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Why compiled help?

I was looking at the documentation on the .NET HelpProvider class, and it occurred to me that I couldn't think of one good reason to create a compiled help file (*.chm) instead just plain html files.

Is there something I'm missing?

NNB
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I like the fact that it gets everything into one file.

Also, I think .chm files include a keyword index so that you can search quickly.

Joel Spolsky
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Searchability is the main reason. Without the compile step, you don't get the index and search features without using a separate search engine.

That and it's really nice to have everything in one file.

Chris Tavares
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

The simple answer - easy deployment.

When you hover over a button and request help,  you have 2 possible outcomes - an application error/crash, or display something to the user about the button in question.

The same event repeated inside a textbox has a completely different scenario; Does the user want help on the form element's functionality and/or description, or help on the the actual input they have entered into the element (e.g., context and phrasings in the textbox)?

HTML cannot do this and neither can chm/MS-Help 1.x - but MS-Help 2.0 (shipped with .NET, and looks alot better) can and does do this.

To download the compiler pre-release:
http://msdn.microsoft.com/downloads/default.asp?URL=/downloads/sample.asp?url=/MSDN-FILES/027/001/914/msdncompositedoc.xml

-j
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

I don't know about .net, but for my PHP I have downloaded the chm file.

It's much better than the html because I can call it with a keyword for help.

This means that I was able to set up my text editor (Scite) to give help on the current word.  Easy.

Ged Byrne
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

BTW, anybody knows if there's a free compiler to cram all HTML and JPG into a single file, whether .CHM or another format?

And if someone knows of a WYSIWYG HTML editor that can build a TOC and an index section automatically like Word does...

Frederic Faure
Thursday, November 28, 2002

Microsoft's help compiler (which makes the CHMs) is free.

Ivan-Assen Ivanov
Thursday, November 28, 2002

<<This means that I was able to set up my text editor (Scite) to give help on the current word.  Easy. >>

Off topic:

I'm pretty skeptical about open source editors (except vi), but I just downloaded Scite (1.49) to check it out, and was suprised after launching it.

It's rather excellent, lightweight, versitle, cross-platform, and is documented very well.

Bye-bye TextPad.

-j

-j
Thursday, November 28, 2002

<<And if someone knows of a WYSIWYG HTML editor that can build a TOC and an index section automatically like Word does... >>

The link I posted above. You need to have VS.NET installed in order to use it though (and it does not genereate CHM).

Otherwise, you can use the HTML Help Workshop (includes the chm compiler, and an image "editor"). Any WYSIWYG HTML editor can edit the content (config'd in the workshop), and the workshop will give you a UI for the other files (TOC, Index, Topics).

http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/htmlhelp/html/vsconHH1Start.asp

-j
Thursday, November 28, 2002


Maybe this can help:

http://citydesknews.com/CityDesk/news/entries/2002/August/22.html

Leonardo Herrera
Friday, November 29, 2002

-j,

Yep, Scite rules.

http://www.scintilla.org/

Ged Byrne
Friday, November 29, 2002

This is an old thread.
You ask if there is "a free compiler to cram all HTML and JPG into a single file, whether .CHM or another format?"

Yes, I'm sure there is. You want an MHTML file, which is basically a MIME email message with a little link fixup magic. One tool which can do this is Internet Explorer (file:save as:web archive, single file). Many browsers can even read these automatically.

mb
Friday, December 06, 2002

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