias.maint
```

The historic system and one that is easy for user-programmers to emulate is that a help file which is named `foo.sthlp`

and contains the single line

```
.h bar
```

is equivalent to a direct `help bar`

. So if you type

```
. help foo
```

it is exactly as if you had known to type

```
. help bar
```

This system predate the introduction of SMCL and no SMCL directives are to be used.

In summary: a file such as `foo.sthlp`

simply points at `bar.sthlp`

and is not a complete help file.

More on `.maint`

files: Essentially user-programmers should ignore them as far as their own packages are concerned. Otherwise every user would be committed to editing the `.maint`

file concerned on every system they used, which might not even be allowed locally, and to doing that on each upgrade of Stata. Further, StataCorp might use some different system in future versions. In contrast, the `.h`

mechanism has been used for so long and been publicised so much that it is safe to bet that it will work indefinitely.

Note: Stata help files were originally labelled with the extension `.hlp`

. When Stata was started in 1985, compatibility with the existing DOS rule that file extensions could not exceed 3 characters in length was vital. Later Windows adopted precisely the same extension for its help files, and given such *force majeure* Stata introduced `.sthlp`

files in version 10. Stata can naturally still read `.hlp`

files that are text files in appropriate directories or folder, i.e. along the defined `adopath`

.

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