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Creating HTML Help Files

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HelpSmith allows you to compile your help project as an HTML Help (CHM) file, a standard help format used by Windows applications.

 

HTML Help Compiler


To create HTML Help (.CHM) files, HelpSmith uses the HHC.exe help compiler which is available with Microsoft HTML Help Workshop. You can download the MS HTML Help Workshop package, install it, and then link the HTML Help compiler (HHC.exe) with HelpSmith in program settings.

For full details, please see this help topic.

 

Compile an HTML Help (CHM) File


1.On the Project tab, in the Project group, click Compile.

2.In the Compile Project dialog, in the Output Format box, select HTML Help.

3.If necessary, select build tags and other options that you want to apply to this compilation.

4.Click OK.

 

Remark: You can also access the Compile Project dialog by pressing F9.

 

Quick Compilation with the Previous Options


You can skip the Compile Project dialog and apply the previously used options including the build tags that were selected for this output help format:

1.On the Project tab, in the Project group, click on the arrow in the bottom of the Compile button.

2.In the popup menu, under Quick Compilation, click HTML Help.

 

Batch Compilation Mode


If necessary, you can use the batch compilation mode that allows you to compile documentation in multiple output formats or to generate different versions of the same help file (by using build tags) with a single click. You can visit this topic for more details on how to add a new compilation task.

 

HTML Help (CHM) Output Directory


When you compile an HTML Help (CHM) file, you can use the default output directory or specify a custom location of your help file.

 

By default, HelpSmith puts the compiled CHM help file to the same directory where your help project (HSM) file is located. If your help project has never been saved, HelpSmith will use your Windows "My Documents" folder as the default output directory.

 

Distributing an HTML Help System


An HTML Help system is stored within a single .CHM file which is the only file that you need to distribute with your application.

However, if your CHM help file contains video files, you should also distribute these video files along with the CHM file. For more details on using video in HTML Help (CHM), please visit this help topic.

 

Integration with an Application


A Windows desktop application can use HTML Help API to interact with an HTML Help (CHM) file and to provide Context-sensitive Help. For more details on HTML Help API, you can refer to Windows SDK, MSDN or to the documentation of your development tool.

 

Also, below you can find examples of interacting with a CHM file from different IDEs, and from the command line.

Using a CHM File in a .NET Application (C#, VB.NET, etc.)

Using a CHM File in a Visual Basic or VBA Application

Using a CHM File in a Delphi Application

Calling HTML Help Topics from the Command Line

 

Customizing an HTML Help System


The following topics describe different categories of the HTML Help-related options:

General Options

Contents Options

HTML Help Windows

 

Using JavaScript and CSS in HTML Help


HelpSmith allows you to include and use JavaScript and CSS files in help topics of your HTML Help (CHM) system, add HTML attributes to the page elements, and also to insert custom HTML code into a help topic. These capabilities can be used to implement non-standard functionality in HTML-based documentation, or to apply any special formatting attributes.

 

Known Issue: a CHM File is not Displayed Properly


In some cases, when you open a CHM file, the HTML Help viewer can display a message like "Navigation to the webpage was canceled" or "This program cannot display the webpage" instead of the actual topic content. Since a CHM file contains HTML code, it can be blocked by Windows security policy as a potentially harmful object.

 

Mostly, this problem occurs when a CHM file is accessed from a network PC and usually this problem does not occur when the CHM file is distributed with an application and accessed from the local PC. For more details on the reasons and solutions of this issue, you can refer to this article.

 

If you need your users to access your help system through a network, you can consider the Web Help format as an alternative to HTML Help.



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