where do I find the docs for the basic commands on howto use joe?
Try manual page: "man joe". Look at "Basic Editing" under "Editing Tasks".
a HTML helpfile should be a BIG improvement, I hate the man system
Try searching the Web for man2html or a similar program. But I personally think: man is an easy to use program for displaying brief descriptions of programs.
And the best options for you would be (if you have KDE installed on your system) to just enter #progname in any Adress-Field (alt-F2, konqueror) to access the manpage for progname in an handy html view or enter ##progname for the TexInfo-page of the program...
Nomike aka Michael Postmann